Ancient Egyptian art was a practical and necessary part of the lives of ancient Egyptians; it wasn't for pleasure or beauty. They carved and painted tomb walls with religious images and texts to bless the dead on their journeys through the afterlife.
They also may be a romanticized story of the deceased's accomplishments in life.
The paintings and carvings on temples were a form of religious worship; they told the myths and stories of the Gods and Goddesses of ancient Egypt.
Still, you can tell a lot about ancient Egyptian history by deciphering their art...
Some of the most important historical and medical records are found on Egyptian Papyrus Art. Ancient Egyptian writing, especially hieroglyphics, was a form of art. The glyphs are little pictures of things such as snakes, water, vultures and women. Their combinations and directions had different meanings and they were a major part of wall reliefs – explaining stories and relaying incantations.
Ancient Egyptian Pottery is another archaeological goldmine as it helped us put many pieces of our history together - it was an art form with so many important uses.
All in all, although Egyptologists deciphered many historical events through ancient Egyptian art, it is not really an honest depiction of what really happened. The ancient Egyptians hardly recorded the lives of anyone other than royalty - and with royalty they usually exaggerated or even made-up the stories. One of the earliest forms of propaganda, I'd say!
The large art compositions were organized into registers (or parts). Each register would have its own base line which represents the floor or ground.
Then you have larger scenes and figures that are usually placed on the ends of the walls and can take up several registers.
Pharaohs, for example, are usually depicted much larger than other Egyptians.
The other thing to note is that the scenes in a composition are not always related or flowing. Registers were sometimes not even connected to the larger scenes... The overall theme though is usually the constant - like a battle or building theme.
Paints and equipment in ancient Egyptian painting were quite limited, yet until today you can still see some beautifully preserved scenes with bright colors! Check out the different Egyptian Painting Techniques.
One of the most unique traits of ancient Egyptian art is the way the figures are shown. The way the human body is arranged is of course unrealistic – you really can't "walk like an Egyptian!" The head is shown in profile, with the features clear; then the shoulders and chest facing you (although the nipple or breast is then in profile on there). The arms and legs are in profile, but the hands are usually shown in full view...
Sometimes the hands and feet are on the opposite arms and legs – just to change it up a bit! Actually, it wasn't a mistake, the artists did that on purpose to make sure the full view of the hand is visible in certain positions (such as carrying weapons).
Sadly, we don't know as much about how ancient Egyptian music and dancing - but we do have information on the instruments and musicians themselves.
Being an ancient Egyptian artist was a tough job. You had to train from childhood, usually following your father's path. You were taught and then supervised. At first you had to practice on pieces of broken pottery and stones; then your teacher would correct you with a different color. Some say that correcting mistakes with the color red like we do today came from the ancient Egyptians!
You had to work in a team and you were ultra specialized in a particular skill and area. You had to follow a very strict work plan and you couldn’t let your creativity get away with you!
Art was produced in something like a production line, with a team of approximately 30 workmen. A team was made up of:
Of course you had a whole different set of tools and skills for making ancient Egyptian sculptures. All the amazing statues, wall carvings and obelisks may seem like a miracle when considering the limited equipment they had back then...
I would recommend that after reading all the details in this section, you put on a French beret and making your own ancient Egyptian art – it's so much fun trying to follow their rules!
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Ancient Egypt's Greatest Goddesses - Honoring
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