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What is the Egyptian Canon of Proportions'  and how was it used in artistic...

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tanyakay2216 | Student, Kindergarten | eNoter

Posted July 30, 2013 at 11:50 PM via web

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What is the Egyptian Canon of Proportions'  and how was it used in artistic representations of the human body? 
How are images of the human body today similar to the images created by ancient Egyptians and how do they differ?

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akannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 31, 2013 at 12:39 AM (Answer #1)

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The Egyptian Canon of Proportions was a rational approach to constructing beauty in art.  In their renderings, the Egyptian Canon clearly suggested that "height and width have a definite geometrical relation to one another."  The Canon represented the “standardization of these natural proportions used as … the system of linear measurement throughout Egypt."  This system of proportion allowed artists and audience alike to commonly understand what is beauty and what was aesthetically pleasing.  The flip side to this was that the Egyptian Canon of Proportions might have rendered "their subjects in idealized forms which may or may not have been faithful to the exact proportions of the persons in question." The Canon of Proportions was used by artists and those who occupied vaulted positions in determining what constituted beauty.

The fundamental question that comes out of the Egyptian Canon of Proportions and the modern setting is whether beauty can be defined through an external set of criteria.  Such a notion has been evident throughout time.  Greek culture embraced "the Golden Ratio" and da Vinci established his own set of external conditions of beauty in his artwork.  The modern culture has predictably demonstrated a complex approach to how beauty is understood.  On one hand, there is a stated emphasis to be more inclusive about beauty.  "Eye of the beholder," "skin deep," as well as individual "inner beauty" are all ways in which the standardized offered in the Egyptian Canon of Proportions is challenged.  However, the fashion community offers its own "standardized" version of beauty with how people, specifically women, are shown.  This is reemphasized in the media with women who are associated with "beauty" and how they are made to look.  

Outwardly, the modern setting does not necessarily embrace the Egyptian external imposition of a standard of beauty, rather capitulating to the idea that "all people are beautiful."  While the system of proportions might not be as embedded today as it was then, there is an external understanding of beauty that might be accomplishing the same end as it did back then.

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