A History Of Art In Ancient Egypt Pdf

Ancient Egypt And Its Artistic Prowess

Ancient Egypt is one of the earliest and most creative civilizations that ever stood on the face of the Earth.
The art and architecture of ancient Egypt still stands as a clear witness of its artistic magnetism.
Detailing the early days of the land of kings and pyramids is the study of A History of Art in Ancient Egypt.
From hieroglyphic symbols to moments captured in daily life, Ancient Egypt offers an enthralling compilation of artwork.
The history of art in Ancient Egypt paints a picture of a diverse ecological state for humanity’s artistic exuberance.
The now iconic Sphinx, gods represented by their animal spirits and mastery in stone carving, mosaics, and papyrus paintings still reflect the renowned ancient Egyptian artistry.
The painting styles from Ancient Egypt were first formed when wall painting became increasingly popular in the predynastic period, before the rise of the Old Kingdom (c. 2686–2181 BCE).
The use of an iconic visual language to create symbols became a significant feature of Ancient Egyptian civilisation to celebrate traditional values and the journey of life.
Despite being a great representation of the Ancient Egyptian vision, the intricacy of their artwork symbolizes more than just its admiration of what is seen by the eye.
Most known artwork, including many of the murals in the tombs of important figures like Pharaohs, were created for religious purposes, providing an insight into their spiritual beliefs.
Unlike some of the isolated pieces of art from the Ancient Egyptian civilization, some larger pieces of artwork allude to the cultural context between the ruled and the rulers.
For example, viewers can gain a sense of the Pharaohs’ power and throne from pieces like Ramses II’s Abu Simbel Temple or Akhenaten’s relief at Karnak.
In a way, this artwork illustrated the Egyptian belief in the afterlife where the Pharaohs resided upon death.
While the artistic representation of the Pharaohs was already grand in size and color, their justification is inherent in the messages depicted in each piece such as in Mortuary temples where many of the reliefs portray the Pharaoh as Horus or Khepri.
The use of symbolism in the artwork was also very much part of the Ancient Egyptian culture.
Animals were often used to represent divine elements such as Ra, the sun, and Isis, the goddess of motherhood.
The same applies to the art of Ancient Egypt in the form of the ibis, an animal sacred to the god Thoth, who was the god of wisdom, writing, and mathematics.
The combination of linear and abstract tendencies is one of the aspects that defines Ancient Egyptian artwork, along with thin details, vivid colors and its aniconic representation of the gods.
The period of Ancient Egyptian art held a certain degree of prosperity and a deep sense of community.
The Egyptians were known for their creative use of various materials, in particular faience, the glassy surface of items, which skillfully mirrors the unique artistic expression of the Ancient Egyptians.

The Popularity Of Geometric Wall Painting

Mostly popularised, Ancient Egyptian wall paintings were typified by its iconic use of highly expressive, geometric designs and patterns.
These works of art contain bold shapes, flat colors as well as religious and mythological symbols.
During the Old Kingdom, wall painting in Ancient Egypt often involved highly stylised scenes of nature, figures wearing intricate jewellery, musicians and servants.
These figures depicted a range of craftspeople and elites, who all had a place in the painting’s elaborate narrative.
Similar to the tombs, these works of art tell a story that often symbolises the relationship between the divine and the living world.
What sets apart the Ancient Egyptians from other cultures is their attention to detail and composition.
The precision and balanced composition of Ancient Egyptian artwork is far more vivid and intricate than ever before seen.
Ancient Egyptian artworks are symmetrical and unified, involving different levels of symmetry and texture.
The journey of the sun through the sky, as well as its transition into the afterlife, was often depicted in the artwork, which sublimely celebrated a cyclical existence, from what was above to what was below.
The colours used in Ancient Egyptian artwork are also of great significance.
In the later Old Kingdom, the paintings depict a scene involving figures wearing long, dark-colored dresses that look similar to today’s modern day outfits.
Ochre, yellow ochre, and mineral-based pigments were used prominently to create subtle nuances of colour, and with a touch of more vivid hues of green, yellow and blue.
These paintings were and still are symbolically meaningful.
The Ancient Egyptians used intricate symbols and motifs, along with phrases and paintings to express their desire for a harmonious afterlife and union with Re, the sun god.

A Reflection Of Ancient Egyptian Rituals

Large-scale pieces of artwork such as the Sphinx, statues of the Pharaohs and temples were typically designed to reflect the power of the state while reflecting their people’s beliefs and faith in their gods.
Sphinxes were built to guard the temples, guarding access and representing the rulers.
In addition to being a representation of the gods, Ancient Egyptian artwork was also used to reflect rituals and daily life.
Dancers, musicians and craftsmen were also depicted in drawings, often in extremely detailed, colorful drawings, which revealed the people’s beliefs in an afterlife and divine justice.
Some artworks also give us a glimpse into the lives of ordinary Ancient Egyptians.
Figures go about their daily routines such as chopping wood, selling goods in the market, tending to the fields and fighting in battle.
They also illustrate the weavers creating intricate fabrics, soldiers patrolling, gardeners harvesting the crops and of course, people of all walks of life paying homage to the gods and goddesses.
Rituals in Ancient Egypt were usually celebrated through song and dance.
Dance in particular was used to invoke the gods and goddesses, and the different themes of the dances often involved a spiritual message, such as the victory of good over evil.
The daily routines of the Ancient Egyptians as depicted in their artwork also helped them recall various events, people, and beliefs.
Art was also used in Ancient Egypt to carry out religious rituals, such as a pictorial representation of afterlife or a ritual that doffs a symbolic hat to the gods.

Writing Symbolism & Aesthetics In Paintings

In Ancient Egypt, writing was closely associated with the aesthetics of painting.
When looking at the hieroglyphs, the designation of one symbol as another was always taken into consideration, making it possible for a variety of symbols to exist in the same painting, increasing its complexity.
The plethora of symbols within Ancient Egyptian art, coupled with its attention to detail and complex composition, further evidenced the Ancient Egyptians’ fondness of symbols.
A major aspect of the Ancient Egyptians’ writing system was to mark a scene with the same breadth and intensity, whether the painting consisted of human figures or just animals.
That same respect was also seen in many of their wall paintings, where the lion was treated with the same reverence as the pharaohs.
The level of detail and capacity to do a great deal with a small space is also what distinguishes Ancient Egyptian wall painting from other art forms.
As much as it was about creating a vibrant and emotive painting, it was also a way to express sharing of experiences over generations.
A lot of the artwork in Ancient Egypt had a lot to do with spirituality, and it was quite common for pieces of art to contain religious symbols, such as the Winged Sun and Anubis – the god of funerals and the dead.

Tapestries & Uniqueness Of Writing Styles

In Ancient Egypt, wall hangings or tapestries were also commonly used in dwellings to adorn the abodes of the elite few.
Unique to this form of art was particularly how they used it express hunting scenes, with vivid hunting scenes and nature settings often in contrast to some of the more abstract and spiritual works.
The background was usually bright blue or gold, to represent the sky and the underworld, with the animals being shown off in great detail.
Writing in Ancient Egypt also tended to have a unique style and purpose.
In particular, hieroglyphs and hieratic correspondences could be used in a variety of ways to communicate, be it through hieroglyphs carved in stone or images of deities, rulers, and famous moments in history.
The poetic use of decoration was another form of writing, used in The Book of the Dead and other funerary works.
Aside from the hieroglyphics, Ancient Egyptians also crafted works of literature such as poetry and stories for gods and mythological creatures.
A great example of Ancient Egyptian poetry is the Epic of Gilgamesh, which recounts the adventures of the king of ancient Uruk.
The sculptures in Ancient Egypt also remain testament to the fact that writing was used in the most decorative manner conceivable.

Temples & Carvings Of Animal Statues

Temples were also part of the impressive artifacts left over by the Ancient Egyptians.
Often built on the east side of Thebes, many of the temples featured huge portals, usually adorned with lavish animal symbols, often in the form of a large wall carvings.
These animal statues often took the form of a bull, a cobra and a lion.
The use of animal sculptures was a reflection of ancient Egyptian beliefs, with animals being believed to have been deities in their own right.
Aside from the Temples, animal sculptures were also used to decorate the interiors of many of the homes of the Pharaohs.
The tombs also had animal sculptures placed at the entrance to ward off evil spirits.
The same technique was used in the craftsmanship of jewelry, often with carvings of birds, snakes and other animals to symbolise protection and fertility.
When it comes to jewelry, almost all of the surviving pieces include significant animal features, such as scarab beetles, which were believed to grant supernatural powers.
The majestic pieces of jewelry from Ancient Egypt represented much more than jewellery, they symbolized fertility, rebirth and eternal life.

Scribes & Royal Hieroglyphs

Writing in Ancient Egypt was one of the great inventions of the era.
The Egyptians had developed hieroglyphs, which were symbols with a meaning that could be understood, written and read from a variety of sources.
Scribes were used to record everyday events, such as events of the kingdom, taxes, court proceedings and various religious occasions.
The Egyptians also used hieroglyphs to record royal biographies which gave a glimpse into the lives of the Pharaohs, their power and their dominion over their empire.
Aside from the Hieroglyphs, Ancient Egyptian writing also included a form of shorthand, which we now know is called Hieratic, which was used by scribes to write religious texts and prescriptions more quickly.
The Egyptian priesthood and educated elite would also use Demotic writing, which was used to communicate in daily life.
The Ancient Egyptians also used hieroglyphs for administrative purposes, even for instructing workers in the quarries.
This however, seems to have been a much more basic form of writing, with simpler sentences and words.

Sculpture & Final Works Of Art

The artwork of Ancient Egypt was not just limited to painting and hieroglyphs.
Sculpture was also used to depict some of the most iconic figures in history, including Pharaohs, gods, and other mythical figures.
Among the most popular sculptures are those featuring Tutankhamun, Ramesses III and Ramses II.
The crafting of these sculptures was a complex process that involved many members of the community, and over time, the level of craftsmanship became more refined.
The Ancient Egyptians were known for the monumental works of art and architecture which still feature prominently today, for example, the pyramids, obelisks, and temples, most of which have been carefully restored and maintained.
Most notably, the Moeris monument, sometimes referred to as the “Great Sphinx,” is one of the oldest structures in Egypt.
Constructed during the 4th dynasty of Pharaohs, the monument is one of the few surviving structures that stretched through many dynasties and still stands to this day.


The art of Ancient Egypt, as seen by its hieroglyphs, wall paintings, sculptures, and jewelry, still marvels onlookers today.
The art of Ancient Egypt takes many forms, and each component has a significant amount of meaning and symbolism that can be interpreted for future generations.
From hieroglyphs to ritual dances and abstract paintings, Ancient Egypt’s art is a powerful statement of its cultural longevity, and expresses a timelessness that we will continue to appreciate in the future.

Clarence Norwood

Clarence E. Norwood is an author and scholar specializing in the history and archaeology of ancient peoples. He has written extensively on the civilizations of the Near East, Egypt, and the Mediterranean. He has authored numerous books and articles on a wide range of topics, including the evolution of the alphabet, the rise of the ancient nations, and the impact of ancient cultures and religions on modern society. He has also conducted archaeological field research in North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.

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