Egyptian Art
Bill Manley
Thames & Hudson, £12.95
ISBN 978-0500204283
Review by: Lucia Marchini


The arts of ancient Egypt have had enduring popularity, inspiring Roman frescoes and funerary monuments, Egyptian revival architecture in the 19th century, and Art Deco jewellery. Tutankhamun’s mask remains one of the most familiar images of archaeology, and this new guide sets the golden icon in the context of the long history of Egyptian art, from 3000 BC, when the first pharaohs ruled, to the 4th century AD, when Christianity was widespread.

Much of the art is monumental, with statues in a variety of stones reaching metres in height and reflecting the connection between rulers and the gods. As the majority of the material comes from tombs and temples, this is where the book’s focus lies, but there is still an interesting discussion of the relatively few examples of the minor arts from domestic contexts. These include decorated wooden headrests, chests, chairs, razors, and bowls.

Aided by abundant illustrations of both famous and lesser-known artefacts, the book examines periods of change in Egyptian art and some of the prevalent themes that emerge, such as the creation, offerings, and the work of the artist (revealed by ostraca showing preparatory sketches and reliefs depicting sculptors’ workshops). It is a handy introduction to the diverse and beautiful art of the Egyptians.