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The Art of Ancient Egypt Hardcover – October 24, 1997
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From Library Journal
Robins (art history, Emory Univ.) has produced the first significant general survey of ancient Egyptian art in the English language since Cyril Aldred's Egyptian Art in the Days of the Pharaohs, 3100-320 BC (Oxford Univ., 1980) and W. Stevenson Smith's The Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt (Penguin, 1981). The first chapter orients the reader in the cultural, technical, and iconographic contexts needed to explore the evolution of the Egyptian artistic tradition in subsequent chapters. Beginning with the predynastic origins (5000 BCE) and concluding in the Ptolemaic Period (304-30 BCE), Robins traces the development of sculpture, painting, funerary and religious art, and architecture with over 300 illustrations, many in color. Unique to this survey is the inclusion of Ptolemaic art and the attention paid to the decoration of sarcophagi, coffins, and mummy cartonnages over three millennia. The text is authoritative and fully referenced with an excellent bibliography. This work will interest general readers as well as scholars and is recommended for all public and academic libraries.?Edward K. Werner, St. Lucie Cty. Lib. Sys., Ft. Pierce, Fla.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Robins has produced the first significant general survey of ancient Egyptian art in the English language since Cyril Aldred's Egyptian Art in the Days of the Pharaohs, 3100-320 BC and W. Stevenson Smith's The Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt...Unique to this survey is the inclusion of Ptolemaic art and the attention paid to the decoration of sarcophagi, coffins, and mummy cartonages over three millennia. The text is authoritative and fully referenced with an excellent bibliography. This work will interest general readers as well as scholars and is recommended for all public and academic libraries. (Edward K. Werner Library Journal)
Covering three millennia of Egyptian art, this beautifully illustrated volume presents and chronological survey of the monuments and art works of the ruling elite of ancient Egypt This book is sure to delight anyone interested in the art and archaeology of the ancient world. (Rhonda Cooper KLIATT)
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With this ringing endorsement, a few details that Robins brought to my attention that I had never considered or realized. The first (and most significant) is that Egyptian art *does* change and evolve over time. Certainly there are consistent themes and forms in the art, the changes subtle and nuanced, but the joy (and interest) of studying this is finding and explaining these differences. For example, following the end of the Old Kingdom (2134 BCE), provincial rulers in Upper Egypt didn't have access to the skilled artisans in Memphis (the cultural center of ancient Egypt), and therefore had to use whatever local talent they had. As a result, Upper Egyptian art from the First Intermediate Period (2134 - 2040 BCE) has its own unique style: large eyes, a high, small back, and a lack of musculature in male figures. WIth the reunification of Egypt during the Middle Kingdom (2040 BCE - 1640 BCE), there is a deliberate return to Old Kingdom styles, a signal of political centralization and an underscoring of the connection between the 11th dynasty kings and the Old Kingdom 6th dynasty.
Another detail that I had seen (but had been wholly unaware of) was the proportions the Egyptians used, and how the relationship of these proportions changed over time. For example, in the 12th dynasty (1991 - 1793 BCE), there were 18 "squares" between the sole of a figure's feet and the crown of the head. These proportions changed between the 13th and 17th dynasties (1793 - 1150 BCE) and again with the 18th dynasty (1550 - 1307 BCE) - most noticably during the reign of the "heretic king" Amunhotep IV / Alhenaten (when not only the proportions changed, but so too the number of sqaures increased to accomodate for the longer neck and face.)
Robins' writing style is academic without being pretentious -the way in which she seamlessly synthesizes the broader themes of Egyptian society with the major historical events of ancient Egypt while connecting them to the trends and changes in art is another strength of the book. She does this so well, readers are likely not to notice; to pull this off seeminlgy so effortlessly is not easy, and is testament to her skill as a writer and her mastery of the subject.
For those interested in art history, I imagine this would be a "must-have" text, as well as those with a strong interest (like me) in ancient Egypt. Highly recommended.