“Mykerinos Triad”, anonymous 4th Dynasty (2900-2750 BC); Egyptian high relief made on slate; Cairo Museum, Egypt.
While Western Europe lived in prehistory, around the Nile Valley, in Egypt, the development of a historical culture of great importance and highly evolved began: the Egyptian culture.
We must take into account that around the year 3000 BC we find in Egypt a society that, focused on agriculture, is highly conditioned to the flooding of the Nile; it is organized around forms of authority that ensure the organization of the community. We are facing a stratified society where the person of the pharaoh is the supreme ruler and son of the gods (when he is not considered a deity in himself).
The manifestations of Egyptian art are framed in this context, it is above all an art associated with power and, above all, with religiosity.
Egyptian society was not only characterized by its pyramids and temples, but also by the quality of its sculptural achievements.
In the sculptural production, together with the round-bulk works, reliefs abound, destined fundamentally to decorate the walls of buildings, this being the case of the work we are commenting on and which was part of a set made up of forty and eight reliefs found in the mortuary temple of Mykerinos, allsimilar, in which the pharaoh is represented flanked by the goddess Hathor and the local deities or personifications of the different provinces of Egypt, nome.
This particular piece shows us King Mykerinos in the center of the composition, dressed in a pleated skirt, false beard and wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt. On one side of her the goddess Hathor, touched by the solar disc between the two horns that identify her. To the other Kynopolis, a nome, identifiable by the symbol of his province and which is above her head. The hands of both deities rest delicately on the king's arms, thus symbolizing his divine support for the ruler. The monarch's left leg moves forward, advances, this act hides a symbolism, since it is the "leg of good luck" for the Egyptians. The figures look straight ahead, towards eternity.
In this relief we can observe the characteristics of Egyptian sculpture, thus we observe the canon of the 18 fists, canon of ideal beauty and proportion of the Egyptians according to which the figure is divided into 18 fists (2 on the face + 10 from the shoulders to the knee + 6 for the legs and feet); and the law of frontality, consisting of representing the line of the shoulders and hips as straight, which allows the figure to be divided vertically into two overlapping parts without deviating from the central axis.
A third characteristic of Egyptian art and that only affects relief and painting is what is known as rectilinear vision, consisting ofshow the eye and the trunk from the front while the head and legs are shown in profile. This characteristic of Egyptian art does not occur in this work due to the marked volume with which the figures are treated, his work being closer to the round shape than to the relief.
Finally, to comment that in Egyptian art all images are hieratic, showing greater freedom of movement in civil scenes, we must also comment that in the New Empire we find some exceptions where effigies of pharaohs are depicted smiling.