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Egyptian art


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The art of ancient Egypt, dating from about 3000 bc to the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great in 332 bc. It can be divided into the following major dynastic periods: Early (c.2925–c.2575 bc); Old Kingdom (c.2575–c.2150 bc); First Intermediate (c.2150–c.2018 bc); Middle Kingdom (c.2008–c.1630 bc); Second Intermediate (c.1630–c.1540 bc); New Kingdom (c.1540–c.1075 bc); Third Intermediate (c.1075–c.750 bc); Late (c.750–332 bc). There was also a Graeco-Roman postscript, dating from 332 bc–ad 395, testimony to the later domination of the Mediterranean world by Greece and Rome. Ancient Egyptian art reflected that civilization's religious beliefs, according to which the terrestrial life was merely a brief interlude compared to the eternal life which followed. The complex pantheon of deities (less familiar than that of Greek and Roman art) was in a constant state of flux, however, and varied according to the shifts in regional domination. The major monuments of Egyptian art consisted of its funerary statues and decorated tombs, with the pyramids of the Pharaohs and the smaller tombs of the lesser nobility situated in the extensive funerary districts. The most significant flowering of the arts occurred during the New Kingdom when great structures were erected along the entire length of the Nile valley in Egypt and Nubia. Enormous stone temples were built for the worship of the gods. A typical temple consisted of a massive gateway, a colonnaded courtyard, a hall of columns, a shrine chamber, and one or more chapels. The design of the columns and capitals was based on plants, such as the palm and papyrus, and the walls were decorated with plant motifs. Some of the greatest temple remains are to be found at Luxor, Karnak, Abydos, Tell el-Amarna, and Abu Simbel. Stylistic conventions in painting remained relatively unchanged throughout the dynastic periods: the eye is shown frontally in a profile face and the shoulders are turned round so as to be presented parallel to the picture plane. A new note of three-dimensional realism was introduced in the Graeco-Roman period, however, and the coffin portraits of Roman Egypt are remarkably accurate portraits of real individuals.

Subjects: Art.


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