Lecture: Ancient Egyptian Art: Narrator: Listen to part of a lecture in an art history class. Professor: So, when we look at the most early ancient Egyptian Art, like arts from the old Kingdom, 500-year period beginning around 4800 years ago, that time period was not very realistic. Then, let's consider the pictorial style known as Frontalism. Frontalism is where the head and legs are shown in profile while at the same time the chest and torso are twisted, so they face front. And even though the head is facing sideways, the eye is looking directly at the viewer. We see these in paintings, reliefs, sculptures: human figure standing or sitting in the same rigid and seemingly painful postures, yet the facial expression is always calm and serene. In addition to Frontalism, another feature characterizes the Ancient Egyptian Art from this period, is what is called False transparency. Here we see objects like a soup ladle being dipped into a pot, the artist reveals the entire ladle. The purpose, presumably, is to convey information: how the ladle looked inside the vessel and not to depict reality. A third characteristic is Lack of perspective. For example, when we see figures in a group, they are seldom drawn the way they would actually appear in physical relation to each other. The tallest person in the group wasn't necessarily the tallest individual, just the most important person, the person with the highest social status. So why? Why is the bulk of Egyptian art from this time so unrealistic? Well we think it's mainly because this was a very conservative society: there wasn't any room for innovation. There were very strict rules, rules that extended into many aspects of life, including artistic representation, and one of these rules, apparently, was that art had to present the ideal, especially when representing kings, the Pharaohs. The Pharaohs have to be shown in the prime of life, young and vibrant, even if they weren't, with broad shoulders and muscular bodies, and the calm face. By then the old Kingdom ended, and it did not end peacefully. There were economic problems, political upheaval and ... well I'll leave a guess. So, after a relatively short intermediate period, a period of instability, there was a new era: The Middle Kingdom, which began around 2100 B.C., therefore 4,000 years ago. Frontalism and the other features mentioned continued for several hundred years into the Middle Kingdom until a new Pharaoh took over. This began what so called the Amarna Period. Student: I'm sorry, which Pharaoh? Professor: That would be Akhenaton. Akhenaton was a religion revolutionary. And during his rule there was a major shift in religious beliefs and practices. One of these changes, one of these consequences of these changes, was the art became freer, more relax. It starts that people of Amarna Period sought to break from the past, from the idealizationlist static of the old kingdom. One result was that art became more realistic. Figures became more expressive, even political leaders, they appeared in more natural poses. There's a statue of one leader that comes to mind, in which his face showed not calm but fatigue. Then there are certain paintings of Akhenaton along with his wife, Nefertiti, and their daughters all showing affection and tenderness towards one another. Now that's really striking, a painting like this would never have been created in the old kingdom, of Pharaoh depicted as regular persons showing affection toward his daughter. I don't think so. Human figures from the Amarna Period were also shown with physical imperfection. Akhenaton himself was depicted as less than ideal, no broad shoulders or big muscles here, instead we see the reality, weak arm, fat line, a belly.