Ancient Egyptian art is aimed at preserving order and stability, or the prevailing relationships between the king, people, and the gods. To do this, ancient Egyptian art followed certain rules or a style that made it distinctive and unmistakable. The characteristics of Egyptian art followed certain specific rules which gave little or no room for creativity. For instance, painters were to use a falcon's head to represent the god Horus; the purpose of the red color was to indicate power.
Today, ancient Egyptian sculpture characteristics are among the top attractions at Egyptian tourist sites due to their complexity and uniqueness. Additionally, ancient Egyptian art was heavily influenced by religion, specifically the belief in life after death so ancient Egyptian artists developed funeral art to an amazing degree. Egyptian temples and pyramids, and the paintings and sculptures found inside them, have become treasures of the entire art world and human civilization itself.
During the age of pharaohs and dynasties, Egypt was fertile and productive, politically stable, and under little threat of foreign invasions. Egyptian art was the best in the Mediterranean due to its preference for order and form. These characteristics did not suffer external influences due to the geography of Egypt. The deserts and hills surrounding Egypt and the Nile prevented any invasion, so the Egyptians were free to develop the various branches of their art form. Its artists and artisans could draw on rich supplies of minerals and fine jewels for their work. Egyptian artists all followed specific rules collectively known as style. Ancient Egyptian art tried to preserve the universe, not as it existed, but in idealized and more enduring and lasting symbols.
Artistic conventions dictated by Egyptian style, especially in sculpture and paintings, were very precise and strictly followed. Statues were viewed as physical representations of gods and goddesses, as well as divine kings and queens. This is because Egyptian society was a deeply religious one, so one of the functions of Egyptian art was to honor them. Male statues had to be darker in color than female statues. Human figures followed a definite pattern; heads were usually viewed from the side while torsos were viewed from the front. The goddess Anubis was always portrayed with a jackal's head.
Although Egyptian artists were keen observers of details, they were not after exact copies of the things and people that they saw. Artists were not expected to do something new, but to repeat exactly what has already been done. They tried to achieve a sense of order, stability, and continuity by using clear, precise, and simple shapes and lines mixed with flat areas of color. The human figure and the world were recognizable, although ancient Egyptian artists did not try to achieve exact replicas but idealized representations. Such strict compliance with style made Egyptian art unmistakable and different from art from other countries and civilizations, even in the same art era or period. The preoccupation with death and with funeral art is now turning out to be a great help to the fields of Egyptian archeology and Egyptian mythology, as well as to other scientists and artists. Funeral art is revealing more and more secrets about health, trade, food, and other aspects of life in ancient Egypt with the use of cutting-edge technology.
Egyptian Tomb Paintings
In the 6th Dynasty, Egyptian sculptors used paints rather than carvings to decorate tombs. This was due to the cheaper price of painting compared to sculpting. The Middle Kingdom saw coffins being painted to depict a house because they believed coffins were the houses in which the corpses would stay.
Artists painted the exterior of the coffins with hieroglyphs indicating the title and names of the dead. They then painted mats, windows, and doors to give a semblance of a real house. The false door through which the soul would pass was at the head of the coffin, and they also included the eyes of Horus to help the dead see the living.
They painted the interior of the coffins with gifts that were given to the dead. These gifts included vegetables, bread, and meat, along with the properties of the deceased. They drew head clothes at the head of the coffin and sandals at the feet so that the dead would not be naked in the underworld.
The Function and Meaning of Colors in Ancient Egyptian Art As already mentioned, the Egyptians used only six colors in their artwork, and each color symbolized something. The artists used red to show power, anger, fire, victory, or life; important names were also written in red. On the other hand, the Egyptians depicted growth, fertility, and new life with the color green.
Blue in ancient Egyptian art represented rebirth and creation. The rules allowed the artists to use yellow to represent the sun and gold. Yellow also indicated the Pharaohs, the sun god Ra and eternity, which is why the Egyptians painted the head of the caskets and funeral masks yellow, as it also meant eternal life for the deceased.
The artists represented purity and all things sacred with white. This is why they used white in designing all objects associated with their religion, and priests would also use white while performing religious rites.
Black was the color that symbolized death, which the Egyptians also used to represent the underworld, night, and the black fertile soil of the Nile region. Thus, black could also be used to symbolize regeneration
Egyptian art continues to intrigue people to this day, and many who visit the Great Pyramids and other ancient Egyptian sites testify of the complexity and beauty of Egyptian ingenuity. It has also boosted the economy of Egypt as more people tour these sites because Egyptian art is so unique that an untrained eye can easily spot it among other ancient art forms.