Egyptian Art Hsitory

Egyptian Art Hsitory

One of the most common misconceptions about ancient Egyptian art is that it never changed, throughout its three-thousand-year history.  The purpose of the second essay assignment is to examine several examples of a single topic or genre of Egyptian art from different periods and discuss the changes that took place in them over time, as well as the aspects that remained consistent.  In addition, you are asked to discuss the cultural reasons for these changes, putting the pieces into the broader context of Egyptian cultural development.

To conduct this examination, you are asked to choose three or four works of art from ancient Egypt, of the same kind or having the same cultural function, but dating to different periods of its history.  These works should be selected from whichever museum collection (Metropolitan or Brooklyn) you did not use for the first essay.  You are then to write an essay that compares them and puts them in the larger context of Egyptian artistic developments.

Providing this context will require some research, unlike your first essay which was completely based on your own observations.  It is useful to collect parallels for your objects, from books (there are a number of Egyptian art books on reserve for this class in the library) or from web sites of other museums.  (I would advise against random web searches, which often mis-date or mis-identify objects.)  This tells you how typical the works you are discussing are of their time period, and also shows you changes that take place in the periods between those of your examples.

Choosing your topic and your example pieces.   The pieces you choose to compare should differ in date, but be similar in their cultural function (or form).  Possible categories would include statues of officials, of working people, of couples, of scribes, of kings, of royal women, of children, or of gods.  Two-dimensional (relief or painted) representations of might be daily life scenes, cult functionaries doing a ritual, a family, a king interacting with a god, a tomb owner at an offering table, or people bringing offerings.  Potential objects that could be studied are jewelry; furniture; tableware; or a category of mortuary objects, although canopic jars and coffins are embargoed, since their specific development has been so thoroughly discussed in class.  In all cases, the examples chosen should differ in date, but be as similar as possible in all other respects.  Do not compare royal with non-royal, or male with female, or temple equipment with tomb equipment; the point is to hold most other factors steady and look at the difference that time makes.  If you are in doubt about whether the pieces you would like to compare are sufficiently comparable or their dates sufficiently far apart, you can e-mail me.

The works you compare will not be entirely identical, of course; they will inevitably vary somewhat in their materials (stone, wood) or technique (sunk relief, raised relief, paint) or scale.  In your comparison, you should note such differences and consider whether the contrasts you note might be attributable to these differences.

Obviously, you will want to choose objects that have both similarities and differences, to give you interesting things to say in your paper.  Again, I suggest that you keep the assignment in mind while selecting your objects, rather than simply choosing something you like.  It may be a good idea to spend some time on the museum’s web site choosing your topic before going to the museum.

Proof of Museum Visit:  As before, you need to visit the museum and look at your works in the original to see them from all angles and appreciate their scale and quality.  You are therefore asked to provide proof of your visit, which may be either the physical receipts or tags that you got when you paid museum admission or showed your membership card, or it may be a digital photograph of yourself with one of the works you are writing about, taken during your visit.

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