Sample Art Essay on Representation of Human Figures in Egyptian Art

Human figure representation in Egyptian art and Description of ancient Mesopotamia artistic objects

Art history is the study of objects of art created in past by individuals from different cultures and parts of world.  It involves study of painting, sculptures and architecture. On the other hand, iconological analysis focuses on particular design elements of a specific object (Art Oxford dictionary).  This paper reviews the representation of human figures in Egyptian art and also a description of artistic objects from ancient Mesopotamia that reflects their culture and history.

Question 1; Representation of Human Figures in Egyptian Art

According to Stevenson and William (pg 123-130), ancient Egyptian art is the painting, sculpture, architecture and other arts developed in Egypt from 3000 BC and used until second century. The size the human figures were drawn indicated their importance in the social order. (Robbin pg76) For example king pharaoh is usually the largest figure chosen to symbolize ruler’s superhuman powers and figures of high officials and tomb owners are of small size and those of servants and entertainers are the smallest size. The largest human statue is 12.75 meters tall and the smallest 8.55metres (Douglas and Teeter pg2).


One of royal human figure represented in Egyptian art work is Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV) who was the king of Egypt in 18th century dynasty. Akhenaten statue is located in Cairo museum in Egypt. Another example are the statues of prince Ra-hetep and Princess Neferet who were painted in limestone during the beginning of old kingdom(2680-2258 BC). During this era also, Sheik-el-Baled who was village mayor was painted in wood. The statues of Ra-hetep, Neferet and Sheik-el-Baled are located in Cairo. Meketre statue is an example of non-royal object of human representation and she is represented in wooden model of woman carrying chicken and balancing basket on her head. The monument of Meketre was discovered at tomb of Maketre. According to Anthony Spalinger (pg 4), Khafre was ancient Egyptian king of fourth dynasty during old kingdom. His statue is located at Giza plateau in Egypt.Ti was an officer of state during dynasty five and his statue is located at the north end of Necropolis of Saqqara. Ramses was third ruler of 19th dynasty and ruled as king for 67 years. His statue was initially located at Egyptian museum but was later moved to great pyramids of Egypt.

Conventions used in Egyptian human representations

Convention refers to artistic applications that are used when developing art work. As Steveson and Kelly (pg128) states, Egyptians didn’t draw the body as they saw it, instead they drew they way they thought matched truth and the art work ensured that every body part was identifiable. They further explain that a square-grid of 18 units applied when drawing human figure (standing). These square-grid divisions corresponded to general human proportions, but Akhenaton’s physical appearance was an exceptional. Plump stature, a longer kilt, no wig signified maturity of the figure.

Funerary practice in relation to human figure sculptures

Robbins (pg71) explains that human figures of ancient Egypt were viewed having extraordinary powers and therefore were not eliminated from the society even after death. According to Martmer (pg6-8), the ancient Egyptians had established set of burial practices they believed were important to ensure their immortality after death. Funerary mask of human figures were used to cover the face of dead. They believed that masked priests, priestesses or magicians, disguising themselves as divine beings such as Anubis or Beset gave the powers associated with them to the dead. Human representations used to cover faces of the dead portrayed ancient Egyptian belief in crucial change of state by the dead from their physical and spiritual journey from earth to their divine world. As Martmer states, Ancient Egyptian art was a religious tool used to maintain peace and order in world and to substitute for the real thing or person through its representation.

Question 2; Description of three artistic objects from Ancient Mesopotamia

Mesopotamia is the land in the region of river Tigris and Euphrates and was the world’s civilization site. According to Roaf (pg5) there were three different kinds of art work in Mesopotamia which included; ritual objects, objects of state and personal art. The largest figures were used to represent gods and small ones less important people. Discussed below are three examples of artistic objects in ancient Mesopotamia;

The Sumerian art work. This art work consisted of human statues of different sizes placed in temples to continually pray the deity on the people.The statues were made of clay and this contributed to their soft and rounded appearance. The Sumerian art was a representation of how gods, people, animals and plants are connected and its main purpose was to acknowledge the relationship between people and gods. The difference in statues size signified that some people were more important than others in that the large human statue were a representation of people with more powers. This type of artistic representation symbolized beauty and pride Sumerians had for their achievement in civilization (Aruz pg46).

Standard of Ur art work is also an artistic object in ancient Mesopotamia. This a Sumerian art work that was depicting war and peace. This was a cylindrical container made of shells, red limestone and lapis lazuri embedded in wooden frame. The representation of the profile figures in the narrative within horizontal bands was common for art from this period .As Roaf (pg5) explains, standard of Ur art work was a representation of Sumerian army. The painting of this work consisted of chariots where each of them was pulled by four donkeys, children with cloak carrying spears, enemy soldiers killed with axes and others assembled naked in front of king holding a spear. This work from Akkadian culture was the first one to illustrate a man who is as similar to a god. In this statue, Naram-Sin is shown being above all other figures, portraying him as the most important being.

Akkadian art which consisted of a statue mask made of copper is the third example of artistic object in ancient Mesopotamia. Roaf (pg6) states that copper mask statue was a representation of a person greatest rank as symbolized by quality of its workmanship and design of hair and beard. This statue was used to represent king Sargon the great who united Sumerian city states to form Akkidian Empire. According to Aruz (pg37), ancient Mesopotamia artistic objects were created to serve the purpose of praising powerful rulers and their connection to divine powers. The Mesopotamia ancient art works does not have artist signatures since the pieces were meant to acknowledge the subject matter and not the creator of the art work. The common items that typify this time period include cylindrical seals narrative relief sculptures, and beautified tombs. The ancient Mesopotamia art works were clearly defined and people could easily draw their meaning and what their representation was by just looking at the

Works Cited

Brewer,Douglas, and Emily Teeter.Egypt and Egyptian.2nd Newyork.Cambridge University Press.2000.print pg.1-6

Chambers, Martimer, The Western Experience.Mc Graw-Hill College.1999.pg6-20

J.Aruz, Arts of the First Cities: The Third Millenium B.C from Mediterianean to the Indus. Newyork  2003.print .pg37-51

Robin,G.Proportion and Style in Ancient Egyptian Art,University of Texas Press.London.1994.print. pg 71-76