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Grade 9 – Art History. Egyptian Art. Egyptian Art alternates between conservative and innovative The history of Egypt is divided into dynasties of rulers What is a dynasty? A succession of rulers from the same family or line is called a Dynasty. Introduction. Predynasty Old Kingdom

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Egyptian Art

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Egyptian Art alternates between conservative and innovative

  • The history of Egypt is divided into dynasties of rulers
  • What is a dynasty?
    • A succession of rulers from the same family or line is called a Dynasty.
basic overview of ancient egypt


  • Old Kingdom
    • Step Pyramids
    • The Great Pyramids
    • The Great Sphinx
    • Menkaure and his Queen
  • Middle Kingdom
  • New Kingdom
    • Temple of Queen Hatshepsut
    • King Akhenaten and Nefertiti
    • Tutankhamun
    • Ramesses II
Basic Overview of Ancient Egypt

Egypt was still learning the use of bronze tools

It was originally divided into territories

After some time the territories merged to form two rival kingdoms: Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt

Around 3000 B.C. the Upper Egyptian kings conquered Lower Egypt and combined the two realms.


King Na’rmer

    • One of the kings that unified Egypt
    • His accomplishments were sculpted onto the Palette of King Na’rmer
      • It is composed of relief

sculpture and


* Palette of King Na’rmer (both sides), Slate, c. 3150-3125 B.C.

the palette of king na rmer

The front:

    • Na’rmer is wearing a crown of Upper Egypt
    • He is about to slay a defeated opponent and two others are held captive below him
    • The symbols near Na’rmer’s head again represent the victory over Lower Egypt
    • Na’rmer is barefoot, symbolizing holy ground and more of a ritual act than a physical act
The Palette of King Na’rmer
the palette of king na rmer8

The back:

    • The king is again depicted barefoot and is now wearing the crown of Lower Egypt
    • In front of him are subjects walking to inspect beheaded bodies of prisoners
    • At the bottom Na’rmer is depicted as a bull trampling an enemy and knocking down a citadel
    • The meaning of the centre is ambiguous
      • It is debated that the beasts represent a union of the two kingdoms of Egypt
The Palette of King Na’rmer
the start of the pyramid

As early as the Fourth Dynasty, wealthy individuals and kings would be buried in mastabas

The Start of the Pyramid...
  • A mastaba (from the Arabic word for “bench”) is a square-shaped mound faced with brick or stone built above a burial chamber

Above ground, a mudbrick superstructure was built with an offering chapel attached

The burial chamber was below ground, surrounded by storerooms filled with goods for the use of the deceased in the Afterlife


Royal mastabas became quite large and their exteriors sometimes resembled that of a royal palace

During the Third Dynasty, the mastabas developed into Step Pyramids

The best known, and possibly the first, is that of King Djoser

King Djoser directed Imhotep to build a great complex which would contain his royal tomb

the step pyramid

The mudbrickmastaba developed into a stone-built tower

It is a solid structure with underground burial chambers

It is considered the beginning of pyramid structures

The Step Pyramid

* Imhotep, Pyramid of King Djoser, Saqqara, c. 2681-2662 B.C.


It declares the pharaoh’s supreme power and divine status

It served to bridge the gap with the heavens by serving as a “stairway” (steps) for Djoser

the great pyramids

Djoser’s successors adapted the Step Pyramids to a smooth-sided shape

The Great Pyramids at Giza were built during the Fourth Dynasty

They originally had an outer casing of carefully dressed stone, which has disappeared except near the top of the pyramid of Khafre (the middle pyramid)

The Great Pyramids

* The Great Pyramids, Giza:

(left) Menkaure, c. 2533-2515 B.C

(centre) Khafre, c. 2570-2544 B.C.

(right) Khufu, c. 2601-2528 B.C.


The three differ slightly from one another in scale

The burial chamber is located near the centre instead of underground

The Pyramids are surrounded by other pyramids and mastabas


Who actually built the pyramids and how did they move the stones?

    • Slaves or farmers in the off season?
    • Logs to roll? Pulleys? Ramps?
the great sphinx

Next to the valley temple of the Pyramid of Khafre stands the Great Sphinx

The Great Sphinx
  • Carved from rock, it is an even more impressive symbol of divine kingship than the pyramids
  • The royal head rising from the body of a lion reaches a height of 65 feet and its length is 150 feet

* The Great Sphinx, Giza, c. 2570-2544 B.C.


The head is wearing a nemes (the striped head covering worn by kings)

Over time, damage has occurred to the face and body

The Sphinx has been undergoing restoration, however

king menkaure and his queen

An example of cubic portraiture

The artist would have marked the surface of the block with a grid and would have drawn the front, top, and side views of the statue on it, then would have worked inward until the views met

These portraits were thought to be inhabited by the ka

Is a good example of the comparison between male and female beauty as interpreted by the artist

King Menkaure and His Queen

* King Menkaure and His Queen, Slate, c. 2515 B.C.

troubling times

Centralized pharaonic power collapsed at the end of the Sixth Dynasty, around 2150 B.C.

  • Egypt then entered a period of political disturbances and ill fortune that was to last almost 700 years
  • Egypt was divided into dozens of independent states where power was in the hands of local or regional overlords
    • This revived the old rivalry between Upper and Lower Egypt
  • Although Egypt was reunited around 2040 B.C., the authority and power of the pharaoh had changed
Troubling Times...

The most important change in this period was the shift from pyramids to funerary temples

They were designed to hold the mummies of the rulers and were constructed so that part of the temple was cut into the cliff and part was outside

*Plan of Mentuhotep's Mortuary Temple, Deir-el-Bahari, c. 2061-2010 B.C.


Although the land was now united, there were still standing armies in some areas, and some aristocrats did not hesitate to use force

  • Soon after the Twelfth Dynasty, Egypt was taken over by the Hyksos(a group of Asiatic peoples)
    • They introduced the horse and chariot to Egypt
  • King Ahmose of Thebes defeated the Hyksos and forced them to withdraw from Egypt
  • Because Egypt was once again united under strong kings, the country extended its frontiers to the east (hence, the New Kingdom)
  • This expansion allowed for a wide variety and flavour of styles and quality in its art
the temple of queen hatshepsut

A revival of Middle Kingdom architectural forms to signify royal power, unity, and stability

Made of terraced walls, colonnades, sculptured reliefs, passageways, and large open terraces

The Temple of Queen Hatshepsut

*The Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, Deir-el-Bahari, c. 1478-1458 B.C.

king akhenaten

During the reign of the Eighteenth Dynasty the emphasis of religion changed radically

Amenhotep IV attempted to elevate a single deity, the Aten, to the status of sole god and changed his name to Akhenaten(“Effective for the Aten”)

He closed the Amun Temples (which gained vast power and posed a threat to royal authority), and moved the capital the central Egypt

King Akhenaten

Intimate domestic scene possibly meant for a shrine in a private household

  • Life-giving rays of sunlight connected to Aten (the sun-disk)
  • An example of the Amarna style
    • A greater sense of realism
    • A new sense of form that seeks to unfreeze the traditional immobility of Egyptian Art (think back to the figures depicted in the Palette of Na’rmer)

*Akhenaten and His Family, Limestone, c. 1355 B.C.


The bust of Nefertiti also holds true to the new style of the time

    • Greater realism and elegance
    • Symmetrical face

*Queen Nefertiti, Limestone, c. 1348-1336/5 B.C.


Ascended to the throne at the age of nine

Helped restore the old religion

Died at the age of eighteen

Is the only pharaoh whose tomb has been discovered almost completely intact

ramesses ii

After the restoration of the old religion, the rulers of the New Kingdom devoted their architectural energies to building huge temples of Amun

The centre of the Amun cult was located in the region of Thebes (specifically at Karnak and Luxor)

Vast temple complexes that were started in these areas in the Middle Kingdom were enlarged during the Nineteenth Dynasty

Ramesses II

The temple complexes, completed under the rule of Ramesses II, were enclosed by high walls and consisted of a facade with a massive entranceway called a pylon

The pylon led to a series of courts and pillared halls, with the temple (a series of symmetrically arranged halls and chapels) just beyond it

Within the temple there would be a cult statue of the god the temple was dedicated to

*Temple of Ra, Luxor, c. 13th Century B.C.

beyond the new kingdom

From about 1069 B.C. to 332 B.C., Egypt saw a sweeping change of rulers and invasions which left the country divided and confused

From about 332 B.C. to 31 B.C., Egypt again was taken over and saw another change in rulers ranging from Alexander the Great to Ptolemy and, finally, to becoming a part of the Roman Empire

Beyond the New Kingdom