Chapter 2 The Art of Mesopotamia and Egypt. Water and waterways made agriculture and a settled way of life possible. Tribes came together and formed the first cities close to the great rivers.
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The Art of
first with pictographs, and then into complex cuneiform or hieroglyphic signs.
Temple complexes stood in the center of each city.
An example of their skill is a Bull lyre-a kind of harp- from a royal tomb.
Its medium is wood, gold, lapis lazuli, and shell.
The Epic of Gilgamesh is a 3,000 line epic poem written 700 years after the harp was decorated.
We can analyze the iconography of Sumerian works of art because of written clay tablets and decorated seals found in Sumer.
c. 2254-2218 BCE
Stele of Hammurabi
c. 1792-1750 BCE
Though often used to tella story, the Stele ofHammurabi was used to record laws and penalties.
At the top of the stele, Hammurabi is shown confronting the sun god, patron of law and justice.
Upper and lower Egypt were unified around 3150 BCE, and Egypt was conquered by Alexander the Great in 332 BCE.
Egyptian Museum, Cairo
Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom.
After Alexander conquered Egypt, there were 15 Greek rulers named Ptolemy.
Rome conquered Egypt in 31 BCE, and Cleopatra became the last Ptolemaic ruler.
These structures tended to be grouped together in a necropolis-literally a city of the dead-at the edge of the desert, on the west bank of the Nile.
The oldest and largest of the three was the tomb of King Khufu, and was originally the height of a modern 48-story sky scraper.
Symbols of united Egypt, the lotus and papyrus decorate the throne.
The figure conveys a strong sense of dignity, calm, and above all, permanence
The king is depicted according to cultural and politicalideals…as an athletic, youthful figure with one foot extended and his arms straight at his sides with fists clenched. The queen takes a smaller step forward beside him.
In these tomb paintings, people with lower rank could be depicted more realistically.
People of high rank had to be presented in a more formal way.
The hunt for the Hippopotamus was more than just sport. The animals tended to wander into fields and destroy crops.
Also, the companions of Seth, the god of darkness, disguised themselves as Hippo’s.
So, this art work also tells the story of the triumph of good over evil.
-defense of borders
-control of water
-agricultural wealth and trade.
Senusret III was a dynamic king who did much to further the united Egypt in the word.
He is portrayed here as a man wise in the ways if the world, but lonely, saddened, and burdened by his responsibilities.
Head of Senusret III, Dynasty 12, c. 1836-1898 BCE. Yellow quartzite. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City Missouri.
Funerary temple of Hatshepsut, Deir el-Bahri. C. 1478-1458 BCE
The veneration of the traditional Egyptian deities was interrupted briefly during the reign of the unusual ruler Amenhotep IV.
This king founded a new religion founded on the belief in one god.
Amenhotep changed his name to Akhenaten (One Who is Effective on Behalf of Aten)
During the reign of Akhenaten, he emphasized the principle of “divine truth”. This influenced Egyptian art to become more realistic.
Note the sun.
When Akhenaten died, his new religion only lasted a few years.
The kings body lay inside three nested coffins inside the sarcophagus. The inner most coffin was solid gold.
Families would commission artists to paint scrolls that had magical spells or texts to help the dead survive the tests they would go through to get to the afterlife.
The Ptolemies regained control of Egypt after Alexander the Great died in 323 BCE. In 30 BCE, when the last Egyptian ruler, Cleopatra VII, died, the Romans added Egypt to it’s empire.
In this Sphinx of Taharqo, we see how the different cultures adapted Egyptian styles of art and sculpture.