Major themes in ancient Egyptian art
Ancient Egyptian art has always been used as a reference point for art and history. It carries some of the major pieces of evidence of human civilization. What many don’t know is that ancient Egyptians did not have a name for art. They focused on revering beauty and producing architecture, reliefs, paintings, murals, statues, decorative arts, and other crafts for different. All of these were for serving a higher purpose, more than just skill and entertainment. Even the ornaments and body beatification was to praise a specific god. Since they worshipped different gods, they had many themes for their art. Human figures were presented as healthy, young, and contented in any art form.
The art we study today is communal. We do not know who the actual artist was because they did not sign their names to the works. Many of the art seemed to be created by teams in workshops on the site of the jobs. For instance, stone carvers worked on the hieroglyphics, once done, gen cutters and metal works put gems into the desired place before leaving the task to painters to finish off. The state owed many, if not all, of the art workshops. The duty of employees was to make the pharaoh, or high state officials look good.
Today, you can find the best collections of the works at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. There are many others at the British Museum in London, the Louvre museum in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of art NY as well as the Egyptological Museum in London. Apart from these, the Fondazione Museo delle Antichita Egize di Torino in Italy has more magnificent works from ancient Egypt. Many of the Egyptian art are housed in the British Museum that has been operating since the 19th century. The major themes in apparent from these pieces of history include the following.
Many of the ancient Egyptian artworks were discovered and excavated along the Nile. There are several pieces of evidence that show much civilization and town happened. It is therefore not a surprise that a majority of art from historical Egypt is themed with nature. It frequently revolves around the Nile River, which is up-to-date, a significant waterway in the whole of Egypt. All kinds of flora and fauna are presented on the paintings and decorations in temples and in canoe-like boats used in the ancient times for water transports.
Egyptians were agricultural people — history talks of many farming techniques that started here and spread across the globe. Many of what we see today is but a result of this ancient civilization. They also did some hunting. The beginning of civilization rose with many artworks based on these themes. Some speak about Pharaohs, while a majority tells of the role of religion in nature. They have survived through thousands of years of telling these tales.
Ancient Egypt believed in the worship of many gods, which were presented in the form of idols. Many sculptures and drawings had the animals used to symbolize different themes. Consider the famous statue at the Great Sphinx at Giza, for instance. In this piece of history, the king’s head is placed on a lion or a panther. It symbolized the connection kings had with the skies and the panther (one of ancient Egypt’s gods, the sky goddess that held the heavens and the sky). One of the tombs has a sun god having the head of a ram. Many other tombs have different symbols, including serpents that protected the scrolls inside the tombs. You can see a jackal head at the door of the tomb facing the way in away from the tomb; it protected the deceased.
Perhaps the most predominant symbols are that of the “Tree of Life.” This particular art show bird themes that stand for different stages of human life. The gray bird represents infancy and a red bird childhood. Many of the art can be associated with assorted themes. Each has an important role to play, especially in religion.
Early Egyptians believed so much in the after-life. The best evidence of this is found in the “Book of the Dead,” which contains scenes of funeral processions. The hieroglyphics therein indicate how dangerous the afterlife was taken, especially if it concerned kings and high profile people in society. They believed people did not actually die but transcended to the next life. Because of this, dead loved ones were mummified after burial. The cases were then painted with some masking to identify the dead with the sun god. There are a few large sculptures of pharaohs and kings through Egypt, inside small houses with frescoes. Kings, for instance, were buried with some of their wealth because it was believed they went to continue with their work in the after-life.
Individuality and ordinary life
During the time of Haremhab, one military general wielded so much power that he ruled as a pharaoh between 1316 and 1302 BC. It reveals that ancient Egypt was not only governed by the timeless icons of gods. They thought about the importance of human life and how some could become an essential member of society. Ancient Egyptians took note of the sitter’s frame of mind when portraying the great and good. Different sculptures have been discovered, which represented the individual character in people. A small granite figure of a certain scribe carved somewhere between 1295 and 1070 BC brings out a man looking alert and concerned.
Humor, sarcasm, and prejudice
A few portraits have clearly indicated irony, mostly with small pieces. Egyptians in old times had a way of expressing their dislike for foreigners too. There were many clashes between the pharaohs and the Semitic kingdoms of the Near East. A good example is an engraving of an ivory plague aimed at demeaning the Assyrians created an image of a prisoner in princely Assyrian clothing with their tied hands up. Humor was also part of the masters of the Egyptian craft. They used it to mock their enemies as well as make a fun lifestyle. A happy face of the wooden statuette of Kery, suggests a prayer for health and beautiful life. It reveals how happy people were at a time when they knew they were alive.
Author: James Hamilton