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Art and life in ancient Egypt
Art and life in ancient Egypt

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8 Conventions of Egyptian art

In this section you will look at key conventions of Egyptian art, and why Egyptian artists followed those conventions. Here is a simple activity to begin your exploration.

Activity 2 What does Egyptian art look like?

Study Figure 27, and then make a list of some (say, half a dozen) instances of what you think are key features of the Egyptian ‘style’.

Characteristic Egyptian art: Rameses III before the gods of Memphis, from the Great Harris Papyrus
© Trustees of the British Museum
Figure 27 Characteristic Egyptian art: Rameses III before the gods of Memphis, from the Great Harris Papyrus (EA 9999.43)

Answer

Here are some things you may have observed:

  • mixing of human bodies with animal heads or, less frequently, animal bodies with human heads
  • ixing of frontal and side views, for example, side views of legs and feet with frontal views of the body, side views of the head with frontal eyes
  • a lack of modelling, resulting in a flattened, cut-out effect
  • an overall effect of stasis in the individual image, and when several are taken together, an effect of unchangingness.