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Egyptian Art and Architecture

Powerful Essays
Egyptian Art and Architecture

Egyptian Art and Architecture, the buildings, paintings, sculpture, and allied arts of ancient Egypt, from prehistoric times to its conquest by the Romans in 30 bc. Egypt had the longest unified history of any civilization in the ancient Mediterranean, extending with few interruptions from about 3000 bc to the 4th century ad. The nature of the country, fertilized and united by the Nile, and its semi-isolation from outside cultural influences, produced an artistic style that changed little during this long period. Art in all its forms was devoted principally to the service of the pharaoh, who was considered a god on Earth, to the state, and to religion. From early times a belief in a life after death dictated that the dead be buried with material goods to their ensure well-being for eternity. The regular patterns of nature—the annual flooding of the Nile, the cycle of the seasons, and the progress of the Sun that brought day and night—were considered gifts from the gods to the people of Egypt. Egyptian thought, morality, and culture were rooted in a deep respect for order and balance. Change and novelty were not considered important in themselves; thus the style and representational conventions in Egyptian art that were established early in the development of that civilization continued virtually unchanged for more than 3,000 years. To the modern eye the Egyptian artistic idiom may seem stiff and static; its underlying intention, however, was not to create an image of things as they appear in reality, but rather to capture the essence of a person, animal, or object for eternity.

II PREDYNASTIC PERIOD

The early prehistoric dwellers on the Nile inhabited the terraces or plateaux left by the river as it cut its bed. Tools and implements left by these early inhabitants of Egypt show their gradual development from seminomadic hunter-gatherers to settled agriculturists. By 4000 bc the civilization of Egypt was in its earliest formative stages; the Predynastic period, which lasted until about 3100 bc, had begun.

Evidence of organized settlements dating from this period has been found, and artefacts produced are mainly associated with burials. Objects were put into the grave with the body for the use of the spirit in the next life; thus a great quantity of such personal goods as pottery, tools, and weapons has been preserve...

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...from earlier monuments. An interest in perceptive portraiture begun in the 25th Dynasty was continued, sometimes with splendid results.

The 26th Dynasty ended with the invasion by the Persian Empire and, except for brief periods, Egypt was never again completely free from foreign domination. The conquest of the country by Alexander the Great in 332 bc and by the Romans in 30 bc brought Egypt into the Classical world, but the ancient artistic traditions persisted. Alexander and his successors were depicted on the walls of temples as Egyptian kings in an Egyptian style of relief carving. Temples were built in the Ptolemaic period (the dynasty founded by Alexander) and in the Roman period that echoed traditional Egyptian styles in architecture.

Egyptian art also exerted a powerful influence on the cultures of the invaders. Early Greek artists acknowledged a debt to Egypt in the development of their own styles. The Romans so loved Egyptian art that they carried off to their homeland countless examples and even had imitations of Egyptian sculpture carved by Roman artists. The influence of Egyptian art and the fascination with Egyptian antiquity have persisted to the present day.
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