Stylistic Features of Egyptian Art and Architecture

Stylistic Features of Egyptian Art and Architecture

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Stylistic Features of Egyptian Art and Architecture


Egypt, being one of the oldest world civilizations, has had great works of art dating back to thousands of years ago. Most researchers have actually used these art to understand the culture of the ancient Egyptians. They believed in life after death and that the dead had to be buried with material possessions that they would use in their after life. The tomb was also decorated depending on the person’s class. The rich, for example, had more decorated tombs and had wall paintings and sculptures created for the life after. The gods had great palaces with orchards, farmlands and stables. The art involved stone and ceramics, paintings,drawings on papyrus, sculpture in wood, jewellery, and ivories among others (Patch, Eaton-Krauss & Allen, 2011). Art was taken very seriously and specific rules were followed.

The Egyptian Dynasties

The history of ancient Egypt was categorized according to the 30 dynasties that represented a series of rulers from the same family. During the first dynasty (3000-2650 B.C.) , a sculpture showed Menes with a raised hand holding a club and ready to crash the enemies head. During the Old Kingdom dynasty (2650-2150 BC), the king’s minister who was a skilled architect, is famous for the Step Pyramid in Saqqara, where the King and the family members were to be buried. A lot of materials possessions and decorations were put in place for their after life. The life-size statue of the king was found in the pyramid, showing a Pharaoh seated and staring straight a head. The next dynasty, the middle dynasty (2040-1640 BC), included the king’s terrace, temple, courtyard and burial chamber. The pyramids were made of mud brick and were easily damaged. There were great advances in sculptures and the kings were represented realistically as mortal men. During this time, the tombs built by the wealthy were cut into great rocks and had columned walls and halls. Inner walls had paintings and relief sculptures. The new kingdom was marked with the disappearance of pyramids. Kings were buried in tombs in the valley, the temples built in the desert edge, facing the Nile. At this time, art had become more realistic and paintings were mostly used in tombs. The following dynasties had little improvements as the Egyptians had become divided.



Due to highly religious nature of ancient Egypt, the art had to be orderly with clear and simple lines. It was believed that unordered art work pissed off the gods. For paintings, sizes were calculated with reference to the actual person’s social status. There was a formula for painting that was followed for many years; head and legs in profile while eyes and upper body in front view. For sculptures and statues, male were made darker that females. The women were also made to look young and pretty and rarely represented as old. Very specific set of rules defined how every Egyptian God appeared. For example, a jackal head represented the sky god while a falcon’s head represented the god of funeral rites. The links shows the sculptures and paintings of the various Egyptian goddesses and kings.,


The use color was symbolic and was also regulated. Six colors (red, green, yellow, blue, white and black) were used. Red was the color of power and it symbolized life, victory, anger and fire. Green was a sign of new life, fertility and growth while blue symbolized creation and rebirth. White showed everything pure and sacred and was thus used in religious tools. The yellow color was for Ra and all the pharaohs while black was the color of death. The less valued works in palaces and tombs were merely painted on flat surfaces. The paintings had a protective coating that enabled them to survive remarkably for long periods. Paintings generally did not focus on depth, landscape or visuals but they emphasized on the importance of the painting rather that the location.


Patch, D. C., Eaton-Krauss, M., & Allen, S. J. (2011). Dawn of Egyptian Art. Metropolitan Museum of Art.