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Canon and Proportion in Egyptian Art (Paperback)

Ancient History > Ancient Egypt & Egyptology

Imprint: Oxbow Books
Series: Oxbow Classics in Egyptology
Pages: 134
ISBN: 9798888571224
Published: 15th August 2024
Casemate UK Academic


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This facsimile reissue of the 1975 second edition of Iversen’s Canon and Proportion brings back into print a seminal work originally published in 1955. Iversen describes a canon – that is, a set of rules of proportions – advanced and used by the artists of Egypt. In order to interpret the stylistic message of the Egyptian system of proportion he undertakes a study of the principles of its construction, an analysis of its modules and presents an unambiguous numerical definition of the ratios governing its units and parts, demonstrating its use with illustrated examples. He contends that much of the art, especially tomb art, was never intended to be seen by mortal eyes and, as such, was designed to follow a set of rules governed by the requirements of religious and cultic traditions rather than purely aesthetic considerations. Painting and sculpture were largely not primarily things of beauty but magical entities fraught with fateful significance. The development and use of a grid for practical application of the system can still be seen in tomb paintings and is demonstrated in the proportional correctness of statues. The system was based on an accurate standardization of the natural relations of the various parts of human anatomy, such as the relation of palm to forearm and forearm to height, expressed in simple numerical terms geometrically reflected in grids based on the fist. Iversen’s treatise was not without controversy but this fascinating study remains a hugely important contribution to the interpretation of Egyptian art.

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