Probably the most intriguing civilization of the ancient world is that of Ancient Egypt’s. Everything about Ancient Egypt is full of mysteries that have surely already captivated the interest of people of all ages. Their culture is something that everybody is still fascinated with. Fortunately, Ancient Egypt has left us with numerous works of art that would help us understand how life in the Ancient Egypt has been. These antique works have been preserved in several museums.
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It all started thousands of years ago when a strong and rich empire grew along the Nile River. Under Ancient Egypt’s powerful pharaoh’s, the people started to settle down instead of wandering around in search for food. They built houses, developed cities and implemented laws. On top of those, the artistic side of humans was not left out. Ancient Egypt encouraged development of the arts. That’s a very good thing because most of what is left of Ancient Egypt nowadays are only their interesting works of art. They say it was the time of the rich Egyptian empire that humankind started to blossom and think in creative and new ways.
The Nile River played a great role for the Ancient Egyptians. It is their source of life and transportation in the dry and hot North African desert. It is there in the Nile River that they get their food, thus it is clear that the people of ancient Egypt are largely dependent on the Nile River. Every summer the river would flood and carry wet and fertile land over the dry earth, so they could plant their crops. This yearly cycle also influenced the Ancient Egyptians’ lifestyle. They developed complex religions with several gods.
The great Egyptian Empire lasted for around 30 000 years. Egypt saw a lot of changes. They’re a rich community. Their wealth comes from the crops they harvest and from the gold they mined in their lands. Their society became very well organized. Not everybody worked in their land; some are priests, lawyers, writers or soldiers. Because of their enormous wealth, they attracted a lot of conquerors. There’s really a lot to learn about the history of Ancient Egypt, and their works of art will show us around.
Upon studying these works, one will learn that they actually have specific purposes. In a world without any computers, radio, or even the television, the pharaohs communicate their message and power through these symbols and works of art. Ancient Egypt was a large country filled with thousands of people. Most of these people haven’t even seen their king or even heard what he had done. The messages implied by these works of art help address the situation. That is why these artists play a huge role in the blossoming of Ancient Egypt.
You’ll probably notice that most of the works of art of Ancient Egypt depict gods or goddesses. That is because of the largely religious nature of their people. Since they also consider their Pharaohs to be divine, you’ll also see a lot of sculptures having the features of their pharaohs. It is to be noted that the elements of these Ancient Egyptian arts are remarkable stable. There is without or very little outside influence in the development of their art. These paintings and sculptures are highly symbolic and helped keep history alive.
Ancient Egyptian works are characterized by an idea of order. Their art combine simple lines and shapes with flat areas of color which help create a clear order and balance. If you’re meticulous enough, you’ll probably notice the horizontal and vertical reference lines that the artists use to maintain good proportions for their works. Artistic order in both political and religious aspect is clearly defined in the Egyptian art. The figures are drawn in such a way to clearly define the hierarchy. The more prominent the figure is, the larger it is drawn. Thus, even if the pharaoh is situated far from the painter’s point of view, his figure is the largest. A larger god is also drawn larger compared to the lesser god.
Sculptures of the Ancient Egyptian are considered representations of the divine: gods, pharaohs, kings and queens. These are usually massive and really magnificent. In crafting these sculptures, the artists followed very strict conventions. You’ll notice that male statues are darker than female ones. When seated, the hands should be placed on the knees. Each god sculpted also follow strict governed appearance. For example, their god of funeral rites, Anubis must be always shown a jackal’s head while the sky god Horus should be shown with a falcon’s head. The artistic works were ranked based on how well they have complied to these conventions. These conventions were followed very strictly than even after 3 000 years, there’s not much change in any appearance of the statues.
However, during the reign of Akhenaten, he made a bold declaration that there should only be one god to be worshipped, Aten, which literally means the disk of the sun. Following this political upheaval is some artistic changes. But after the death of Akhenaten, Ancient Egyptian artists reverted back to the old convention. There are still, however, many traces of the period’s art in the lalet period.
The kneeling figure is known as the Statuette of Tutankhamun. This is made of bronze with some traces of gold. Its provenance is unknown but it’s believed to be made during the late Dynasty 18, reign of Akhenaten. There is reason to believe that Akhenaten is Tutankhamun’s father. He founded a city and called it Akhetaten or “or horizon of the Aten”, and now known as Amarna.
As you may have already known, Ancient Egypt worshipped several gods. It was Akhenaten that changed this polytheistic view. The influences of this great king lived on until his death. Although the civilization of Akhetaten only lasted for thirty years, it is considered to be one of the most colorful years of Ancient Egypt.
The next figure is that of a shabti. The Shabti shown is from Dynasty 19. These are figures placed in the tomb which is believed to perform manual heavy tasks for the person buried in the tomb. Shabtis are usually represented with some tools in their hands such as hoes, mattocks or baskets. The early Shabtis were in mummy form but the one shown here is not. Over time, shabtis were in shown in a daily life dress. A typical burial of a dead person coming from an elite class would have hundreds of shabtis. These shabtis are believed to make the after life better for the dead person.
The next figure is that of the beautiful Nefertiti. Nefertiti is considered to be the most important wife of Akhenaten, and mother of six daughters. It is not likely that she is the mother of King Tutankhamun. Nefertiti’s name literally means, the beautiful woman has come. However, she’s not only known worldwide for her beauty but also for her power. Some figures of Nefertiti shows her as killing some Egyptian enemies. That is quite extraordinary since only pharaohs are usually shown in such aggressive pose.
As you may have seen, the works are primarily of important figures for the Ancient Egyptian. They show what Egyptians value. They value their people, as well, as their live after death. Egyptian art clearly shows the close relationship between man and nature. Their art largely depict what they believe in. They believe in their gods. They believe in life after death, and of course, they pay high homage to their leaders. These magnificent works of art is more than enough to show these Egyptian values.
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