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Current scholars generally acknowledge that art does not exist in a vacuum. Rather, art is an expression of the culture which creates it, revealing common beliefs, aspirations, and feelings. The ancient Egyptians are known for many of the incredible aspects of their culture and everything they have produced. Some of the well known ancient Egyptian relics are the ones like the ancient pyramids, the Great Sphinx of Giza, mummies, and their many forms of art. Ancient Egyptian art is one of the most recognized styles of art. The most commonly known types of ancient Egyptian art are types like paintings, ceramics, and sculptures. Within the vein of “cultural art history” the true nature of ancient Egypt has become the focus of much questioning.

In order to understand Egypt, we must recognize that Egyptian art is primarily conceptual and symbolic in nature, serving to encode cultural information. Symbolism pervades all aspects of Egyptian art from method to material.

During the 18th Dynasty in Ancient Egypt, the Amarna period rose in the New Kingdom where King Akhenaten took charge and ruled over his domain. He established many new laws regarding politics, the culture, and most importantly the religion of the country. Aspects of art changed drastically in Ancient Egypt, pieces looking more realistic and lively rather than serious and rigid. Unlike in the Old Kingdom and the Middle Kingdom where art symbolized and showed worship to many Gods and Goddesses from the Egyptian pantheon, the king established a rule of worship of a single deity, “Aten,” the Sun God. In portraits of the king or the royal family, Aten is always depicted as showing signs of protection and giving his blessings to the new restored city, Akhetaten. The important concept of life in present day instead the after life plays a large contribution to Amarna art. Unfortunately, Akhenaten’s new religion and revolutionary art was short-lived and once he was deceased, his son Tutankhamun took over, returning to traditional religious beliefs and worshipping the God “Amun. ”

Not only is Egyptian art beautiful, but it carries a huge deal of value and significance with it. A great portion of the time, the art has some kind of religious meaning to it. Consequently it is very difficult to discuss the art itself without delving into the various gods and goddesses presented in it. Something that particularly struck me about ancient Egyptian art was their proneness to use animals in their art. Not only do they use the animal’s full figure, but they also put individual parts on human bodies. This intrigued me because not many cultures have art that embrace animals to this extent.

Something I noticed after viewing several pieces of ancient Egyptian art is that a great deal of it is religious. It only takes a basic knowledge and understanding of the ancient Egyptians’ religion to know that they have numerous gods and goddesses. They are not exclusive in this way, as there are many other cultures and faiths which have multiple deities. However, the manner in which they portray their many gods through their art is very distinguishable and well-known.

Ancient Egypt was a rich culture of pharos, pyramids, mummies, and distinctive art. Thanks to the quality of craftsmanship, many artifacts from this culture have been preserved for thousands of years. Two interesting artifacts the Walter’s Art Museum has on display are canopic jars and a lotus bowl. While the lotus bowl would have been used for everyday purposes, the canopic jars were used in the funerary practices. The canopic jars at the Walter’s Art Museum are a set of four, which is a complete set. They date back to the third intermediate period, 900-800BC (museum label). The jars are made of limestone, giving them an off white coloring. They also are very lightly decorated with black paint. The bottom halves are cylindrical and the lids of the jars each depict a distinct head. The bottom of the vessels are very smooth with a few dings from age. The heads depict the four sons of the god Horus. Going from right to left, the first jar was the son Duamutef and is shown as jackal head. This jar holds the stomach of the mummified person. The second jar was the son Hapi who is shown with a baboon head. This jar holds the lungs. The next jar is the head of Qebehsenuef who has the head of a falcon and protects the intestine. The last jar in the set is Imsety, who is shown with a human head and holds the liver (museum label). These four sons of Horus were thought to be able to protect the organs of the mummified person (66, Taylor). On each of the faces there is reminisce of black paint to help emphasizes some facial features, like the eyes. The bottom halves have a very few hieroglyphs on the front in black paint. Overall these canopic jars are very simple pieces of art that were believed to have a very important job.

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