(From 3100 BC to 2258 BC) Germany’s famous historian Heinrich Schöfer has written in clear words that if we want to interpret Egyptian art accurately, it becomes necessary that we first understand the history of Egypt. Experience the thoughts of ancient people by understanding their spiritual life.
He himself adopted this method and wrote a treatise on Egyptian art, which has been highly praised by scholars. But some other historians have expressed dissatisfaction with this method. In his opinion, the excellence of any art can be properly evaluated only by limiting the study of art to aesthetic experience, otherwise not.
The idea of cultural background is unrelated to the study of art. The truth is that there are some errors in every method, considering this it is appropriate for the practitioner to adopt the method that suits his main purpose. As Frankfort believes, it is necessary to coordinate both the methods for a holistic study. For example, only through such a coordinated study method can the reasons for the lack of realistic perspective in masonry art be shed light.
From the very beginning, the Egyptian artist never had any major objective of art creation which was not related to religion. Another important thing is that the Egyptian people did not consider such a difference between religion and political thought. Religion dominated every aspect of his public and personal life.
He could not accept any difference between religious authority and civil administration. They considered the king to be omnipotent as per divine order. Being a staunch conservative, he did not abandon old religious concepts and practices but rather modified them and made them more complex.
The innate function of Egyptian art was to reveal the subtleties of revered esoteric religious concepts in an understandable visual form, to depict persons and important events as lasting monuments, and to create a suitable backdrop for religious rituals.
Egyptian figurines, like prehistoric figurines, were objects of communal significance. According to the purpose of the sect, these statues were made as memorials to individuals. Initially, only statues of the king and queen were made and through them the immortality of the king and queen was inculcated in the minds of the people. Later, similar statues were also made of other members of the royal family and people associated with it, but respectively by giving them a secondary place.
Therefore, the work of the Egyptian artist was related to the tomb and he used to maintain people’s belief that man is immortal. The preserved body of his idol was important. According to the idea of immortality, it was essential to animate the statue with the eternal natural form of man. The vision of the fleeting form of man in the statue was contrary to the basic idea of immortality.
Keeping in mind the subtlety of this idea, Egyptian artists have very skillfully created human statues of such sublime form that the viewer gets faith in the eternal existence of human beings and realizes the transience of human life. Doesn’t even happen.
Apart from this, the sculptors have also included individual physical characteristics in the idols, which we cannot call personal nature or mental state. Therefore, despite not being literal resemblance, the statues have strong personalities and have the identity of a person. The actual resemblance was secondary because the person depicted could be easily identified by inscribing a specific name on the statue.
The standing statues of King Micrinus and his queen, carved together in the same stone, are quite ancient in Egyptian art, and following them, the custom of making statues of consorts of persons of lesser status became popular.
The figure of the king is depicted standing rigid and straight with his fists tightened and his left step forward bounded by simple lines, with a steady gaze. On the contrary, the figure of the queen has been depicted in an affectionate posture bounded by gentle circular lines, lovingly holding the king’s waist.
Compared to the statues of kings and queens, the statues of distinguished rich class people have been made with more personality and gentleness. The famous statues of Rahhotep and his wife Nofret sitting on a square pedestal are made of limestone and are an overall beautiful example of colorful sculptures. The eyes of both are made of inlaid crystals.
In the above mentioned deceased statues, signs of the characteristics of Egyptian art and the artists’ unique approach towards beauty are clearly visible. According to practitioners, the emerging form of Egyptian art and culture was largely the result of the geographical environment that influenced the psychology of its inhabitants and artists.
Being isolated from the surrounding deserts, the chances of external attacks were very less. Due to reliable prior knowledge about the seasonal cycle and the flood stage of the Nile River, there was no fear of sudden nature’s wrath among the people. The land was fertile and the climate was favorable for human life.
Due to all these reasons, people got the benefit of secure permanent life and the only loss of natural death could be compensated only by imagining human immortality i.e. life after death. Therefore, every aspect of their culture was influenced by the idea of eternal life in the past, present and future.
Another geographical factor led to the emergence of two subtly different styles in Egyptian art. Come
Another geographical factor led to the emergence of two subtly different styles in Egyptian art. Initially, there was a feeling of difference among the Egyptian people between Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt, which did not change much after the merger. There was a difference between the two in terms of climate and economy.
The inhabitants of Lower Egypt had somewhat distinct characteristics and to some extent adopted the ideologies of their Asian neighbours. The artists there were naturally inclined towards naturalism, whereas the artists of Upper Egypt had special attention towards imagination and subtlety.
It would be appropriate to give credit to the artists of Upper Mill for the basic qualities due to which Egyptian art became world famous. Almost all historians agree that due to the surrounding geographical view the artists here remained unfamiliar with the idea of a circular horizon. These artists, living in the valley between the steep rocks, considered the background land as the background and the sky as an umbrella or canopy.
Therefore, it is no surprise that in their art, dense form is given priority and in it, relief sculpture with simple lines is available in abundance. In a way, these people considered themselves to be the inner inhabitants of a huge cube or pyramid.
The above detailed description of the circumstances under which the Mila art received its effective and excellent subtle form will undoubtedly be helpful in the study and aesthetic appreciation of Egyptian art and on the basis of that, the reasons for the special place that Mila art has in the history of world art. Can be explored easily.
Mill’s artists did not create creative work for personal fame or praise, so most of these artists are anonymous. As hereditary craftsmen, they created art as a social duty.
The period of the first two dynasties has been considered as ‘archaic period’ and except the Narmer plaque and some other less important works, artefacts of this period are not available. Despite the merger, mutual animosity continued between Upper and Lower Egypt until the end of the Second Dynasty.
Permanent peace was established under the rule of King Kha Sekhem. The early and clear signs of the density-oriented shape characteristic of Egyptian art are visible in the statue made as a memorial to the death of this king. In ancient times, the buildings built at the burial places of kings were stupa-shaped in Southern Egypt and square and made of bricks in Lower Egypt, which are called mastabas. It is generally believed that the initial mastaba with flat roof and descending walls was developed and the pyramid was later constructed in a huge form.
The pyramid and mastava have separate chambers. One room is for keeping the preserved dead body. The sculpture chamber of Mastava is inside it while the sculpture chamber of the pyramid is in its outer temple.
In the temple of the pyramid and under the mastaba, there is another chamber or prayer room in which necessary materials were offered to the soul of the deceased and pictures and relief sculptures were made on its walls. In these, the gods were pleased and also the life events of the deceased were depicted, so that the deceased could get help in his afterlife.
The ‘Stepan Pyramid’ built in Saqqara by the first king Djoser of the Third Dynasty is considered to be the middle stage of the development of pyramid construction. The famous pyramids built in Gizanagar of Keops, Khafren and Menkeres belong to the pharaohs of the fourth dynasty. The proper development of the construction of pyramids began in the period of the Third Dynasty of the ancient dynastic rule (from approximately AD 2778 BC to AD 2662 BC), but the full form of its individual characteristics appeared in the Fourth Dynasty. Huge pyramids were built during this period.
This was an era of formal principles in which all traces of early individualism and naturalism were gone. The rules related to size and composition were given definite shape and were strictly followed in the making of artefacts.
As the intellectual influence of the people in authority became stronger, Egyptian art acquired a crystalline, well-defined concrete form. This traditional tradition continued uninterrupted for thousands of years and there was not even the slightest room for change in it. The deceased statue of King Khefren, kept in the pyramid of Gizanagar of this period, was considered an ideal for the future deceased royal statues and a symbol of divine kingship in terms of posture, hand arrangement and consent.
Apart from the sculptures, the important art production in the ancient dynastic period are the relief carvings and paintings which decorated the walls of the tombs of some common people like the temples of the dead kings. Thus, among the relief sculptures made in a personal tomb, one of the famous early works of art is the carving on a wooden panel in the tomb of the Third Dynasty king’s theologian Hesi-Ra in Saqqara.
The intricately carved vertical figure of Hesi Ra is an example of excellent craftsmanship. In front of the figure, instead of life events, his daily life items and property like utensils etc. have been depicted.
The paintings that adorn the walls of the tomb of Ranofer of Maidum are from the Fourth Dynasty period and now in front of the figure of the chief, events from his life have been depicted. In the artefacts of both the above mentioned places, early signs of the world famous and fully developed relief sculpture work done in the tombs of Sakkar are visible.
In the sculpture of the tomb of Tah-hotep, the figure of the head of the family has been made much larger in proportion than other human figures and its influence is over the entire scene in which the events and activities of his daily life have been sculpted.
At some places laborers are shown working and at other places they are shown taking care of animals. At some places the scribe has been shown collecting agricultural produce and other income along with his servants, at some places musicians have been shown singing and playing and at some places artisans have been shown doing crafts. There are also scenes of boating and hunting.
A person has been shown offering gifts to the king but nowhere has the deceased been shown participating in these activities, rather he has been shown concentrating and observing all the events of his life with identification. According to Mrs. Frankfort, all this depiction was done with the aim of alleviating her feelings of separation from her family.
The relief sculptures in the building adjacent to the tomb of King Djoser depict King Djoser participating in a ritual race. The subjects of the relief sculptures produced in the later period of the Third Dynasty are mainly religious and often related to the cult of the sun god Ra.
Very little relief work was done in the Fourth Dynasty, the reason for this could be that the patrons found the work of relief work to be small and in comparison to the unostentatious but grand granite dead temples and heavy, huge statues that were being built during this period. It seemed ineffective but after that the work of relief sculpture started again.
Some excellent relief work was done in the fifth dynasty, of which the work done in the dead temple of Sahure is very beautiful and has various subjects carved in it.
By studying the work here, the difference between the relief work done in the temples of deceased kings and the similar work done in the tomb of a private person becomes clear.
Crafts related to kings were made imbued with religious significance keeping in mind the divine superiority of the king and his position as a religious head, whereas the crafts made for a non-royal person had only the importance of commemorating the life of that person. In the sculptures made on the life events of the king, the king was also shown taking an active part in those events.
The best and most important contribution of Egyptian art of the Old Dynastic period is undoubtedly its relief sculptures on the walls, some of which, as we have seen above, are in the temples of the dead kings and some are in the tombs of private individuals. Even in this relief sculpture, the work done in the tomb of Sakkar is amazing. The clear lines of engraving and the dominant, well-defined motifs could not be matched by future Egyptian art.
After the Fourth Dynasty, many of the numerous artisans engaged in the construction of the great pyramids became unemployed after the completion of the pyramids and started working for ordinary Arsic patrons. As a result the art declined till the sixth dynasty. Nevertheless, the first level of art work done under the patronage of the kings remained in considerable quantity.