Greek and Egyptian sculptures were made at different periods, yet there are some resemblances between them. Many of their creative choices in the depiction of human figures are surprisingly similar. Nevertheless, there are major distinguishing characteristics of the design of human figure sculptures that set Ancient Greece from Ancient Egypt apart. The differences in the organization of societies predetermine the uniqueness of both sculptural traditions.
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Ancient Greek Human Figure in Comparison with Egyptian Figural Sculpture
Ancient Greece had three distinct elements to its human sculptures, which can be compared to Egyptian traditions. Firstly, Greek sculptures had “very flat triangular spaces, square spaces, and long thin strips” (Schultz and Ralf 3). These compositional choices you can see in a frieze of battle on the temple of Apollo at Bassai (Schultz and Ralf 4). This choice of geometric forms echoes the strict parameters of Egyptian human sculptures. The second feature is the emphasis on glances of depicted characters(Schultz and Ralf 4). Similarly, eye expression is a common sculptural trait of the Sixth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom. Lastly, the Greek sculptures conveyed narratives thus, the continuous sequences were used(Schultz and Ralf 6). This is a drastic difference from Ancient Egypt, where pharaohs were depicted seating still, eliminating the possibility of continuity.
Societal Context behind the Differences
The differences behind the depiction of figural forms were determined by the norms of the Egyptian and Greek societies. Unlike Egyptian figures, Greek sculptures depict a plethora of emotions, which can be evidenced in the expression of their faces. In Ancient Egypt, pharaohs constituted the primary subject of sculpture. They were seen as symbols of power, therefore, their sculptures accentuated emotionlessness. Another discrepancy between Greek and Egyptian figures is the motion. Greek sculptures are lively and moving, whereas Ancient Egypt preferred stillness. The reason for this difference is the publicity of sculptures: Greek temples were created for visitors, while many pharaoh statues resided in tombs, unavailable for public access.
Altogether, Greek figure sculptures have two features that correspond with similar Egyptian creations. The commitment to specific geometrical rules is evident in both art traditions, as is the focus on the eyes and their expression. However, in contrast to Greek figures being notable for the depiction of motion, Egyptian sculptures emphasized stillness. The underlying reason for differences in the social context of these ancient powers.
Schultz, Peter, and von den Hoff, Ralf, editors. Structure, Image, Ornament: Architectural Sculpture in the Greek World. Oxbow Books, 2009.