Art History for Kids

Posts Tagged ‘Senmut with Princess Nefrua

Early man eventually moved away from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to settle along the river Nile. These men and women were called Egyptians and like early cave men and the Sumerians, they were possibly even more interested in telling their stories through art. Of all of the ancient civilizations, the Egyptians were definitely the most prolific.

The Pre-Dynastic Period

What exactly is a pre-dynasty period? Well, it’s the years that describe the time before their were Eyptian Pharoahs and Queens. For every Pharoah that lived, the time that they ruled was considered a dynasty. So, before they had Pharoahs, that time was called pre (meaning: before) dynasty (meaning: period of Pharoah’s power). Make sense?

The Geography of Egypt

During this time, Egypt was divided into two parts: Upper Egypt (the southern part) and Lower Egypt (the northern part). Ancient Egypt didn’t truly become the power it is known today until the two parts joined together to become the Egyptian kingdom.

The First Dynasty: King Narmer

If you take a look at the art from King Narmer’s reign, you’ll see some interesting similarities between the art of his time and the Sumerians. This slate tablet, The Palette of King Narmer, seems like an evolution of the Code of Hamurabi. Both tell a story, but while the Hamurabi’s stele speaks of code and laws, King Narmer’s palette tells a story of war and victory.

By putting Egyptian gods in half human/half animal form around himself on the Palette, it is likely King Narmer believed they brought him good luck and helped him to win the battle. In addition, King Narmer depicted animals around himself to give the effect of him being part god.

Architecture from the Old Kingdom

In Egyptian art there are two time periods, the Old Kingdom and the New Kingdom. The Old Kingdom came first and laid the foundation for art as we know it today. Take a look at this “mastaba” it is an Egyptian tomb that looks very similar to the Sumerian temples or “ziggurats.” It is the tomb of King Zoser from the 3rd Dynasty.

Fourth Dynasty Pyramids

If we compare the ziggurat to the mastaba to the pyramids of the fourth dynasty, you can notice an evolution in the architecture of that time. These structures required an amazing amount of limestone rock and teamwork among hundreds of laborers who likely worked on building these pyramids for 50 years…for each one! The Great Pyramids of Gizeh: Menkaure 2525-275 BC, Khafre 2575-2525 BC, and Khufu 2600-2550 BC were incredibly large. Khufu is 775 feet on one side and 450 feet high, it contains 2.3 million blocks of stone weighing about 2.5 tons each.

The Great Sphinx

Another famous piece of sculpture from that time is the Great Sphinx which was built in front of the Pyramids of Gizeh from 2575-2525 BC. The Sphinx is made of sandstone, is 65 feet high and 240 feet long. The Sphinx stood watch at the entrances to the Pharoah’s tombs. Very similar to our Lamassu friends from the Assyrian time period, the kings of Egypt probably believed that the Sphinx would ward off any evil or trespassers.

Art from the New Kingdom

In the New Kingdom art, we start to see yet another evolution of art. In the sculpture called the Senmut with Princess Nefrua from Thebes of the 18th Dynasty 1490-1460 BC, we see a scuplture that combine human form and storytelling in the form of “hieroglyphics.” This is a natural combination of the palette or stele and the lamassu or sphinx. The Egyptian kings of this time believed that a “block statue” such as this would be an eternal home for their “ka,” their spirit.

The Tomb of Nebamun

As the art continued to grow and evolve, so too did the Egyptian’s concept of ways to express themselves and protect themselves from bad spirits. This can be seen in the hieroglyphics of the tomb of Nebamun, a noble man who was a scribe (writer) and seller of grains. Notice how we have human form depicted flat combined with hieroglyphics in the background.

The Tomb of Tutankhamen

What is even more interesting is that when we take a look at the tomb of Tutankhamen, we see a royal mummy, a godlen coffin and a mask of semi-precious stones. This is a natural evolution of the lamassu and sphinx. Since the pharoahs believed they were god-like, when they died they created mummies, coffins and masks of themselves to ward off evil spirits. And so, even though it is thousands of years later, people still feel the need to control their future and tell their stories through art.

Today’s Lesson

Today we are going to create a miniature sculpture called an “ankh.” In Egypt, an ankh is a talisman or special necklace carved with hieroglyphics that is designed to ward off evil. So, we will create our own hieroglyphics today and design our own ankhs to protect us from bad stuff. We’ll use clay that we roll out and flatten and then carve in it with pencils and plastic knives and punch a hole. After we bake the clay in the oven, we will use a thick piece of yarn or string to make a necklace that we can wear.

Book List

If your child enjoyed this particular lesson, here are some art books on the subject that they might also enjoy…

Off the Wall Museum Guides for Kids: Egyptian Art

American Folk Art for Kids: With 21 Activities

The Kids’ Multicultural Art Book: Art & Craft Experiences from Around the World (Williamson Kids Can! Series)

Hands Around the World: 365 Creative Ways to Encourage Cultural Awareness and Global Respect (Williamson Kids Can! Series)

If I Were a Kid in Ancient Egypt: Children of the Ancient World

Pyramids: 50 Hands-On Activities to Experience Ancient Egypt (Kaleidoscope Kids)

Ancient Egypt (Curious Kids Guides)

Exploring Ancient Egypt Fun Kit (Boxed Sets/Bindups) (Hardcover)

Mummies Made in Egypt (Reading Rainbow Book)


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