ANCIENT EGYPTIAN GALLERY:KAYLA WADE:THE HIDDEN PIECES OF EGYPTIAN ART AND CULTURE

“For the great eras in the history of the development of all the arts have been eras not of increased feeling or enthusiasm in feeling for art, but of technical improvements primarily and specially” (Oscar Wilde). In today’s society, art has become a representation of what beauty looks like hung up on a wall while that was not the case by any means for the Egyptians. The Egyptians created art solely based upon their devotions of funerary objects for their gods and their king. In my personal opinion, the Egyptians (other than Jesus Christ) helped bring society together as a whole due to their creativeness and cleverness. They were the first people on Earth to come up with the first form of writing called hieroglyphics which soon became more advanced into the writing system. If they had never come up with the idea of a form of communication, where would we be in today’s society? Before Christ was born, Egyptians expressed their art through their beliefs in the gods, goddesses, and kings by enriching their devotions through art. Not only did their art convey symbolism and beauty, but it was also a way for the ancient Egyptians to express their devotion for their gods and king. By doing so, Egyptians created art such as pottery, sculptures, and paintings to put inside the tombs where the gods and kings would rest in peace. Egyptians began creating art during the Prehistoric Era (5450-2690 BCE) to The New Kingdom Era (1550-1070 BCE). During this time, they constructed tombs and pyramids to house and worship their dead king or god, while creating sculptures, paintings and pottery to decorate the inside of the tombs. Egyptians adored expressing their artistic abilities and surrounding themselves by the beauty in life and death. Not only did they have creative minds to come up with the very first writing form, but they were also extremely creative when it came to what they would use to create particular types of art. For instance, pottery was mainly made out of clay and red in color with black stenciling to paint symbols on them. Sculptures were usually made out of mudbrick or limestone, as well as the tombs. This Exhibition Project will explain the usage of pottery and sculptures as well as their meanings. We will open the hidden pieces and facts of Vaso Predinástico, The Ivory King, The Statue of a Family Group, The Stele of Zezen-nakht, and the head of a figure of the cow Hathor. Each of these pieces of art tells a different story about the ancient Egyptians and I have come to respect such art more due to the fact that they narrate a time before Christ. Subsequently, the ancient Egyptians wanted to express their beliefs and religious aspects of art through the afterlife which was tremendously important to them as well as their families. According to Khan Academy, the works of the Egyptians were not meant to be seen-that was not their purpose. Their purpose was to give a faithful representation of life after death. 

In Ancient Egypt, culture and dates before Christ were divided into Dynasties. The first Dynasty during this time is called the Predynastic period with dates ranging from 5450 to 2960 BCE. This particular era began with the reign of King Narmer who is considered to be the first documented king at during this time. Throughout the Predynastic period, Egyptians crafted “basic” art such as paintings, pottery and sculptures. I say “basic” because to the Egyptians, art was an intricate way to denote their culture, while in today’s society we craft art that is much more complex. They used pottery for many different reasons including storage and “showing refinement of technique and the development of adventurous decoration (Britannica). Archeologists have found most pottery preserved in the tombs of the dead. Egyptians made most of their pottery out of clay, which was red in color with black stenciling to create geometric depictions, designs, and animals such as the Vaso Predinástico. This particular piece of art is also called the vessel with human and animal figurines and was made in Egypt. Unfortunately, this piece of art was created in such an early time, 3500 to 3200 BCE specifically, that scientists and archeologists cannot depict the original artist. Vaso Predinástico is 8.5 centimeters in height and 7.6 centimeters in width, so an individual can predict this is a very small piece of pottery. It has illustrations of mountains, three human figures who are holding objects in their hands, and animals which seem to be a depiction of an addax; also known as an antelope from North Africa. On the bottom of this particular piece lies a “parade of animals” including goats and ox led by a human figure which may indicate the Egyptian’s way of hunting. According to Google Art Project, they may represent a religious significance. “Pottery is one of the best types of objects to define characteristics” (Gallardo) of its’ culture. This piece of art came about during the Naqadan culture, Naqada II explicitly, and arguably became the most important prehistoric culture in Upper Egypt (AEOnline). The antiqueness of Vaso Predinástico brings such beauty and uniqueness to the Egyptian culture in the Predynastic period.
Once the Predynastic Era had faded around 3000 BCE, the Early Dynastic period began to upsurge. During this time, urbanism became one of the most important changes in which Egyptians left their small homes and moved into bigger cities and settlements to expand their culture and families. King Menes was the first human king to reign in Egypt crediting him to the unification of Lower and Upper Egypt. “The distinctive hallmarks of Ancient Egyptian civilization, such as art, architecture and many aspects of religion, took shape during the Early Dynastic period (Egypt). Due to Egyptian society having their first human king to rule their country, artists began to decide what type of decorations should go in their tombs when the king passed away. These decorations consisted of paintings, scriptures, and even sculptures. The ivory statuette of a king in a jubilee robe, also known as The Ivory King, is one of the earliest surviving depictions of a king in ancient Egypt. This particular sculpture was found in the Temple of Osiris in Egypt and is about 8.8 centimeters tall at most. There is, unfortunately, no description of a certain artist due to this piece being so ancient. The Ivory King is wearing a robe signifying royalty and dignity. According to the British Museum, this robe is decorated with patterns of diamonds, also representing royalty, and is worn when attending a sed or jubilee festival. Sed festivals are ceremonies to celebrate the reign of a pharaoh or king after thirty years. An artist can depict the age of the king in this sculpture by examining the large stoop on its neck and shoulders. This figurine is said to be evidence that this ceremony was celebrated at the beginning of a historical period in Egypt (British Museum). An individual can easily predict from the original name of this piece of art that it is made of ivory, which was very stylized at this time in Egypt.
Statues became more defined during the Old Kingdom period of ancient Egypt. The Old Kingdom era came after the Early Dynastic period beginning around 2686 BCE (3rd and 4th Dynasties) and ending with the 8th Dynasty about 500 years later. This era developed as the most dynamic periods of Egyptian art, “creating images and forms that endured for generations” (Met Museum). Artists began creating sculptures of the first life size statues and perfected their carvings to make them look more intricate and “real”, such as the Statue of a Family Group. This particular piece, crafted around 2371 to 2298 BCE, has no specific artist and was found in Saqqara, Egypt. The Statue of a Family Group is about 29 inches in height, 10 inches in width, and is roughly 60 pounds made of pure limestone. It shows a man in between his wife and son while he is overbearing them. I believe this is representing a man’s authority above his family in a political and cultural standard. According to Brooklyn Museum, the woman (his wife) is kneeling down holding onto her husband’s leg to represent her love and support, like most woman do even in today’s society. To designate that his son is a child, he is depicted with a naked statue and a finger in his mouth. Because Egyptians placing their religious values and beliefs on gods, they believed their children were gifts from their god while placing a very high value on their entire family. I find this piece extremely beautiful because it puts an enormous emphasis on how much the figures adore each other while setting a standard for the average Egyptian family. Majority of Old Kingdom art are paintings and sculptures of a husband and wife, showing the husband as very serious and sometimes sad, because he worries about his family and tries to take of them.
Subsequently, the Middle Kingdom came to arise. The Middle Kingdom began around 2040 BCE, when the Old Kingdom ended, and had ended in 1640 BCE. According to Discovering Egypt, the Middle Kingdom was considered the Reunification Ear while King Mentuhotep reigned Egypt and exiled the kings of Herakleopolis, which was the capital of Egypt during the 9th and 19th Dynasties. “During the Middle Kingdom, artistic, cultural, religious and political first conceived and instituted during the Old Kingdom were revived and reimagined” (Met Museum). Although Egyptian artist were revitalizing their artistic abilities by making their art with new improvements, they also enhanced their writing system of pictograms and hieroglyphics. The Stele of Zezen-nakht was a perfect example to show off their performance. Although the artist is unknown, this piece dates around 2000 BCE and was found in Ancient Egypt. It is roughly 36 inches in height and 30 inches wide. A stele looks like a traditional headstone with engravings and served as a “boundary marker” that went outside the tomb of its king. According to Art Daily, Zezen-nakht was a hereditary prince and overseer of the 9th century army. The painted figure on the stele represents nobility and power with his left foot sticking out and holding a cane-like figure. An artist can tell that this particular figure, known as Zezen-nakht, was wealthy due to his clean shaven face and bold wrist bands made if gold and other prosperous materials. The hieroglyohics on the stele are words said by Zezen-nakht. According to Toledo Museum, on the fourth line he says, “I am one beloved to his father, praised of his mother, whom his brothers and sisters love, I am one beloved to his young recruits, pleasant to his family.” With this knowledge, I can easily tell that family came first in Egypt’s culture.
Not only did Egyptians worship their king and families, they also worshiped their gods, like we worship our God in today’s society. “Known especially for monumental architecture and statuary honoring the gods and pharaohs, the New Kingdom, a period of political stability and economic prosperity, also produced an abundance of artistic masterpieces created for use of non-royal individuals” (Metropolitan Museum). During the New Kingdom, 1550 to 1070 BCE, Egyptians worshiped the god Hathor, who was the goddess of the West. She was associated with the cemetery of the west bank at Thebes and was shown as a woman with a sun disc between a pair of cow’s horns on her head. They crafted sculptures of these gods from their imaginations, such as the head of a figure of the cow Hathor. While this piece is a representation on Hathor, the artist is unknown, and was discovered at the Temple of Mentuhotep in Egypt. It ranges from 35.5 centimeters in height, 16.5 centimeters in width, and 35 centimeters in length. The original piece had horns, but unfortunately with time has been destructed because it has been dated since 1450 BCE. The cow sculpture is made of calcite, lapis lazuli, and rock crystal and is white, signifying purity and sacredness, in color with black to represent the eyes. The temple where is artwork was found seemed to be the temple in which Hatshepsut, who reigned from 1479 to 1457 BCE, was buried. She was known to protect this particular queen, which is why her sculpture was put near her. “Hatshepsut’s self-proclaimed divine birth, and Hathor’s aspect as a fertility goddess, meant that many women left offerings at the shrine in hope of conceiving a child” (British Museum). Some people in today’s society have things in common with the ancient Egyptians in a religious way because they pray for a child upon God or the Virgin Mary.
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