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Ancient Egyptian artwork

Early Dynastic period

Dynasty I artwork




Tomb of Den


The most elaborate Dynasty I structure at Abydos, his tomb included space for his own burial and those of many servants. These servants may have been sacrificed upon King Den's death, a practice not continued in later dynasties. The Tomb of Den heralded the first known tomb at Abydos with a stepped entrance, and the earliest known use of stone on a large scale.

Narmer Palette

The king's figure is considerably larger than those of his followers, and the beheaded enemies are shown in several rows, one above the other. Along with the macehead of King Scorpion, this is toward the beginning of the tradition of arranging figures in horizontal registers. On the reverse of the Narmer Palette is a falcon figure leading an enemy by the nose, in front of the king. However, the enemies are the same size as the king.

Limestone macehead of King Narmer


A clear juxtaposition of royal and nonroyal images, with the largest figure being the king, medium figures interacting with the king and the smallest figures following the king on several register levels.

Old Kingdom

Dynasty III




Pyramid of Djoser


Limestone statue of King Djoser


Relief of Djoser from burial chamber

Characterized by broad shoulders, a narrow and low waist and finely modeled musculature in the legs.

Red Granite Statue of Ankhwa


One of the earliest statues of a non-royal person. The statue is static, frontal and idealized. Granite was quarried by the king, so this stone was likely given to Ankhwa as a gift and it was probably sculpted in a royal workshop.

Old Kingdom: Dynasties IV - V

Sculpture from Dynasties 4 and 5 had natural-looking proportions, musculature and physiognomies.

Short bob. Line around the lips; deep incision at corners of the mouth; rather round face. Hooded eyes with rimed lids; shortened forehead; large ears projected forward; large lips with a deep line between them; rounded slightly raised nose; wide rounded lip corner. The first Dynasty V king Userkaf has puffy cheeks, an upturned round nose, quintessential lips, rimmed eyes and a brow that follows the contour of his eyes then straightens where the brows meet.

Very broad muscular shoulders; modeled chest; line from navel to chest; pinched in waist above the navel. Women have small breasts; pinched waist; elongated hips; accented pubic triangle.

Egyptian freestanding sculpture had by now become very square, a beginning sign of the upcoming Egyptian Cannon (rule of proportions that the Egyptians standardized for all artwork). They would mark the surfaces of the rectangular block with a grid, draw the views they wanted on each side and carve in until these views all met.

Two-dimensional decoration developed a more natural look and a very deep nasolabial fold.

Broad shoulders; narrow, lower waist; finely modeled musculature in the legs. By Sahura the pointed kilt arose.

Dynasty IV artwork




Pyramids of King Snefru

He first built the Meidum Pyramid (a stack of mastabas whose outer case collapsed); followed by the Bent Pyramid at Dashur (whose incline was changed midway to avoid collapse); and the first true pyramid ever, the North Pyramid (née Red Pyramid) at Dashur. The North Pyramid's pyramid temple had the first pillared court with statue sanctuary behind it. These two developments were continued by his successor King Khufu.

Relief from valley temple of King Snefru


Women in a row providing offerings.

Painted limestone statues of Rahotep and Nefret

These statues are a crucial step toward realistic representation. The statues of Rahotep (a son of King Snefru) and Nefret are nearly lifesize. Individuality arise from the nude torso, facial features, dress details, rich polychromy and inlaid eyes.

Statue of King Khufu

Ivory statuette of King Khufu


Gneiss head of King Khafre

Valley temple of King Khafre

A gigantic limestone building cased in granite with granite pillars and architraves. Located on the bank of a canal, the valley temple had an enormous quay and platform to allow boats to land i front of the building. A transverse entrance hall with two gates and a T-shaped interior pillared hall made for a remarkable entry. Sockets in the alabaster pavement indicate the installation of twenty-three seated statues, included a complete preserve statue of Khafre with the falcon behind his head -- a depiction of him being transformed into Horus.

Painted limestone statue of Ankhaef

An emerging trend that stressed sensitivity to modeling, softness and a taste for detail. The bust's delicate, subtle and precise modeling conjures the weary and wise visage of King Khafre's vizier. Few other nonroyal statues from Dynasty IV are so securely dated.

Graywacke triad of king Menkaure


Body-wise, King Menkaure is depicted with very broad and muscular shoulders, a modeled chest, a line between the abdominal muscles and a pinched waist above his navel. The females are depicted with small breasts, a pinched waist, elongated hips and an accented pubic triangle. Facewise, King Menkaure is depicted with hooded eyes with rimmed lids, a shortened forehead and large lips with a deep line between them; the females are depicted with large ears projected forward and wide rounded lip corners.

Limestone statue of seated scribe

Sharply different from royal models are statues of scribes. Great emphasis is placed on their weight, a sign of education and status and the sedentary opulence which ensues.

Dynasty V artwork




Schist statue of King Userkhaf

BCE, Abusir).

Pyramid complex of King Sahura

Relief from funerary temple of King Sahura

Limestone relief of King Sahura

A magnificent example of having a large focal figure with rows of smaller figures. The depiction of the desert hunt of King Sahure was originally in the corridor south of the pyramid temple's central courtyard. The simple figural lineup in front of a large image of the king has been transformed into a densely packed mass of animals in a myriad of postures, groupings, direction and overlaps -- wounded, dying and frightened.

Sun temple of King Neuserra


Relief from the sun temple of Neuserra


Pyramid texts of King Unas


Located within his burial chamber, this was the first appearance of the Pyramid Texts.

Limestone relief of goddess suckling King Wenis

Old Kingdom: Dynasty VI (Second Style)

The Second Style of the Old Kingdom is signified by: smaller sculpture size, removal of negative space, attenuated narrow wist, overlarge head, huge wide eyes and thick lips. This was the first documented instance of deliberate stylistic change, a change not induced by foreign pressure or internal upheaval. A new distinct body form was established; also, sculpture grew smaller and wood was used more frequently than before (though wood statues may have just survived better than stone by being smaller and better protected). Dynasty 6 sculpture is marked by: an overlarge head on an overly long and narrow body with a pinch at the waist; not much modeled musculature or other detail; and either too-small or -large hands with long fingers. This body type was depicted even when the subject's stylized fat folds, thickened torso and stylized long kilt indicated he was a portly older man.

Very large wide eyes and little plastic modeling of the facial planes, except for prominent nasolabial folds. The lower part of the face tapers sharply, thus crowding and also emphasizing the mouth. The mouth was oft represented with thick lips, sometimes slightly upturned; the lips ended abruptly at either side, leaving the corners open. Very high pinched waists to the point of androgyny. Removal of negative space, thus freeing the limbs.

Dynasty VI artwork




Statue of Katep and Hetepheres


This painted limestone statue is an example of pair statues, which depicted a man and woman and were frequently placed in the serdabs of Old Kingdom private tombs.

Pyramid complex of King Teti

Calcite statue of King Pepy I

Copper statues of King Pepy I


A statue of Pepy I made by hammering strips of copper against a wooden statue and the soldering together the copper strips to form a hollow copper statue.

King Pepy II and Ankhnesmerira


Pepy II came to the throne perhaps as early as age five, and this calcite statuette shows him as a child on the lap of his mother. Since he was very young when his father died and he became king, his mother, Queen Ankhnes-meryre II, ruled Egypt on his behalf. The queen is the larger figure, yet Pepy II is a miniature adult, because he has to be shown as king, and so he’s wearing the royal headdress and the royal kilt. He is on her lap, and she has her left hand around his back and her right hand on his legs; he is touching her hand, a personal touch. It is designed like two separate statues: the figures look in different directions, and Pepy has his own base to hold his little feet and keep them from dangling on the ground.Notably, his mother has the image of the falcon god Horus (?) directly on the back of her head, the first instance of such an intimate connection between Horus and the royalty. (Brooklyn Museum)

Wooden statue of Tjeti


The figure is finely carved from a dark wood, originally painted and attached to a base of a different wood. The bodily form is carved with exceptional skill, including the muscular structure beneath the skin. Inlaid eyes are maid of limestone and obsidian set in copper surrounds. These sort of statues were frequent provided as tomb statues for persons of rank in the Old Kingdom. Metropolitan

First Intermediate Era: Pre-Unification

In two-dimensional decoration, an era of cartoonishness. Coffins grow sparse, even reduced to just a band of hieroglyphs and some false eyes.

The women wear long wigs with straight lappets, the men full shoulder-length wigs. All faces have large features crammed into a tiny face with a minimum of interior modeling. Brows are straight, eyes enormous and heavily outlined, inner acanthi marked despite the small scale, noses prominent with a profile continuous with the forehead, and lips shown as two strips fitting into a triangular groove between nose and chin. Ears are set low, their outer rim represented as a simple oval loop. Men and women wear bead collars, and the mean wear a short kilt with a triangular fold in front.

First Intermediate Era: Post-Unification

Mentuhotep I re-unified Egypt.

Early Middle Kingdom


New wig with lines. During the Middle Kingdom around BCE under the reign of Senwosret I etc the faces looked so wide with deep eyes but not bug eyes. Private statuary often showed the deceased seated and wrapped in a cloak with a serious expression and large than normal ears.

Two-dimensional decoration

The elaborate cornice at the top began in the first intermediate period. Lunette arose fully in the middle kingdom.





Middle Kingdom · Senwosret III · Dynasty XII

Senwosret's style grew more extreme over time.

Late Middle Kingdom / Second Intermediate Period - Dynasty 13

Becomes like line drawings, for example the Stela of Wepwawetemsaf.

Second Intermediate Period

Sculptures had much rounder faces. Massive arms. Very tiny abdomen. Very pronounced pectorals

Two-dimensional decorations were different. First Intermediate Period stelae included floating figures providing offers directly to the deceased, sometimes bringing food directly to his mouth. Second Intermediate Period stelae were poorly carved and spaced as were First Intermediate Period stelae, but maintained registers and the inclusion of family members. Traits contraindicating the First Intermediate Period include: a lunette, since this became very popular in the Middle Kingdom; a pair of eyes in the lunette; a long wrapped kilt knot under the breast, which became popular in the late Middle Kingdom; and bag wigs.

Dynasty 17

Really high pinched waist. Other statues show a mixture of characteristics. Archaizing period. Look for really pulled in waist since it's something you can depend on pretty well.