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The chief glory of Egyptian art lies in the

portrait statues recovered from the
pyramids, funerary temples and tombs.

Mycerinus accompanied by his queen

The sculptor prepared the statue by drawing its

front and side views on the faces of the rectangular
block and then chiseled or cut inward until these
views met.
Bodies are well proportionate and powerfully built.
Face suggests individual traits - rest of the body
totally impersonal.
While many statues are idealized, it seems that
quite a few of the ancient Egyptian artists attempted
to render their subjects as faithfully as they could.

A magnificent vessel for the spirit!

Among the ancient Egyptian sculptors most famous

today is Thutmose, who had an atelier at Akhetaten
and created many works.
Thutmose was part of an ancient tradition of
humanizing statues

The portraits survived to this day, had religious,
funerary purposes.
Served to immortalize the dead, just as the
mummification of the body was supposed to.
Statues of pharaohs represented more than just the
man - embodying the idea of divine kingship.
Generally carved from harder material than statues of
ordinary mortals, carved for eternity.
The artists tried to express how the pharaoh wanted
to be seen and remembered - or at least that is how
we interpret it:

The worrying father of his people, Senusret III

The role of the painter and the sculptor (sanx)

was to help in the continued existence of the
dead, sanx meaning to make come alive.
In the beginning they served only the
pharaohs, but later these artisans began
portraying nobles, officials and their families as
early as the Old Kingdom.
Opening of the mouth ceremony
To return to the deceased the use of his organs
in the Afterlife. He had to be able to feed
himself, recite magical spells, give commands
and see.

Towering over ordinary mortals, Ramses II


Horous, the sky God, had to be shown as a falcon or with a falcons head
Anubis, the God of the funeral rites, as a jackal or with a jackals head


Anubis weighing a dead mans heart

Status of the Artisans:

Craftsmanship varied widely throughout the country and history.
Provinces had generally less gifted artists than the capital, where the king
resided and power and wealth were concentrated.
Artists were not viewed as some special geniuses above normal mankind,
but excellence was recognized and rewarded.

Identity of the artists is generally unknown except for a

few that we know.
They appear to have worked in workshops, quite possibly
dividing the labour among themselves according to their

Images are frequently identified by inscription. Resemblance with the depicted was not
necessary, though often attempted in statuary and to a lesser extent in paintings.
How important resemblance was can be estimated by comparing portraits of the same person by different artists

Amenhotep III

How important resemblance was can be estimated by comparing figures belonging to the same group, where the differences between the
individuals should be noticeable:

Nofret and Rohtep

Eyes inlayed with shining quartz or shells etc to make it look as alive as possible

Uncertainties : by likening physical remains to contemporary depictions

Difficulties : kings re-used old statues, one person might be buried with the funeral
mask or sarcophagus of another, and mummies are still wrongly identified at times.

Tutankhamen as child, as king, his death mask, a modern reconstruction

Statues of figures with almost identical

features like the ones may point to the
unimportance of resemblance
May point to a lack of ability on the
part of the artist
Or to family ties between the partners
in a society where marriages between
close clan members or siblings was
not frowned upon.

Infirmities and old age are rarely shown. Most

images are glowing examples of prosperity,
youth, and good health.
Relative sizes of persons in group depictions:
according to importance - servants are
depicted smaller than their masters
natural differences - husbands are taller than
wives, children much smaller, often to an
unnatural degree
Men in a tint of red
Or darker skin tones than women
Women in a tint of Yellow

The classical posture, during the Old Kingdom, is rigid, facing straight ahead, arms
held close to the body, standing or pacing, sitting, more rarely kneeling or squatting perhaps mostly the result of the stone working techniques of the day.

Amenemhet III

Ankh seated with hands


Ni-ka-re, his wife and their


Wooden statues, where limbs could be added and the basic block form was not
adhered to, were more animated.



The faces are, on the better statues at least, even if often

idealized, individual and recognizable.

The Seated Scribe

Representations are realistic

Bust of Amenemhet

Relative sizes and positions of body parts are natural,

though rarely very individualized.

Arms are generally kept close

to the body
One resting on the thigh while
the other over knee in seated
Hanging down by the side in
upright statues.



The body proportions of children, their

relative head and limb sizes, are often
unnaturally similar to those of adults.

Dwarfs in most cases have been rendered

more faithfully

Block statues representing squatting figures are often inscribed.

Only the head receives realistic treatment.
Varying degrees of abstraction:
At times feet are well defined while arms have merged while at times the body and
limbs completely fused together.

Here the Egyptian sculptures Cubic view of the human appears clearly.

Mycerinus accompanied by his queen, both

having their left foot placed forward, yet there
is no hint of a forward movement.
The sculptor very well contrasts the body
structures of the Male and Female figures.
Males have their chest bare, are stout, wearing
only a small skirt
Females wear tight gowns and wigs
Egyptian sculptures (stone) are not completely
three dimensional in nature but a form of very
high relief sculpture since attached to the stone
slab from the backside. Cannot stand
independently without an external support.

Less than the of the body is

immersed in the stone.
Except for the portrait rest of the body
has absolute impersonal traits.
The Portraits are very much individual
and pronounced
Hands on sides (With closed fist)
Left foot is slightly forward (as if its
Bodies impersonal in character but the
portraits are pronounced
Figures sitting on the throne shall have
one arm resting on their knees while
other on chest.

Once the artist had mastered

all these rules, no one
wanted anything different; no
one wanted or asked him to
be original.
On the contrary he was
probably considered the best
artist who could make his
admired ones of the past.
So it happened that in the
course of three thousand
years or more Egyptian art
changed very little.

Queen Nefertiti

Pepi I kneeling

Memi and Sabu 4th Dynasty

Prince Tjau


Hemiunu seated

Beer maker




Tutenkhamens Head rest

Tutenkhamens back panel throne

Mummified cat

The Temple of Hathor

Abu Simbel

Abydos, Seti

Light in the Tomb of Kagemni, Saqqarah

Horus of Kom Ombo