Ancient Egypt and Us

Ancient Egyptian Art

For over 3,000 years, Egyptian artists followed formal styles that were developed during the Ancient Egyptian Old Kingdom, and hardly changed. These standards provided a sense of order and balance, Maat. The one exception is the Amarna period, where art dramatically changed for a few decades from the traditional to the humanistic style.

This late Amarna period Queen Neferetiti bust (right) demonstrates the abilities of the sculptor if not constrained by traditional Ancient Egyptian style. Along with its new Akhenaten religion came a new art form, the so called ‘Amarna style’. The royal sculptor Bek was responsible for creating the images from the first part of Akhenaten’s reign. A typical example of this ‘early Amarna style’ is the king’s head shown left. Bek recorded that he was taught by the king himself. The feline eyes, so remarkable in the statues of this early period of Akhenaten’s rule, are a continuation of a style seen to be developing late in the reign of his father, Amenhotep 3, and even observed in the reign of his grandfather, Thutmosis 4.

The Aten itself is usually shown as a rayed solar disc (right) in which the sun’s rays end in hands often touching and protecting the members of the royal family. This early Amarna art style is a radical departure from tradition; it is very humanistic and rather unflattering. Theories rage as to whether Akhenaten was actually deformed or suffered form Marfan’s syndrome. It is much more likely that he simply wanted to differentiate himself from the rulers of the past and the traditional Amen art style.

Ancient Egyptian Art