Egyptian

3150 BC - 31 BC

Egypt, with its fairly secluded geographical positioning, centered on the fertile Nile Valley, sustained a reasonably static artistic tradition from pre-Dynastic times through to the Roman era. Egyptian artwork is generally two-dimensional, with a regular configuration. It tended towards natural imagery and iconic presentations of human and animal forms. Only one period of Egyptian art differed from this norm--the more fluid Amarna period, during which the Pharaoh Akhenaten’s imposition of monotheism was reflected in the art produced.

Aside from this comparatively brief phase, representations of Egyptian deities as anthropomorphic animals were predominant in all media. Sometimes a god’s entity was embodied in a single creature that was then considered sacred, whose image was recreated in frescoes, statues and reliefs. Amulets of animals and deities were often worn as necklaces or bracelets which were credited with providing protection for both the living and the dead.

Further, in painting and relief sculpture the Egyptian conceptual form was frequently focused upon human activity. These works were meant to be objective recordings of activities rather than attempts to invoke feeling. Painting on a tomb wall told the viewer of the life of the deceased. Portraits similarly intended to preserve an individual’s personality or essence once they had passed on. The artwork, therefore, was practical in intent, preserving a record of the objects and activities the person desired to take from this life to the afterlife. Apart from mortuary art, historical and commemmorative works were common, recording the triumphs of the gods and monarchs in narrative visual forms. Again, these works were rational, preserving the great deeds of pharaohs and generals in ways suitable to their purposes.