Sorry, but copying text is forbidden on this website!
Egyptian art is one of the most fascinating topics in both ancient art and ancient history. As a culture, the Egyptians truly represented themselves through their art and as a result produced a body of work that is rivaled only by the Renaissance. In the two reliefs pictured, the Egyptian ideal is pictured. This compares to the palette of King Narmer and the tomb of Ti in Saqqara. One thing that we can say about Egyptian art is that it does not change much over time. This can clearly be seen in the overall style of both of the reliefs pictured.
One was done during the Sixth Dynasty and the other was done during the First Intermediate Period. The similarities in style are marked. From the stylized view of the head to the way the arms and body are drawn, the similarities are striking. This is compared with the Palette of King Narmer, which is from the Predynastic period. The same stylized images are displayed in this palette as in the two reliefs. Even in the tomb painting of Ti at Saqqara, one sees the same stylized images in living color.
When we look at the Portrait of Ni’Ankhesut, one sees a relief image of a male wearing a headdress of non-noble bearing. He is also wearing a necklace, though we cannot see much detail. Our subject is seated, and above him we see some Egyptian hieroglyphics. These are probably cartouche in nature, that is, they reflect the subject’s name and rank within Egyptian society. The relief is composed in limestone, which was the primary building material of the time. The Funerary Stele of Iamu is another typical work of Egyptian art. Like the portrait, it is also composed limestone, but in this case, it tells a story.
The Egyptians took their afterlife traditions and rituals very seriously and to that end, made sure the story of the deceased’s life and afterlife was told in detail. In this case, the tale being told is that of death. This relief shows the funerary rites as they are performed as well as hieroglyphics that explain what exactly is going on. In this case, the relief shows the process involved in serving the master and in creating the facade that is the Egyptian afterlife. Both of these reliefs contrast to the Narmer Palette. This is a two-sided object that is arrowhead shaped.
Many archeologists feel as though it shows the dominance of Upper Egypt over Lower Egypt. Narmer is presumed to be a mythical god-king who presumably united Upper and Lower Egypt. Narmer is displayed prominently on both sides of the palette, and while there are some themes that are common in Mesopotamian art, there are aspects that are uniquely Egyptian. The partial profiling of the figure with the front view of the hands is Egyptian in and of itself and shows that Egyptian art had a style all its own even at the early juncture of its history.
This palette also tells a story, that is, it tells the bloody story of the unification of the two parts of Egypt. This is also a theme that is indicative to Egyptian art. The nature of the storytelling that each piece tells shows that the Egyptians are very much interested in showing their own story and history through their art. Even at this early juncture, they saw art as a means of cultural transmission, and used it effectively to create the story of their own beginnings. Finally, the last piece of art is the tomb of Ti at Saqqara. This piece of art is unlike the others, in the fact that it still retains its original color.
In this scene, we see who we can presume is Ti sailing on the Nile that is overflowing with fish and other marine life. He is with other warriors and is presumably hunting hippopotami and birds in the marshes. Again, the relief is highly stylized with no variations in the human form. As with the other reliefs noticed, there are no variations in the human form. Each person looks almost identical to the last, and the only way that one would know the difference between the various people is by looking at their cartouche or knowing what tomb one is in.
It is even difficult to tell who is who in the relief images without the help of the hieroglyphic writing. What are the ways we tell who is who in the various relief pictures that we are exposed to in Egyptian art? One of the major ways that we can tell is by looking at the size of the person that is displayed. What does this tell us? What it says is that the largest person in the picture is usually is the main subject of the tomb or the hieroglyphics. The smaller figures are usually minor players or servants. Even spouses are sometimes displayed smaller in respect to the main figures.
The main protagonist of the painting or relief is prominently displayed with the accompanying cartouche and tomb writings more than capably tell who is who in the grand story. If we look at the portrait of Ni’Ankhesut, we see that he is the largest figure in the relief. In the Funerary Stele of Iamu, we see that Iamu is most prominently displayed. Again, both of these examples show the casual observer who is the prominent figure in the relief. Additionally, the cartouche and the tomb writings show us easily who is the main protagonist.
In the Narmer palette, Narmer is prominently displayed on one side of the palette, taking up nearly the entire side. This is the most telling sign of Egyptian art and supremacy of the figure. By making King Narmer the largest figure in the palette, the artist is showing the supremacy and the importance of Narmer in the history of Egypt. What can we learn from Egyptian art? We can learn that this group created a fascinating body of work that has permeated the world in which not only they lived, but we live as well. Without the Egyptians, we would not have modern portrait art and the art of realism that exists today.
Though Egyptian art is highly stylized, we see shades of ourselves in their work. All cultures can look to the Egyptians for their own inspiration for their own art and culture. Each culture took from the Egyptians to form their own unique art forms and their own stylizations and themes. As a modern culture, we can look to the Egyptians for inspiration for the future, and we can look for them to reinforce our past so we can continue to learn more about the fascinating culture that continues to affect us even today.