W3 Upper and Lower Egypt Disc

Reply to discussion

Thomas Brennan 

RE: Week 3 Discussion


This week we were introduced to many interesting works of art.  The piece that I found most interesting was the engraving introducing the early dynastic period (2950-2575 BC).  The work has almost every element we have spoken about for the past three weeks.  On the left hand side of the image is the king of a united egypt.  We can see this because the depiction has the king wearing the crown of both Upper and Lower Egypt, as well as wearing a very decorated kilt.  We know that the figure represents a king also because he or she is much larger than the rest of the figures.  The artist used hierarchy of scale to represent the king’s power, as well as the power of another figure.  Slightly to the right of the king is a smaller character.  This figure is important, we know this because its most dominant features are directed at the viewer.  This includes her eyes, ears, chest, arms, and the side of her legs.  While this character is powerful, it is not as powerful as the king.  The smallest figures do not have detailed features like the others.  They are much smaller and more simple.  Each small figure is carrying a flag-like object in front of the more important figures.  This indicates that they are leading a parade with the king as the main attraction.  On the top of one of the flags is a falcon, representing the Egyptian god Horus, which is commonly found in Egyptian art.  At first glance, one is to believe that the image depicts a real event in history, but, upon further examination, we can see that the event never occurred.  There is no background to the image, only the characters.  If the event had actually happened there would be a background depicting its location.  This image may have been used to tell a story, or explain how Egypt should celebrate their king.  The image I used for this discussion can be found at 6:50 in this week’s lecture.  

In terms of content, technique, and purpose, how would you compare the Narmer Palette to the Stele of Naram Sin?

The Narmer Palette and the Stele of Naram Sin have artistic similarities.  One example is the use of hierarchy of scale.  This technique was used in both pieces in order to present who is the most important figure in each work.  All subordinates and enemies depicted are much smaller in scale.  Although the works have these similarities, there are many differences.

The purposes in each work are different.  The Stele of Naram Sin depicts Naram Sin to be a god.  This is shown where Naram Sim wears a horned helmet, traditionally worn by gods.  Narmer, in the Narmer Palette, is not depicted as a god, rather, the work tells us that Narmer is a man.  Narmer, in the palette, is barefoot and a figure representing a sandals bearer is holding his shoes.  This is  because Narmer, a mortal, is represented standing on holy grounds.  The stele’s purpose is to make Naram Sin be perceived as a god.  The purpose of the palette is to represent Narem’s rise to become the leader of Upper and Lower Egypt.  

One major difference in content in the pieces is the background.  The stele depicts a specific story of Naram Sin’s defeat over his enemies.  There is a mountainous background, allowing us to see where this particular battle took place.  The palette doesn’t have a background.  It is a tale of Narmer’s rise to power and a symbol of that power.  Another  prominent feature that is in the palette and missing from the stele is facial features. 

In the Narmer Palette, each individual has distinct facial features.  The artist directs the features of Narmer towards the viewer so they may see each body part in its most powerful position.  The stele does not have detailed facial features.  Instead, it has very simple faces on every individual.  The stele contains figures representing a specific event, while the palette contains symbols representing Narmer’s rise in power.

What is your personal interpretation of Hatshepsut’s visual representation in Egyptian art?

The interpretation of Hatshepsut in this week’s lecture was very interesting.  One does not need to be a student of history to recognize her power represented in each piece.  This is evident in the carving of her and Thutmose III.  Hatshepsut is depicted wearing the crown of both Lower and Higher Egypt as well as a decorative kilt, while Thutmose was wearing a plain kilt.  This demonstrates that although they ruled together, Hatshepsut was much more powerful.

I think it is great that gender was not a factor in the artist’s depiction of Hatshepsut.    The artists’ depictions were not of a woman, but of the king of Egypt.  There was a formula that was followed by all Egyptian artists when depicting the king.  Why should Hatshepsut be different?  Artists holding these standards, helps us to understand the role each individual played in society.