The Art of the Old Kingdom Period

Statue of Ka Aper from Saqqara (detail), c.2450-2350 BC, 5th Dynasty, Wood, Eyes: Eyes: Rock crystal, calcite, copper, black stone, Height: 112 cm, The Egyptian Museum, Cairo, Egypt https://www.reddit.com/r/OutoftheTombs/comments/vi7q9q/the_4500_years_old_wooden_statue_of_kaaper_the/

Ancient Egyptian art must be viewed from the standpoint of the ancient Egyptians to understand it. The somewhat static, usually formal, strangely abstract, and often blocky nature of much Egyptian imagery has, at times, led to unfavorable comparisons with later, and much more ‘naturalistic,’ Greek or Renaissance art. However, the art of the Egyptians served a vastly different purpose than that of these later cultures. The Art of the Old Kingdom Period is rich in masterpieces… awaiting us to explore them! https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ancient-art-civilizations/egypt-art/beginners-guide-egypt/a/egyptian-art?modal=1

Let’s start with my Steps to Success Lesson Plan Outline… Today, our Goal is to “travel” through the Old Kingdom timeline and identify important artworks that reflect aesthetic values, fascinating funerary traditions, or daily life.

Let’s focus on Old Kingdom three-dimensional, and two-dimensional Sculpture

Statue of Ka Aper from Saqqara, c.2450-2350 BC, 5th Dynasty, Wood, Eyes: Eyes: Rock crystal, calcite, copper, black stone, Height: 112 cm, The Egyptian Museum, Cairo, Egypt https://www.reddit.com/r/OutoftheTombs/comments/vi7q9q/the_4500_years_old_wooden_statue_of_kaaper_the/

Sculpture played an important part in the lives of ancient Egyptians. They used sculpture to appease their gods, honor their kings and queens, and satisfy the needs of the afterlife. Old Kingdom three-dimensional art sets the tone. Always facing forward, towards eternity, Egyptian statues in the round, appear powerful, motionless, firm, serene, and self-possessed. The represented Egyptians look formal and idealized. They either sit regally, as if expecting to be served, or stand upright, one foot forward, firmly placed on the ground, as if they are about to walk. The form is closed, the arms are held close to the sides, and stone fills spaces between limbs for extra security and support.

Old Kingdom two-dimensional art was equally important, particularly ‘relief’ sculpture. Two-dimensional art was for the Egyptians a way to present, but not replicate, aspects of the ‘real world.’ What they did is interesting… each object or element in a scene was rendered from its most recognizable angle and these were then grouped together to create the whole.  This is why images of people show their face, waist, and limbs in profile, but eyes and shoulders frontally. The finished scenes are complex composite images that provide complete information about the various represented elements as if designed from different viewpoints. https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ancient-art-civilizations/egypt-art/beginners-guide-egypt/a/egyptian-art?modal=1

Ancient Egyptians used two kinds of ‘relief’ sculpture. Very popular is the so-called ‘bas-relief’ where the design stands out from the surrounding surface and the background of the composition is cut away and smooth. Equally popular is the ‘sunk relief’ where the outlines of designed forms are carved within a flat surface beyond which the forms do not project.

The Old Kingdom was an incredibly dynamic period of Egyptian history. The Old Kingdom was equally dynamic in Art. It astonishes us with the serene beauty exhibited in its statues, the displayed Pharaonic, or not, power and confidence, and the amazing dexterity of craftsmanship. Simply put…Amazing!

Follow The Art of the Old Kingdom Period PowerPoint and examine more than forty-five Old Kingdom works of art…  statues, jewelry, furniture, frescoes, and relief carvings. The presented Old Kingdom ‘highlights’ range in date from about 2600 BC to 2400 BC. Please… Check HERE!

For an Old Kingdom Timeline, please… Check HERE!

Learn about the Pyramids at Giza, Egypt’s Ancient Wonders  through a Rick Steves Videohttps://classroom.ricksteves.com/videos/pyramids-at-giza-egypt-s-ancient-wonders

Watch a Video about the Mastaba of Mererukahttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wQJ9AH2so0

Watch a National Geographic Video (6:13min) on how Ancient Egypt contributed to society with its many cultural developments, particularly in language and mathematics… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hO1tzmi1V5g&t=303s

The Architecture of the Old Kingdom Period

The Great Pyramids of Giza
The Pyramid Complex at Giza consists of the three 4th Dynasty pyramids: Khufu (c. 2560 BC), Khafre (2558-2532 BC), and Menkaure (c. 2530-2510 BC), the Sphinx, attendant temples and outbuildings, and the private mastabas of the nobility. 
http://giza.fas.harvard.edu/archaeology/

Viewed as a golden age by later Egyptians, the Old Kingdom was a period of great confidence, stability, organization, and administrative control. Exemplified by the soaring pyramids and royal representations that project a remarkable level of poise and serenity, this period demonstrates the stability and wealth that resulted from the success of the storehouse-based economic system. The kings devoted huge resources to provisioning their mortuary cults via state-run building projects. Power was delegated to elite overseers who administered these massive endeavors, earning royal ‘endowments’ for their own afterlife in the process. Labor, both highly-skilled and untrained, was derived from the native population (mostly during the flooding season, when fields could not be worked) and there is archeological evidence that they were fairly compensated… The Architecture of the Old Kingdom Period is interesting to explore! https://smarthistory.org/old-kingdom-first-intermediate-period-introduction/

Let’s start with my Steps to Success Lesson Plan Outline… and continue with the development of ancient Egyptian funerary architecture.

It is important to understand that afterlife was the core of ancient Egyptian religion. In order to achieve life after death, Egyptians believed that the body of the deceased had to be preserved from corruption and damage. The body of the deceased was sacred because it served as the Ka’s eternal sanctuary. It was the duty of those alive to do everything in their power to preserve the body… through mummification and the construction of funerary edifices that will protect the body/mummy and celebrate the deceased memory.

At the very beginning, of the Pre-Dynastic period, Egyptians believed that the souls (Ka) of their deceased Pharaohs were immortal and enjoyed life after death along with their gods. The Ka of the nobles, on the other hand, needed the Pharaoh’s assistance so as to continue its journey to eternity. The Ka of both Pharaohs and nobles needed a well-constructed Tomb to serve as a House of Eternity, and a well-preserved body (mummy) for the Ka to inhabit, whenever needed. It was essential that the memory of the deceased would never be forgotten, and his/her tomb was furnished with all the necessities the Ka needed to live in luxury.

The first step in Egyptian Funerary Architecture is the construction and use of the Mastaba Tomb or Pr-djt, meaning House of Eternity, in Ancient Egyptian. Mastabas are flat-roofed, rectangular-shaped Egyptian structures, with inward sloping sides, constructed out of mudbricks. These edifices marked the burial sites of many eminent Egyptians during Egypt’s Early Dynastic Period and the Old Kingdom. The word Mastaba comes from the Arabic language, and it means stone bench.

The next step in Egyptian funerary architecture is the Pyramid. Nearly all Pyramids were built on the west bank of the river Nile, where, as the site of the setting sun, was, according to Egyptian mythology, the realm of the underworld. Today, archaeologists identify at least 118 Egyptian Pyramids built as part of a funerary complex during the Old and Middle Kingdom periods.

It is believed that the shape of the Pyramid symbolizes the primordial mound from which the Egyptians believed the earth was created, or… the descending rays of the sun. Let’s not forget that the pyramids, finished with polished, highly reflective white limestone, mirrored the sunlight, and served as brilliant beacons of light when viewed from a distance.

The pyramids were, undoubtedly, funerary monuments. Egyptologists, however, are not certain if and how the Pyramids served additional theological beliefs. Could the pyramids serve as a giant ‘magical staircase’ that led the Ka of the deceased Pharaoh directly to the abode of the gods? I like to think so…

The first Pyramid was commissioned by the powerful Pharaoh of the 3rd Dynasty, Djoser. It is the splendid Step Pyramid in Saqqara, designed by the Pharaoh’s vizier/architect Imhotep. Imagine the Pyramid of Djoser as a square mastaba-like structure with six tiers of receding size. During the 4th Dynasty, the transition from Step Pyramid to a true Pyramid shape took place. The great Pyramids of Meidum, Dahshur, and Giza are truly amazing. The Great Pyramid of Khufu, popular since antiquity, was listed by Antipater of Sidon as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It still is the oldest of the Ancient Wonders and the only one still in existence.

For the Lesson 2 PowerPoint, please… Check HERE!

For a Timeline, please… Check HERE!

Check https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMkoX1kfyDs a National Geographic, about 3 minutes, Youtube Video on The Evolution of Ancient Egypt’s Pyramids | Lost Treasures of Egypt

Learn about the characteristics of the Mastaba Tomb of Perneb through a Metropolitan Museum Videohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zou4hzeUOLg

If Netflix is available… Check Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb

Saving Egypt’s Oldest Pyramid by National Geographic Channel, a 48min Video about The Step Pyramid of Djoser in Saqqarahttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvSbtf68AOg

A 2022 TED-Ed Video questions… How did they build the Great Pyramid of Giza? … and explores how the ancient Egyptians built the Great Pyramid, a tomb created for Pharaoh Khufu which took over 20 years to complete.

Introduction to Egypt of the Pharaohs

The Palette of Narmer, c. 3200-3000 BC, Siltstone, 64 × 42 cm, Egyptian Museum, Cairo, Egypt https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narmer_Palette

The Ancient Egyptian civilization, famous for its pyramids, pharaohs, mummies, and tombs… flourished for thousands of years. How important was it, and what was its lasting impact? Our first Lesson: Introduction to Egypt of the Pharaohs will set the tone!!!

First, I will turn to Herodotus, nicknamed the “Father of History” for his writings on various nations, and the author of the first comprehensive history of Egypt. According to Herodotus, the Theban priests of Egypt believed… that the first man who became king of Egypt was Min; and that in his time all Egypt except the district of Thebes was a swamp, and none of the regions were then above water which now lie below the lake of Moiris, to which lake it is a voyage of seven days up the river from the sea: and I thought that they said well about the land; for it is manifest in truth even to a person who has not heard it beforehand but has only seen, at least if he have understanding, that the Egypt to which the Hellenes come in ships is a land which has been won by the Egyptians as an addition, and that it is a gift of the river… https://www.gutenberg.org/files/2131/2131-h/2131-h.htm

We will then proceed to discuss the Geography of Egypt, its Chronology, and how it all started with the unification of Upper (Southern) Egypt and Lower (Northern/Delta) Egypt under a single ruler, Narmer or Menes, that occurred c. 3000 BC.

Ceremonial Palette of Narmer (Menes), 1st Dynasty, c. 3100 BC, the Back side

1. The surface is divided into 3 registers. 2. The larger middle register depicts Narmer wearing the White Crown of Upper (Southern) Egypt. On the other side of the Palette, he wears the Red Crown of Egypt indicating he is the ruler of both lands. 3. The pharaoh is ready to execute a submissive enemy. 4. The same story is told symbolically by the figure of the falcon, the god Horus representing the king, which leads a captive man whose body is shown as a papyrus clump representing the defeated people of the Delta (Lower Egypt). 5. The living pharaoh is the embodiment of god Horus. 6. The sandal bearer holds Narmer’s sandals indicating that he stands on holy ground, so what he did was an act approved by the gods. 7. The lower register depicts dead enemies. 8. At the top of the palette between the heads of goddess Hathor (cow head, goddess of the heavens) is shown the serekh containing the king’s name.

Ceremonial Palette of Narmer (Menes), 1st Dynasty c. 3100 BC, the Front side

1. The palette is divided into four registers. 2. The top register is the same on both sides. 3. The second register from the top presents king Narmer, wearing the Red Crown of Lower Egypt and accompanied by his officials, inspecting the decapitated corpses of his enemies. Once more, he is depicted barefoot. 4. In the third register the entwined necks of two animals form the central hollow of the palette, where kohl was placed. The stylized representation of the two animals suggests Mesopotamian influence and probably symbolizes unity. 5. In the lower register, Narmer depicted as a bull is presented storming an enemy citadel.

Finally, we will conclude the day’s Introductory Lesson, by discussing the Longevity of the Egyptian civilization, its need for Stability and Consistency, and the role of the Pharaoh.

For the Lesson 1 PowerPoint, The Art Of Ancient Egypt- Introduction – The Palette of Narmer, please… Click HERE!

For a Timeline of Ancient Egypt, please… Click HERE!

Learn, through a National Geographic Video, how Ancient Egypt contributed to society with its many cultural developments, particularly in language and mathematics… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hO1tzmi1V5g

Fayum Portrait of a Man with a Cup

Funerary Portrait of a Man with a Cup, ca. 225-250 AD, Antinopolis (?), Egypt, Wax Paint on Wood, 42.7 x 23 x 0.9 cm, The Louvre Abu Dhabi, Emirate of Abu Dhabi
https://www.thenationalnews.com/arts-culture/art/louvre-abu-dhabi-joins-global-research-project-to-analyse-ancient-mummy-portraits-1.1062790

For those fascinated with the past, it’s a recurring dream… to be able to “unlock” the doors of history… and see the faces of people who lived two thousand years ago… look them in the eye, capture their expressions, their personalities, and feel their presence. It is precisely this unusual experience that the Fayoum Portraits offer… Sometimes thanks to their faultless realism, and sometimes thanks to the clarity of their schematization… writes Euphrosyne Doxiadi, and I think of the Fayum Portrait of a Man with a Cup in the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum https://www.politeianet.gr/books/9789605000158-doxiadi-eufrosuni-adam-portreta-tou-fagioum-135477

The Funerary Portrait of a Man with a Cup in the Louvre Abu Dhabi is, rightly so, a Museum Highlight! Clad in a Roman tunic and holding a myrtle branch and a cup filled with wine, a man in his prime looks out on us from ancient times. He comes from Egypt, probably the city of Antinoöpolis… and hopefully, the Questions and Answers that follow will help us better understand the importance of the Fayum Funerary Portraits.

What is a Fayum Portrait? Fayum Portraits are Mummy Portraits of men, women, and children of all ages, created in Egypt during the Roman period. They were popular from the 1st century AD to the 3rd or, according to other scholars, until the 4th century AD.  Even though cremation was the preferred Roman custom for dealing with the dead, the Romans who settled in Egypt, like the Greeks before them, adopted the Egyptian rituals of embalming and mummification. It is believed that the Fayum Portraits were painted while the sitters were alive, to be specifically used after their deaths, and thus replace the Egyptian funerary three-dimensional mask on the mummies’ faces. This development achieved two complementary aims: to preserve the face of the deceased for all eternity and to honour his or her memory in accordance with Greek and Roman practices. https://www.louvreabudhabi.ae/en/explore/highlights-of-the-collection/Funerary-Portrait-of-a-Man-with-Cup

Why are they popularly called Fayum Portraits? The first Fayum Portraits to reach Western Europe and the US, back in the late 1880s, came from Egypt’s Fayum Oasis. Since then, Fayum Portraits have been discovered in various locations in Egypt, like the cemetery of Antinoöpolis, where the Fayum Portrait of a Man with a Cup in the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum was probably excavated. Today, about 1,000 Fayum paintings exist in collections in Egypt and at many Museums around the world.

What materials were used to create these artworks? Fayum Portraits were created by anonymous but brilliant artists on a thin panel of wood or linen cloth with two different Greek painting techniques: encaustic or tempera. Artists using the Encaustic Painting Technique work with pigments mixed with hot liquid wax. After the paint has been applied to the support, which is usually made of wood, plaster, or canvas, a heating element is passed over the surface until the individual brush or spatula marks fuse into a uniform film. This “burning in” of the colours is an essential element of the true encaustic technique. It was the ancient Greeks who invented the encaustic technique with brilliant final results, attractive effects, elegance, and expressive brushwork. The artists who use the Tempera Painting Technique, on the other hand, operate with fast-drying colored pigments mixed with a water-soluble binder medium, usually glutinous material such as egg yolkhttps://www.britannica.com/art/encaustic-painting and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempera

What is so special about the Fayum Portraits? I can not write it better… The images seem to allow us to gaze directly into the ancient world. “The Fayum portraits have an almost disturbing lifelike quality and intensity,” says Euphrosyne Doxiadis, an artist who lives in Athens and Paris and is the author of The Mysterious Fayum Portraits. “The illusion, when standing in front of them, is that of coming face to face with someone one has to answer to—someone real.” https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-oldest-modernist-paintings-20169750/

Who is the Man with a Cup on the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum? According to the Museum experts… Clad in a Roman tunic and holding a myrtle branch and a cup filled with wine, the Man with a Cup, is depicted in his prime as he looks out on us from ancient times. Probably painted during his lifetime, his serious, hollow-cheeked face is rendered with remarkable skill. The anonymous artist of the Portrait was trained to combine Hellenistic naturalistic draftsmanship with Roman realism. While his long, straight, narrow nose, fleshy lips, moustache, and beard are all details that lend individuality, his disproportionately large eyes and fixed and captivating gaze are directly derived from the Egyptian tradition of representation. Interestingly, it combines two civilizations: the Greco-Roman aesthetics with ­ancient Egyptian culture all in one work of art. https://www.louvreabudhabi.ae/en/explore/highlights-of-the-collection/Funerary-Portrait-of-a-Man-with-Cup and https://www.thenationalnews.com/arts/louvre-abu-dhabi-stories-immortal-figures-showcasing-art-from-different-civilisations-to-open-at-manarat-al-saadiyat-1.76555

For a PowerPoint titled 10 Favorite Fayum Portraits, please… Click HERE!

A Lecture by Euphrosyne Doxiadi, on the funerary portraits of Fayum, in Greek… https://www.blod.gr/lectures/ta-portraita-tou-fagioum/

The Formidable Queen Tiye

Queen Tiye (probably), ca. 1353–1336 BC, New Kingdom, Amarna Period, Dynasty 18, Quartzite, 13.3×12.5×12.4 cm, the MET, NY, USA
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/544693?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&high=on&ao=on&showOnly=openAccess&ft=*&offset=0&rpp=80&pos=61

The long-lost mummy of The Formidable Queen Tiye has been found. Wife of Amenhotep III, mother of Akhenaten, and grandmother of Tutankhamun (?), she has been lurking undetected, virtually under the noses of the Egyptologists, for more than 75 years until Professors Edward P Wente of the Oriental Institute and James R. Harris of the University of Michigan made their spectacular discovery.

The road to the discovery really began in 1898 when the French archaeologist V. Loret came upon three nameless bodies in a side chamber of Amenhotep II’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings. One of these was of a middle-aged woman. Despite the passage of thousands of years her well-preserved face still wore a striking, haughty look, and her head was covered with long, curly, brown hair, that lent a certain sensuality to her face. But there was no clue to the identity of the woman.

Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered in 1922. In that tomb, in one of a series of miniature coffins, was a lock of Queen Tiye’s hair, deposited as an affectionate memento to accompany the young king on his journey into the beyond. The connection between these two discoveries was overlooked until very recently when Professors Wente and Harris began to prepare a book on the royal mummies of ancient Egypt. While grappling with the problem of the unidentified woman, the idea occurred to them that she might be Queen Tiye. How could they be sure? The lock of hair buried with Tut came to mind, and scientific tests comparing the lock and the mummy’s hair proved beyond doubt that the two belonged to the same person. Queen Tiye was found – and through a discovery of a refreshing degree of certainty. file:///C:/Users/aspil/OneDrive/Blog/Egypt/Queen%20Tiye%20Found.pdf

I love rereading the October 1976 article on the discovery of Tiye’s mummy in the Oriental Institute’s News & Notes (No. 30). Even more so today, as I prepare the presentation of one of my favourite sculptural portraits of Queen Tiye exhibited in New York, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. https://oi.uchicago.edu/sites/oi.uchicago.edu/files/uploads/shared/docs/nn30.pdf

Colossal statue of Amenhotep III and Tiye with three of their daughters from Medinet Habu in Western Thebes, 1360 BC, limestone, 7 x 4,4 m, Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt
https://joyofmuseums.com/museums/africa-museums/egypt-museums/cairo-museums/egyptian-museum/statue-of-amenhotep-iii-and-tiye/

When I think of Queen Tiye, I think of Egypt’s golden age, a successful Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty, Amenhotep III (1391–1353 or 1388–1351 BC), a sizeable and prosperous empire, great wealth from Nubia and the Levant, and a new era of monument building and artistic expression. I also think of a formidable lady whose influence on the Pharaoh grew stronger over the years. It is interesting how in official statues of the royal couple, she and Amenhotep are the same height, symbolizing a relationship of equals.https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/history-magazine/article/king-tut-grandparents-tiye-amenhotep-egypt-royal-couple

Queen Tiye (probably), ca. 1353–1336 BC, New Kingdom, Amarna Period, Dynasty 18, Quartzite, 13.3×12.5×12.4 cm, the MET, NY, USA
https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/544693?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&high=on&ao=on&showOnly=openAccess&ft=*&offset=0&rpp=80&pos=61

The quartzite head of Queen Tiye in the Metropolitan Museum, in New York, dates from the time of Akhenaten’s reign and it seems to be a statue commemorating the Pharaoh’s (Akhenaten’s) royal family in the new “Amarna” style. The sensitive modeling of the face is typical of the workshop of the sculptor Thutmose at Tell el-Amarna and the existence of gypsum plaster casts excavated in Thutmose’s studio suggests that this portrait may have been part of a group statue depicting Akhenaten with his parents, Tiye, and Amenhotep III. The New York portrait shows an imperious, authoritative, and clever woman realistically rendered yet respectful to her maturity. Tiye’s life is an intriguing chapter in Egyptian history, and the MET’s portrait, scared and broken, intrigues me as well… https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/544693?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&high=on&ao=on&showOnly=openAccess&ft=*&offset=0&rpp=80&pos=61

For a Student Activity on The Formidable Queen Tiye Post, please… Click HERE!

Nebamun

Hunting Scene, c 1350 BC, Wall Painting from the Tomb of Nebamun, British Museum
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tomb_of_Nebamun.jpg

Among the many treasures exhibited in the British Museum is a set of 11 frescoes from the tomb of an Egyptian official called Nebamun who lived in the ancient city of Thebes during the 18th Dynasty circa 1325 BC. He was an educated man, a scribe, and an administrator in charge of grain collection for the Temple of Amun at Thebes. His Tomb, discovered in the Theban Necropolis, on the west bank of the Nile, present-day Luxor, was richly decorated with high-quality frescoes depicting scenes of Nebamun and his family engaging in everyday life activities like hunting, attending a banquet and overseeing a count of geese and cattle.

The British Museum frescoes of Nebamun’s Tomb were discovered back in 1820 by a young man called Yanni d’Athanasi, who was at the time working for Henry Salt, the British Consul-General and collector of Antiquities. The Tomb, its location unknown today, was probably badly destroyed by d’Athanasi’s team of tomb robbers. The frescoes, however, were sold to Henry Salt and then, in 1821, by Salt, to the British Museum. Since 2009, beautifully restored, the frescoes have been displayed in a new gallery at the British Museum.

https://www.britishmuseum.org/visiting/galleries/ancient_egypt/room_61_tomb-chapel_nebamun.aspx and https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ancient-art-civilizations/egypt-art/new-kingdom/a/paintings-from-the-tomb-chapel-of-nebamun and http://www.artinsociety.com/lost-masterpieces-of-ancient-egyptian-art-from-the-nebamun-tomb-chapel.html

For an interesting 3D interactive animation of the tomb-chapel of Nebamun check… https://www.britishmuseum.org/visiting/galleries/ancient_egypt/room_61_tomb-chapel_nebamun/nebamun_animation.aspx

Please check the PowerPoint on Nebamun’s frescoes “teachercurator” prepared… Here!

Student Activity on the Tomb of Nebamun frescoes can be found if you… Click HERE!