Dictionary of Art and Artists


 

 


History of

Architecture and Sculpture

 
 

 

 
 

 
 

CONTENTS:

 
 

PART ONE
THE ANCIENT WORLD
PREHISTORIC ART
EGYPTIAN ART

ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN ART
AEGEAN ART
GREEK ART
ETRUSCAN ART
ROMAN ART
EARLY CHRISTIAN AND BYZANTINE ART

PART TWO
THE MIDDLE AGES
EARLY MEDIEVAL ART
ROMANESQUE ART
GOTHIC ART

PART THREE
THE RENAISSANCE THROUGH THE ROCOCO
LATE GOTHIC
THE EARLY RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
THE HIGH RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
MANNERISM AND OTHER TRENDS
THE RENAISSANCE IN THE NORTH
THE BAROQUE IN ITALY AND SPAIN
THE BAROQUE IN FLANDERS AND HOLLAND
THE BAROQUE
THE ROCOCO

PART FOUR
THE MODERN WORLD
NEOCLASSICISM AND ROMANTICISM
REALISM AND IMPRESSIONISM
POST-IMPRESSIONISM, SYMBOLISM, AND ART NOUVEAU

PART FIVE
TWENTIETH-CENTURY
TWENTIETH-CENTURY SCULPTURE
TWENTIETH-CENTURY ARCHITECTURE


INDEX
FIGURES
 

 

 


CHAPTER TWO


EGYPTIAN ART

 

THE OLD KINGDOM
THE MIDDLE KINGDOM
THE NEW KINGDO
M-I

THE NEW KINGDOM-II

 


THE NEW KINGDOM-II

 

Akhenaten and the Anarna Period



80. Mai and His Wife Urel. Detail of a limestone relief, c. 1375 B.C. Tomb of Ramose, Thebes
 

Of the great projects built by Akhenaten hardly anything remains above ground. He must have been a revolutionary not only in his religious beliefs but in his artistic tastes as well, consciously fostering a new style and a new ideal of beauty in his choice of masters. The contrast with the past becomes strikingly evident if we compare a head in low relief from the Tomb of Ramose, done at the end of the reign of Amenhotep III (fig. 80), with a low-relief portrait of Akhenaten that is only about 15 years later in date (fig. 81). Figure 80 shows the traditional style at its best. The wonderful subtlety of the carving, the precision and refinement of its lines, makes the head of Akhenaten seem at first glance like a brutal caricature. And the latter work is indeed an extreme statement of the new ideal, with its oddly haggard features and overemphatic, undulating outlines. Still, we can perceive its kinship with the justly famous bust of Akhenaten's queen, Nefertiti (fig. 82), one of the masterpieces of the "Akhenaten style."



81.
Akhcnaten (Amenhotep IV). 1360 B.C. Limestone, height 3 1/8" (8.1 cm). Agyptisches Museum, Staatliche Museen, Berlin
.
Akhenaten, Nefertiti and their children.
Small statue of Akhenaten wearing the Egyptian Blue Crown of War.



82. Queen Nefertiti. . 1360 B.C. Limestone, height 19" (50 cm). Agyptisches Museum, Staatliche Museen, Berlin
A standing/striding figure of Nefertiti made of limestone. Originally from Amarna, part of the Agyptisches Museum Berlin collection.
 

What distinguishes this style is not greater realism so much as a new sense of form that seeks to unfreeze the traditional immobility of Egyptian art. Not only the contours but the plastic shapes, too, seem more pliable and relaxed, antigeometric. We find these qualities again in the delightful fragment of a wall painting showing the daughters of Akhenaten (fig. 83). Their playful gestures and informal poses seem in defiance of all rules of pharaonic dignity.

The old religious tradition was quickly restored after Akhenaten's death, but the artistic innovations he encouraged could be felt in Egyptian art for some time to come. The scene of workmen struggling with a heavy beam (fig. 84), from the Tomb of Horemheb at Saqqara, shows a freedom and expressiveness that would have been unthinkable in earlier times.



83. The Daughters of Akhenaten. c. 1360 B.C. 113/4 16" (30 x 40.7 cm).
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England



84. Workmen Carving a beam, from the Tomb of Horemheb, Saqqara. 1325 B.C.
Museo Civico, Bologna




The Tomb of Tutankhamen

Even the face of Akhenaten's successor, Tutankhamen, as it appears on his gold coffin cover, betrays an echo of the Akhenaten style (fig. 85). Tutankhamen, who died at the age of 18, owes his fame entirely to the accident that his is the only pharaonic tomb discovered in our times with most of its contents undisturbed. The sheer material value of the tomb (Tutankhamen's gold coffin alone weighs 250 pounds) makes it understandable that grave robbing has been practiced in Egypt ever since the Old Kingdom.
 

85. Cover of the coffin of Tutankhamen, . 1340 B.C. Gold,
inlaid with enamel and semiprecious stones,
height of whole 7
2 7/8" (185 cm). Egyptian Museum, Cairo

Tutankhamen
Gold death mask
Egyptian Museum in Cairo.


To us, the exquisite workmanship of the coffin cover, with the rich play of colored inlays against the polished gold surfaces, is even more impressive. As unique in its way as the gold coffin is a painted chestfrom the same tomb, showing the youthful king in battle and hunting scenes (fig.
86). These had been traditional subjects since the late years of the Old Kingdom, but here they are done with astonishing freshness, at least so far as the animals are concerned. While the king and his horse-drawn chariot remain frozen against the usual blank background filled with hieroglyphs, the same background in the right-hand half of the scene suddenly turns into a desert. The surface is covered with stippled dots to suggest sand, desert plants are strewn across it in considerable variety, and the animals stampede over it helter-skelter, without any ground-lines to impede their flight.

Here is an aspect of Egyptian painting that we rarely see on the walls of tombs. Perhaps this lively scattering of forms against a landscape background existed only on the miniature scale of the scenes on Tutankhamen's chest, and even there it became possible only as a result of the Akhenaten style. How these animals-in-landscape endured in later Egyptian painting we do not know, but they must have survived somehow, for their resemblance to Islamic miniatures done more than 2,000 years later is far too striking to be ignored.



86. Tutankhamen Hunting. Detail from a painted chest found in the king's tomb, Thebes, . 1340 B.C.
Length of scene . 20" (50.7 cm). Egyptian Museum, Cairo

 
 

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