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Egyptian Synopsis:

Egyptian art can be divided into the Early Dynastic period (3150-2700 BCE), the Old Kingdom (2700-2190 BCE), the Middle Kingdom (2040-1674 BCE) and the New Kingdom (1552-1069 BCE). The Palette of Narmer, from the Early Dynastic period, illustrates the use of hieratic scale, where important figures are larger than lesser figures. The palette also portrays the merger of Upper and Lower Kingdoms which unified Egypt. The artist used the traditional Egyptian figure pose of head, hips, legs and feet in profile and eyes, shoulders and torso in frontal view. The mastaba was an early Old Kingdom form of the pyramid, used for funerary purposes. This later developed into the stepped pyramid and finally the true pyramid most commonly associated with Egypt. The necropolis was a group of any of these funerary structures. Old Kingdom sculpture, while rendered naturally, remains rigid, rectilinear and blocklike. Figures, such as Khafre and Menkaure and his wife Khamerernebty, still appear attached to the block of stone. The Middle Kingdom led to the development of the grid pattern of city planning. Art from this time came mainly from tombs, such as Ti Watching a Hippopotamus Hunt, a wall painting, and the Pectoral of Senworset II, exectued in gold with semiprecious stones. The New Kingdom brought economic and political prosperity and introduced the term "pharaoh" meaning "great house." Temples from this period increased in complexity, such as the Funerary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, including colonnades and hypostyle halls. The Temple of Amun, Karnak, included a hypostyle hall with lotus flower and lotus bud capitals. Ramses II later added the pylon and peristyle court. Leaders, such as Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti, were immortalized in funerary art. Art from the New Kingdom no longer idealized figures but treated them more naturalistically. Akhenaten is shown as he was in old age, not as a young leader. New Kingdom funerary art is perhaps best known by the sarcophagus of King Tutenkhamun, made of solid gold and decorated with enamelwork and semiprecious stones. - (source: )

Egyptian Art
Old Kingdom 2,575 - 2,150 B.C.
Middle Kingdom 2,040 - 1,750 B.C.
New Kingdom 1,550- 1,075 B.C.


Dynasty -
Ka - "life force" and conscienceness "double"
Mastaba - rectangular structure of solid masonry and fill with sloping sides, placed over excavated tomb below
Engaged - engaged column (or form) projects from wall to create column appearance with actually supporting structure (if it projects less than 1/2 diameter of the column it is termed a "pilaster"
Canon - a prescribed set of rules
Sarcophagi - stone coffins
Atlantid - figure as column (male)
Hypostyle hall - roofed hall supported by spaced columns
Portico - exterior columned and covered entrance space
Egyptian Art
Hieroglyphics - early form of writing utilizing pictoral symbols
Necropolis - complex of buildings and structures dedicated to and constructed for the dead
Narative -
Rosetta Stone
Colossus - giant oversized figurative sculpture
Subtractive - reduction of material to create sculpture
Pylon Temple - temple structure faced with large tapered wall, "pylon"
Caryatid - figure as column (female)
Clerestory - raised portion of a structure's roof that allows air/light penetration into the interior
Reserved Column - column hewed or sculpted out of rock that has no bearing purpose
Tetrapylon - a structure characterized by having four gateways as an architectural feature
Hieratic - designating an abridged and somewhat cursive form of hieroglyphic which in late use was reserved for religious writings
Demotic - of or pertaining to the people; popular (Egypt. Archd), designating a simplified form of the hieratic character, used for books, deeds, etc.


Old Kingdom

Palette of King Narmer, slate from Hierakonpolis, 25"h. c. 3,100-3,000 B.C.

Stepped Pyramid of Zoser, Saqqara c. 2,675 - 2,625 B.C.

Pyramids of - (at Gizeh)
Kufu (Cheops) c. 2,600. 2,550 B.C.
Khafre (Chephren) c. 2,575- 2,525 B.C.
Menkaure (Mycerinus) c. 2,525 -2,475 B.C.

Menkaure and his queen

Great Sphinxs, (with Khafre), Gizeh, 65’h. c.2,572- 2,525 B.C.

Khafre, Diorite, Gizeh, 5’6”h.c. 2,575 - 2,525 B.C.

Seated Scribe, Painted limestone, Saqqara, 21’h. c. 2,500 - 2,400 B.C.

Ka-Aper (Sheikh el Beled), Wood, Saqqara, 43” h. c. 2,500 - 2,400 B.C.

Ti Watching a Hippopitamus Hunt, Painted limestone, Saqqara, 48”h. c. 2,500 - 2,400 B.C.

Cattle Fording a Canal, Painted limestone, Saqqara, C. 2,500 - 2,400 B.C.

New Kingdom

Queen Hatshepsut c. 1,511 -1,480 B.C.

Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, Deir el-Bahri c. 1,490- 1,460 B.C.

Temple of Ramses II, Abu Simbel, entrance facade, 65' h. c. 1,275- 1225 B.C.

Temple of Ramses II, Hypostyle hail, Abu Simbel c. 1,275 - 1,225 B.C.

Temple of Amen-Re, Hypostyle hall, Kamak c. 1,275 - 1,225 B.C.

Temple of Amon-Mut-Khonsu, Luxor c. 1,390 - 1,225 B.C.

Nebamun Hunting Birds, Tomb of Nebannm, Thebes, c. 1,400 - 1,350 B.C.

Banquet Scene, Tomb of Nebannm, Thebes c. 1,400 - 1,350 B.C.

King Akhenaton, from the Temple of Amen-Re, Karnak, yellow sandstone, 13' c. 1,355 - 1,335 B.C.

King Akhenaton and His Family, Limestone, c. 1,355 - 1,335 B.C.

Queen Nefertiti, Painted Limestone, 20’h. c. 1,355 - 1,335 B.C.

Coffin of King Tutankhamen c. 1,325 B.C.

Painted Chest from the tomb of Tutankhamen, Thebes, wood 20” c. 1,325 B.C.



DJB Quick Notes:

Pre-dynastic Period:

~ artwork remained static because of stable environment
~ Nile source of agriculture and communication, isle of green surrounded by desert
~ Egyptian concern - afterlife

~ Predynastic piece: represents desire for stability, permanence, and order

~ Palette of King Narmer (3100 - 3000 BCE)
* divided in registers or sections
* Egypt unified under Narmer, (what is dedicated on piece)
* hawk, symbol of sky-god Horus, protector of Pharaoh
* papyrus symbol of Lower Egypt
* headress symbol of Upper Egypt

Old Kingdom

~ Tomb of the Pharaohs

* "mastaba" - Arabic term for "bench"
* pyramid extension of mastaba, possibly conceived as series of increasingly smaller mastabas stacked atop one another as stair-step to heavens
* burial chamber below
* Pyramid of Zoser - 2675 BCE - west of Memphis and Nile
* Imhotep architect of "stepped" Pyramid of Zoser
* memorial on grand scale befitting person of importance
* earliest colossall stone structure known

~ Great Pyramids at Giza
* leveled 13-acre site west side of Nile
* 2,300,000 2-1/2 ton limestone blocks quarried with copper and stone cutting tools brought across Nile from quarries
* built during 25-yr. timespans
* pyramids sited on north-south axis

DJB In-Depth Notes

~ ...the Egyptians built dams to divert flood waters into fields instead of attempting to control the flow of the river; the communal effort put forth to construct these dams provided the basis for the growth of an Egyptian civilization, just as the irrigation projects in the Mesopotamian valley had furnished the civilizing impetus for that region a few centuries earlier. (G9-74)~...Like a set of primordial commandments, the Palette of Narmer sets forth the basic laws that would govern art along the Nile for thousands of years...The king is seen in a perspective that combines the profile views of the head, legs, and arms with the front view of eye and shoulders. Althought the proportions of the figure would change, the method of its representation becomes a standard for all later Egyptian art. (G9-77)