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Ancient Egyptian sculptures
Statues and wall reliefs with Ancient Egyptian subjects.
The fine arts of ancient Egypt (roughly the 5th-1st centuries BCE) were influenced not only by faith in a wide pantheon of gods, but also in the afterlife (which could only be attained if one was first mummified and laid to rest in a grave fully outfitted with food and other necessities in a pyramid or elsewhere). Many significant artworks served the cult of the divine pharaoh and his family and officials, and tried to ensure their immortal lives after death.
Reliefs were generally low (bas-reliefs) in interiors and the commonly found sunk reliefs were mostly placed on exterior walls. The figures depicted on the reliefs were usually simplified, stylized, and stiff, with the figures arms held close to the body and hands closed into fists. One leg is set ahead of the other. Arms and legs are shown in profile and the torso, shoulders and eye are facing forward. The relative size of figures depicted was in accordance with their importance, so the most powerful or important people appeared largest.
The motifs of reliefs on the temples most often depicted the deity worshipped there accepting offerings from the pharaoh, or other scenes associated with him or her, and the illustrations were complemented with texts written in hieroglyphs. Besides statues of royalty, sculptors also made representations of high officials and even servants (having a statue of a servant or slave in one’s grave would ensure that the deceased would always be waited upon in the afterlife). Statues and reliefs were painted, and each colour conveyed specific symbolic information. Ancient Egyptian death masks are also very interesting: usually they were made from gold and precious stones were used for their eyes. Sarcophagi and vases made from stone were also typical grave items. Most sculptural work was done in stone, since Egypt suffered from a lack of wood.
Many sculptures of animals have been preserved, especially from the later periods. Cats, perceived as sacred, were often represented, as well as dogs, falcons, and monkeys.