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What are the differences between the art of the Egyptians vs. the art of the Greeks?

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Genevieve Charles, M.S. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I am assuming, here, that you are looking for comparisons between the two ancient cultures of Greece and Egypt. Both endured for a long time, and their art styles evolved as well. However, there are many generalities we can make to compare and contrast them. I've laid out some of these in the bullet points below.

Ancient Greek Art

  • Often focused on telling a story, such as a particular myth.
  • In painting, figures are often shown in profile. However, the figures seem dynamic, with a variety of active poses. We can see this especially in the famous red-and-black pottery art of the Ancient Greeks.
  • In sculpture, especially in the Classical Period, Greek art celebrated the human body. Attention to detail was very important. Figures are often shown nude or lightly draped in clothing to better display their musculature.
  • Early sculpture was more static, but as Greek art progressed with the centuries, poses became more natural. Also, the human figures themselves became more and more realistic. However, they mostly remained idealized figures. The idea was not to represent a specific individual human but rather to display the perfect, artistic ideal.

Ancient Egyptian Art

  • Most art was not created in order to be seen or displayed. Instead, it had religious meaning and was only reserved for the elite in society.
  • Figures were often static in posture, very rigid. When painted, they were shown in profile, in stylized, stiff postures. Each posture represented an action that would have been recognized by the Ancient Egyptians.
  • The scale of individual figures showed their importance, not their actual size. Therefore, the larger the figure, the more important relative to the others shown.
  • Text, in the form of hieroglyphics, often accompanied the art. This was important because characters were so stylized that they needed identifying information in order to know who was represented.