In the seventeenth century BC, Egypt was attacked by a foreign traveling tribe and the Egyptian infantry was defeated by their cavalry, and the rule of foreign Hiscos kings began over Lower Egypt. After some time of foreign rule, the Egyptians invented the chariot-based army and freed Egypt from foreign rule by adopting new methods of warfare. Just a century or so later, taking advantage of new methods of warfare, Egypt expanded its empire from Sudan to the Euphrates River.
The Pharaoh rulers of the Eighteenth Dynasty were very ambitious and powerful, including Queen Hatshept’s reign which was very prosperous for Egypt. He gave a lot of encouragement to artists and litterateurs. The art scriptures of the period before the eighteenth dynasty were pure and at the peak of excellence.
In place of the Ra cult, the worship of the god Amen got the approval of the king and Thebes, the new capital of Egypt, became the center of religion and art. Later, Pharaoh Akhenaton abandoned the prevalent religion, but during the reign of King Tutankhamon, Egyptian art again received its pure form.
The Egyptian art of the Eighteenth Dynasty clearly reflects the religious conflict situation there and despite being faithful to the pure motifs of the traditional scriptures, there seem to be contradictions at places in terms of expression. The most familiar examples of this are the numerous paintings and relief sculptures made in the tombs of the kings in the cemetery of the city of Thebes.
The relief carvings in the tomb of Queen Hatshepsut at Del-el-Bahri depict religious subjects and episodes from the queen’s life, and these carvings are particularly important because very few other carvings from the Eighteenth Dynasty period are available.
The walls of the temples enclosed in the tombs in the western hills of the city of Thebes are mostly decorated with colorful paintings. The simplicity and ostentation of the religious sculptures and paintings of the ancient dynastic rule had now been forgotten and to suit the new social living, the architects and painters of the neodynastic rule paid more attention towards luxury and elegance and made their artworks more attractive to the common viewer. Were engaged in efforts to make it.
Special importance was given to material pleasant events like hospitality of guests, pomp and show of the feast, musical instruments, make-up, dance etc. Recreational leisure activities like fishing, hunting etc. have also been depicted. The religious importance of statues was lost and they started being seen as formal memorials to the dead.
In place of the ancient classical harshness, the sculptures now started showing a feeling of gentleness and elegance, of which the seated statue of Rani Haat-Shepsut is an excellent example. Development of wall painting was another specialty of the Egyptian art of this period. This becomes clear from the wall paintings made in the tombs of Thebes.
In the early wall paintings, the outer lines were made clear and their inner parts were filled with plain colors. Density, speed or composition were rarely considered. But in the later wall paintings, there are clear signs that Egyptian artists had started taking interest in the form, movement, posture and grouping of the depicted human figures.
The trend of depicting natural scenes in the background increased and with it the use of one or more surface lines became popular. Among the natural scenes, gardens, ponds, temples, hunting scenes and the countryside in the background have been particularly depicted. Along with the stereotypical bespectacled human figures, viewer-facing figures also began to be depicted. In some paintings, attempts were also made to express human emotions on faces.
King Akhenaton of the Eighteenth Dynasty was a man of stubborn nature. Artists had to work according to his suggestions. He abandoned the prevalent religion and made Amarna city his capital. He firmly believed that real truth should be given primary importance.
But the artists, who were forced to work according to their own instructions, neither created true naturalistic artworks nor created traditional, stereotypical classical style artworks. The development of Egyptian art stopped gradually and the artworks of this period have a touch of artificial naturalism.
Among the artefacts of this period, the relief sculpture of King Akhenaton and his family, the colorful headstone of Queen Nefertiti and the wall paintings of the Nakht tomb of Thebes are especially famous. The figures of animals and birds have been carefully drawn in the wall paintings of the northern palace of Amarna.
In the last phase of the Eighteenth Dynasty, i.e. during the reign of Tutankhamon, ancient scriptures and pure art again started to get their place of honor as before. The diamond-encrusted gold throne of Tutankhamun of this period and the engraved scene with the figure of the enthroned king on its back are among the world famous artefacts.
During the reign of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasties, Egyptian art again became traditional by assimilating new changes. Now the kings have already created huge and ostentatious artworks but they only have the feel of repetition and lack original talent.
The temple of Abu Simbel built by King Ramesses II of this period and the 40 feet high grand world-famous statues of the four kings there are the last high point of Egyptian art during the Neolithic period.