The Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt

By W. Stevenson Smith | Go to book overview

PART FOUR
THE NEW KINGDOM

CHAPTER 13
THE EARLY EIGHTEENTH DYNASTY: AHMOSE -- TUTHMOSIS III 1570-1450 B.C.

THE art of the first half of Dynasty XVIII could be viewed as a final development of the classic Egyptian style which had grown up in the Middle Kingdom. Essentially the drive and inspiration came from Thebes, but there is completed here the fusion with basic elements of the Memphite school of the Old Kingdom which had begun in Dynasty XII, when Amenemhat I moved the court to the north. In architecture, sculpture, and painting a new breadth is given to already established forms, but with a restraint and simplicity which seem happily suited to the Egyptian spirit. There is a wonderful feeling of controlled vitality, of taut nervous energy, expressed in a perfected craft. This continues until the end of the reign of Tuthmosis III, when we begin to sense a change, as more complicated currents enter the main stream of Egyptian civilization.

The great work of the period is the temple of Queen Hatshepsut erected in an original scheme of terraces rising against the towering cliffs of Deir el Bahari in Western Thebes. Although we can see how the design originated in earlier buildings, particularly in the Dynasty XI temple of Mentuhotep beside which it was built, there is a broader conception here and a graciousness of line which make the earlier work seem tight and cramped by comparison. We have seen that the Nomarchs of Qaw in the Twelfth Dynasty had already used a system of terraces with structures partly built and partly cut in the rock (Plate 71). One is tempted to seek a prototype of more recent date in the temple which Ahmose planned at Abydos at the beginning of Dynasty XVIII in connexion with his cenotaph there. Unfortunately all that remains is the foundations for a long terrace against the foot of the cliffs, and there appears to have been no resemblance between this and the scanty traces of a simple building of Amenhotep I which Hatshepsut replaced by her own funerary temple at Deir el Bahari. Moreover there is evidence that she at first only started on a project which adhered more closely to the plan of the Mentuhotep temple. This soon was replaced by the grander scheme we now know. Ahmose at Abydos seems to have been influenced by the courtyard on a platform which Sesostris III had constructed nearby at the foot of the desert escarpment. These two structures1 bear a relation to one another similar to that of the Middle and New Kingdom temples at

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