Art of Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt art . The styles of painting , sculpture, crafts and architecture developed by the civilization of Ancient Egypt from the year 5000 BC are understood . C. until 300 d. C. This art is characterized by a sense of order: clear and simple lines, combined with simple shapes and flat areas of color. Art reflects the social, religious and political situation.

It was linked from the beginning to religion and power, serving the pharaoh and the ruling classes. The artists were not free, they simply followed some rules of representation set in advance, dictated by the priests; They were considered simple craftsmen, although they enjoyed a certain social recognition.


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  • 1 First manifestations
    • 1 Dynastic Period (c. 3000 to 30 BC)
    • 2 Paintings and bas-reliefs
    • 3 Sculpture
    • 4 Architecture
    • 5 Ancient Empire (c. 2700-2200 BC)
    • 6 Middle Kingdom (c. 2040-1795 BC)
    • 7 New Kingdom (c. 1570-1070 BC)
    • 8 Late Period (c. 672-332 BC)
    • 9 Greco-Roman domination (332-30 BC)
  • 2 Sources

First manifestations

The oldest Egyptian artistic expressions are classified into the following stages: in the Neolithic period (5300-4000 BC), in the Badarian period (4400-4000 BC), Nagada I – Amratiense (4000-3500 BC). C.), Nagada II – Gerzeense (3500-3200 BC) and Nagada III (3200-3000 BC). In these periods decorative (ceramic) or symbolic painting (in tombs) and small objects predominate. utilitarian and magical. Stone pots, “maces” and votive “pallets” stand out, such as Narmer’s.

Dynastic Period (c. 3000 to 30 BC)

The perfection, delicacy and monumentality of Egyptian art amazes, with a characteristic style that emerged during the first dynasties and remains almost unchanged in three millennia of culture.

Paintings and bas-reliefs

It presents juxtaposed figures in superimposed planes. The images are represented with hierarchical criteria, for example: the pharaoh is larger in size than the subjects or enemies next to him.

The profile canon predominated, which consists of representing the head and limbs in profile but the shoulders and eyes facing forward. The paintings are found on papyri and tomb walls, the bas-reliefs mainly on the temple walls. The most typical scenes were those of daily life or those of “Beyond”.


Another artistic field in which Egyptian art reached high levels was sculpture, dominated by the law of frontality. Egyptian sculpture was of great importance not only because of its decorative character, but also because of its relation to the religious ideas of the afterlife of the Egyptians. They practiced both free-standing or round-shaped sculpture, as well as relief (bas-relief and hollow-relief).

Write sitting down. Louvre Museum

The main characteristics of Egyptian sculpture are the use of stone (hard material), the law of frontality, rectilinear vision, the canon (18 fists) and its idealism. These characteristics reveal the purpose of the execution of the sculptures: their durability over time, since often their objective is to house the soul after the death of the body, which is especially important in the case of free-standing sculptures.

The statue of Djeser, from Sakkara, is the first monumental expression of Pharaoh’s divinization. Of the IV dynasty it is necessary to highlight the statue of Kefren’s diorite, which was in his temple from that of Giza, where he appears seated on his throne culminated by Horus and that of Micerino, flanked by the goddess Hathor and the protector god of the nome. Other outstanding works are the Great Sphinx of Giza (representing the pharaoh Kefrén) and that of Rahotep and Nofret.


Cairo – Cheops pyramid

Egyptian religious architecture is characterized by its monumentality from the Old Kingdom, with the use of stone, in large blocks, a flat construction system and solid columns. In civil architecture, adobe was profusely used in houses, palaces, fortresses and walls, with few remains.

It arises in a society with a strongly centralized and hierarchical political power, with a religious conception of immortality, at first only from Pharaoh, which should reflect its magnificence and durability.

It is achieved thanks to the mathematical and technical knowledge, sometimes disconcerting for the time, the existence of highly experienced, well-organized artists and craftsmen and the abundance of easily carved stone (limestone and sandstone).

The most original constructions of monumental Egyptian architecture are the “pyramid complexes”, temples and tombs (mastabas and hypogea).

Ancient Empire (c. 2700-2200 BC)

In this period, huge buildings began to be erected, built with large blocks of carved stone. It is the time of the construction of huge pyramids, ceremonial temples and beautiful sculptures.

During Dynasty III it is erected: The Step Pyramid of Zoser in Saqqara.

In Dynasty IV the largest pyramids are built. They highlight:

  • The three Seneferu pyramids at Meidum and Dahshur.
  • The Great Pyramid of Jufu (Cheops) in Giza.
  • The Jafra (Kefren) pyramid in Giza.
  • The Pyramid of Menkaura (Micerino) in Giza.

Middle Kingdom (c. 2040-1795 BC)

Pyramids are built with more perishable materials (adobe). The hypogea are replacing the mastabas as tombs.

The sculpture was characterized by greater realism, especially in portraits. Royalty was represented as high-ranking personalities, but without becoming the image of a god on Earth, as it happened in the Old Kingdom. This same criterion was followed by the Egyptian nobility. In the temples the polychrome bas-relief was lavished. The painting was used profusely in the decoration of graves.

Egyptian literature reaches its zenith with the History of Sinuhé and the Texts of the Sarcophagi.

New Kingdom (c. 1570-1070 BC)

Luxor Temple

The construction of temples and hypogea is emphasized. They stand out from them:

  • Great Temple of Amun at Karnak
  • Luxor Temple. (Amenhotep III / Ramses II)
  • Hatshepsut Temple at Deir el-Bahari
  • Temples of Ramses II in Abu Simbel
  • Hypogeums of the Valley of the Kings

Late Period (c. 672-332 BC)

During the Saíta dynasty the models of the Old Kingdom were imitated, generalizing the use of bronze in statues. The demotic quickly developed. The Persian kings of the first domination respected Egyptian customs, promoting the restoration of some Egyptian temples. The languages ​​used were Demotic and Aramaic, with hieroglyphs being used only in architectural elements.

Greco-Roman domination (332-30 BC)

From the end of the New Empire the Egyptians were ruled in some periods by kings from other nations but they maintained their culture and artistic customs until the time of Roman rule.

During the Ptolemaic period there was a great development of art, new temples were built, the Museum and Library of Alexandria, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria. The forms in sculpture are hellenized. Manetho wrote his book on the history of Egypt. The temples erected or completed during the Ptolemaic dynasty stand out.

  • Temple of Jnum in Esna
  • Horus Temple in Edfu
  • Sobek and Haroeris Temple in Ombos
  • Temple of Isis at File
  • Hator Temple in Dendera


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