CHW 3M1:  World History to 15th Century


Egyptian Art and Frontalism


In both social and religious context, the works of art played a practical role in Egyptian life:
* the reliefs on temple walls depicting the king making offerings to the gods and fighting off Egypt’s enemies communicated the idea that the king was fulfilling his duty to maintain order in the universe.
* Egyptians also believed that these images, through their very existence, were instrumental in making this order a reality

THEMES in Egyptian Art

Theme 1: Gods

*Believed that the universe and all events that occurred within in were governed by the will of the Gods
*Gods embodied natural and abstract concepts (justice, kinship, protection, truth)
*To portray multiple powers, Egyptians imaged them in many different forms – often combining animal and human shapes


Theme 2: Death and Afterlife

*Images reflect the Egyptians’ love of life and their consequent belief in the reality of a life after death.
*This vision depicted in the sculptures, reliefs, and wall paintings of Egyptian tombs, with the deceased portrayed in the way he or she wished to remain forever

Theme 3: Nature

*In wall paintings and reliefs of hunting and fowling, species of animals are accurately portrayed in their environments, interacting in natural ways with other animals. In these detailed portrayals of the world, artists expressed the Egyptian love of life.

Theme 4: Hieroglyphics
From the very beginning of Egyptian history, writing and art were inseparable.


Every example of Egyptian art from any time period strictly adheres to the same style. There is a code, or a set of rules for producing the artwork. The style is called frontalism.

 In reliefs or paintings, frontalism means that the head of the character is always drawn in profile, while the body is seen from the front. Although the face is to the side, the eye is drawn in full. The legs are turned to the same side as the head, with one foot placed in front of the other. The head is at right angles to the body. Every figure, in paintings or sculptures, stands or sits with a formal, stiff, and rigid posture. The stance of the body is severe, but the faces are calm and serene, and almost always tilted slightly towards the sky, as if the figures were basking in the warm sun.

 It is truly remarkable that in thousands of years, this was the one and only style. There are slightly different "rules" for the drawing of animals and slaves from the way pharaohs and gods and portrayed.

Egyptian Wall Painting

Rules for Egyptian Wall Painting


In Egyptian art, the translation of information was more important than realism. In creating Egyptian wall art, several rules must be followed.




Rule 1: Profile


  Head in profile todisplay simultaneously the back and the front, with protruding nose and lips but the eye is drawn as if seen from the front, looking directly at the viewer.

  Side view of eye and eyebrow

  Eye never looks straight ahead





Rule 2: Colour

  Men painted in red ochre

  Women painted in yellow ochre

· Colours not only had an aesthetic appeal but also had symbolic meaning
*Blue + Green = water, the Nile and Vegetation
*Yellow + Gold = the Sun and Sun God
*Red + Orange = desert, power, blood and vitality




Rule 3: Stance


  Hips have a three-quarter turn so that the legs and arms can be seen in profile.

  Chest and shoulders shown at their full width

·  Shoulders are seen from front

  Both feet, legs, arms and hands must be shown

·  Hand are the same- palms out; fingers same size






Rule 4: Scale

  Size of figures reflects social status

  Men are larger than women of equal status

  Wives and children often in crouching position,
with arms around the calves of the father

. Images of the king are often much larger than life to symbolize the ruler’s superhuman powers.




Rule 5: Proportions

  Hands and feet are often large compared to the rest of the body

·  Two dimensional


Rule 6: Registers
·  Scenes were arranged in horizontal rows (called REGISTERS). 
· The major figure of a composition, for instance, was usually larger than the more subsidiary ones, and its poses (standing, walking, sitting, or kneeling) were the most stylized.
Rule 7: Hieroglyphics ·  writing and art were inseparable

Pictured below is an ancient relief of how the Ancient Egyptians recorded moving a massive statue.

Hierglyphic- record of building a statue

Egyptian Art Activity

1)      Draw your own 'wall art' that depicts yourself and adheres to the rules of frontalism. Include your own name in Write the name of in hieroglyphics.

o   Neat link:  website generates your personal name in hieroglyphics:  http://www.upennmuseum.com/hieroglyphsreal.cgi/


FORMATIVE:  Egyptian Wall Art Activity                                                 


Level 4

Level 3

Level 2

Level 1


Content / Accuracy


All elements of artwork adheres to all tenets and rules of Egyptian art

Most elements of artwork follows tenets and rules of Egyptian art

Some elements of artwork adheres to tenets and rules of Egyptian art

Elements of art do not reflect tenets and rules of Egyptian art



Central theme is very relevant and explicitly depicts art of ancient Egypt

Central theme is relevant and generally depicts art of ancient Egypt

Theme is  somewhat relevant and related to the art of Ancient Egypt

Theme is weak and poorly related

Application / Communication:


Art medium and final product is very clear, organized and creative

Art medium and final product is clear and creative

Art medium and final product is somewhat clear and creative

Art medium and final product is weak and lacks creativity

Egyptian Hieroglypics


Egyptian History:
Hieroglyphics (skhai en neter tur - writing of sacred words) are composed of signs representing objects of the physical world; these were always sculptured or painted and the linear generally used on the earlier papyri containing funeral rituals. There are four classes being:
1. Representational or ikonographic
2. Symbolic or tropical


How to Read Hieroglyphics

The hieroglyphs could be read either starting at the left or the right. In order to determine the direction to begin reading is to look for a human or animal symbol. The symbol will always face in the direction that the reading should start at. Reading is always done from top to bottom (such as with columns).












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