After Egypt acquired an additional empire during the New Kingdom period, the wealth that stemmed from this acquisition was reflected in their art in many ways. Specific evidence of this new wealth can be seen in two pieces of art from the Eighteenth Dynasty: A detail from the Golden Shrine, Tutankhamun’s Treasure and “The Spiritual Pilgrim” carving.
The Golden Shrine, Tutankhamun’s Treasure is one of many gesso-covered wooden pieces that is fitted with gold. Great quantities of gold were obtained from the kingdom of Egypt’s expansion. During this time, many of the art and architecture pieces were adorned with or made from the readily-available stocks of gold. The Golden Shrine, Tutankhamun’s Treasure was gilded with gold and produced on a grand scale, with 51 panels weighing up to a half-ton each (Andrews, 2017). A detail from this Golden Shrine, shown below, details an Egyptian scene carefully carved and then gilded in gold (“Details from the Golden Shrine,” 2017). The mere fact that it is gilded in gold is one obvious way that wealth was abundant in the New Kiingdom of Egypt. Additionally, the obvious worship of the pharohs of this era, with the pyramids to honor their burial sites and the gold artowrk ensconced there, was a testament to their leadership – the same leadership that had found and brought more wealth to Egypt. Temples with rich architecture were also built during this period to honor the gods that Egyptiians worshipped. This could not have been dome without great wealth, as it took thousands of laborers out of their regular jobs to build all of these structures. The economy was strong enough with the influx of outside wealth to support the shifts in the labor systems.
A second piece of art from the Eighteenth Dynasty that indicated an influx of wealth from newly conquered lands was “The Spiritual Pilgrim” carving that was also found in King Tutankhamun’s tomb. This carving, shown below, depicts King Tutankhamun with his wife, Queen Ankesenamen (“Egyptian Art,” 2017). This carving was originally located on the back of the king’s throne, which itself was highly ornate and richly decorated. This carving shows the queen oiling her husband’s skin, another show of wealth. The clothing the king and queen are representted as wearing also indicate wealth. They are both wearing shoes, or sandals, not something routinely done previously, and their robes are heavy and detailed, indicating careful attention to appearance and functionality.
In Egypt, as in most cultures, art was a central aspect of culture. However, for Egyptians, art had an additional purpose. “Egyptian art was always first and foremost functional. No matter how beautifully a statue may have been crafted, its purpose was to serve as a home for a spirit or a god” (Mark, 2017). Ma’at is an Egyptian term for harmony, and most Egyptians lived by this concept that included the balance of gods and humans being reflected in each other. Therefore, Egyptian art as a representation of culture contained godly representations and art was ubiquitous throughout the homes, gardens, temples, businesses, and other areas of the daily lives of Egyptians. The acquisition of increased wealth from the expansion of the physical boundaries of Egypt enabled Egyptians to reflect this wealth back to their gods through their art.
The New Kingdom period of Egyptian art Is notable for its gilding, its representation of its pharaohs, the reflection of its gods, and the trial of new techniques and materials made available from newly acquired lands in the kingdom. The realism of the people depicted in this era’s art also shows how both royalty and commoners lived, with the latter being depicted as having plenty to eat, solid dwellings, and a multitude of careers and trades, all proof that this was indeed a wealthy era for Egypt.
- Andrews, M. (2017). King Tut’s Golden Shrines. Tour Egypt. Retrieved from http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/tutshrines.htm
- Detail from the Golden Shrine, Tutankhamun’s Treasure. (2017). PBS Learning Media. Retrieved from https://ny.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/xzl3976/detail-from-the-golden-shrine-tutankham-xzl3976-egyptian/#.WXQU11GQy70
- Egyptian art. (2017). Spiritual Pilgrim. Retrieved from http://spiritualpilgrim.net/11_Western-Art/03_Egyptian/03_Egyptian.htm
- Mark, J.J. (2017). A brief history of Egyptian art. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://www.ancient.eu/article/1077/