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How Art Made the World episode 1 venus of willendorf

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Egypt and the Ordered Body
Egypt and the Ordered Body

By 5000 BC, the Egyptians had established a stable agriculture existence. They were the first settled humans to use images of the body extensively in their art. But the exaggerated, nomadic way of showing the body as a response to a harsh environment was long dead and gone.

Images of the human body were regular and repeated, and nothing about them was exaggerated.

Egyptian artisans lived and worked in groups, where originality was not highly prized. Images of the human body were regular and repeated, and nothing about them was exaggerated. Instead, the images were schematic and conceptual; schematic in the sense that they belonged to a larger plan, and conceptual in that the artist was more concerned with cataloging the parts of the body - one head, two arms, two legs, etc - then the actual appearance of the body. The Egyptians chose then to represent the human body from its clearest angle, and within a grid system that was applied to a plastered wall by dipping a length of string in red paint, stretching it tight, and then twanging it against the surface to be painted.

To the ancient Egyptians, their schematic and conceptual image of the body mapped within a grid system was a divine gift that would be spoiled by any deviation from the norm.

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