Art is one of the few mediums where mankind can discuss and explain one’s own memories, entire lifetimes, or incredible worlds with the option of not using any words at all. It is the free expression of the human mind and senses. It can take the form of film, music, theatre, pop culture, painting, and many other forms as well. Each of these aims to entertain, make people happy, and/or drive them to contemplate an idea or way of life.
Now while each civilization had some form of art to describe their individual lives, few civilizations did as well as both the Egyptians and Renaissance Europe did. Egyptian art was highly symbolic and fascinating in many ways. It kept its focus primarily on the past and had the intention of keeping its history alive.
Art in renaissance Europe did almost the same thing, but the goal of keeping ones’ history alive wasn’t a present and current thought in the development of some of the paintings.
Instead, the artists of the Renaissance would create their works of art with the intention of making those that view their works think about a certain issue or thought that is brought to light. In this paper, we will be taking an in-depth look into both Egyptian and Renaissance art. This will, of course, go through the many different forms of art for each of these periods. Taking a general look at Egyptian art, it largely consists of both two-dimensional and three-dimensional art that was developed from 3000 B.
C. and was continued in practice up until the third century. One thing to be noted is how most of this art remained intact for over 3000 years. This shows just how strong the Egyptian society was due to their limited outside influences.
There were two overall goals for its art. The first was to glorify the gods, which included the pharaoh of the time, and to ease the passage into the afterlife. The second was the preserve the values of the day and that with which was around them. Egyptian civilization was molded by the geography of the land surrounding it. It was protected by its desert borders and sustained by the waters of the Nile, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea. All of these are present in Egyptian at one point or another because of how powerful and important they were to the Egyptian people. One of the things that set the Egyptians apart from other civilizations in terms of their artwork, was that instead of the modern perception where art is of a creative and artistic expression. Alternatively, they followed a sort of unspoken rule where they favored order and form for their artwork.
Egyptian sculptors and painters wouldn’t be considered artists in the modern sense of being creative individuals. Instead of this, their art was the work of paid artisans who were trained throughout their lives and then usually, ended up working as a part of one large group on a project (Fiero, 2011). There would often be one master craftsman that was very flexible and knowledgeable in many different forms of art, but their contribution to the creation of larger projects was often from afar. They would be involved in the planning process and then direct their associates as they worked on the project. If a master craftsman was very good at their job and pleased those that hired them, they often were able to attain positions of influence and social importance. An amazing example of this is the ancient Egyptian architect Imhotep. His most well-known project was the Step Pyramid complex for King Zoser.
He was deemed of such importance and was so highly revered that long after he had died, he was deified. He was equated with the demi-god of healing Asclepius by the Greeks. While this is incredible and it was good that the master craftsmen had the ability to rise in the ranks of society, the credit for any work they had created often went to the patron who had commissioned it. One major factor for Egyptian life was religion, which played a major role in their everyday lives. Because of this, a large portion of Egyptian art consisted of depictions of the gods and goddesses. The unspoken rule to follow the order and conservative values in their artwork led to the establishment of complex rules for how Gods and humans were to be depicted by artists of the time. When drawing human or godly figures, the Egyptians would choose the size of the figure not on how tall they actually were, but instead, base it off on their social status.
The head and legs would always be in profile, with the eyes and upper body viewed from the front. For each of the sculptures and statues, male statues were darker than female ones. In addition to this, the statue or sculpture would have their hands in their knees when seated. The way that artists would portray someone’s size based on their social status applied to the depiction of the Gods as well. The Gods were depicted based on their position in the hierarchy of deities. Nearly all of the surviving paintings from Egypt were found in the tombs of pharaohs and high-ranking officials in government. These paintings portrayed scenes of the afterlife. These pieces of art were known as funerary art and showed just what life after death would look like. They would often show pictures of the deceased’s servants, boats, and food that would help them on their journey through and to the afterlife.
This form of artwork was very important to the ancient Egyptians and played a vital role in how they prepared and respected their deceased. During the Renaissance era, there was a sort of revival of ancient literature, humanistic principles, and classical art styles. The term Renaissance translates to rebirth and this is exactly what it is referring to. It re-established western art and laid the foundation for the European Grand Tour, which was a journey through some of the most popular works of art from this time. In the beginning of the fourteenth century, Italian artists and thinkers were in search of a new set of artistic values. From this desire for something new, they drew upon and were inspired by the ideas and art forms of both ancient Greece and Rome. Now, what actually caused this revival of art and philosophy is still unclear to this day.
Europe was going through a very difficult and dark time with several catastrophic harvests, the Black Death in 1346, and an ongoing war between England and France. These certainly were not the conditions for the sudden rebirth of creativity, but somehow it did happen. From out of those dark times came a period of beauty. Something that could have and probably did have a hand in starting the Renaissance was the increased prosperity of Italy. Venice and Genoa had grown very rich due to trade with different areas of Asia. This increase of wealth spread all the way to Northern Europe as well. This is shown by the development of the Hanseatic League of Cities in Germany, which was a German trading organization designed to protect the mutual interests of German traders and merchants.
This increase in wealth provided the financial backing for many to commission large public and private art projects. The trade routes then helped with spreading ideas and thus adding to the overall growth of the Renaissance movement across the continent. The Italian Renaissance was famous for four individual reasons. The first is that it was a revival of Classical Greek and Roman art forms and practices/styles. The second is that it held an almost faith in the nobility of mankind (later referred to as humanism). The third is that it held mastery in the art of illusionistic painting, or in other words, maximizing the overall “depth” of a painting. The fourth is that there was a naturalistic realism of the facts and figures, which were then enhanced by oil painting techniques.
In Northern Europe, the Renaissance movement was identified by the different advancements in the representation of light through space and its reflection from different surfaces. One of the most visible advancements was the implementation of supreme realism in easel-portraiture and still life creations. This was because most Northern Renaissance artists began using oil paint in the early fifteenth century. This was in preference to tempera or fresco which were still considered the primary painting methods of the time in Italy due to climatic reasons (Visual Arts). The use of oil painting allowed for richer color and due to it taking more time to fully dry, it allowed an artist to work on the same piece for weeks. This allowed for finer detail and greater realism in their artwork. Until the Renaissance, painters and sculptors were often considered skilled workers instead of the true artists that they were.
Thanks to the Renaissance, the profession of painting and sculpture were raised to a level that they rarely achieve to be. During this time, a particular significance was put on “disegno”, which translated from Italian meant drawing. To the Italians and to many artists during this time, this made up the intellectual component of painting and sculpture. It brought the profession from the hands of decorators to thinking artists. As we look back on both Egyptian and Renaissance art, they each have their own elements that make them unique in so many ways. Egyptian art focused on order and form to tell a story and keep its history alive through each work. They were preserving the lives that they were living through each of their pieces. Renaissance art reflected on the past and brought new life to different aspects of it. In their paintings, the artists focused on the depth of the image and tried to make the viewer think about the purpose or the meaning of the artwork.