The majority of three-dimensional
representations of ancient Egyptian statues,
whether standing, seated, or kneeling, exhibit
an evident frontality. When such statues are
viewed in isolation, out of their original
context and without any knowledge of their
function, they appear to maintain a rigid
attitude and a stance far from naturalistic.
Frontality is, however, directly related to the
functions of Egyptian statuary and the
context in which the statues were erected.
Statues were created not for a decorative
purpose but to play a primary role in the cults
of the gods, the king, and the dead. They
were designed to be assigned to occupy
specific spots where these beings could
manifest themselves in order to be the
recipients of ritual actions. Thus, it made
complete sense to represent the statue in a
frontal position, so that the living performer of
the ritual could interact with the divine or
deceased recipient. Very often such statues
were enclosed in rectangular shrines or wall
niches only open and visible at the front.
Other statues were created as to be placed
within a precise architectural setting, for
instance, in front of the monumental entrance
gateways to temples complexes or within
pillared courts, where they would be placed
against or between such pillars. In these
latter cases their frontality again worked
perfectly within the architectural context.
Statues in ancient Egypt were normally made
of stone, wood, or in some cases of metal.
Stone statues were worked from single
rectangular blocks of material and retained
the compactness of the original shape. By
contrast, wooden statues were carved from
several pieces of wood that were pegged
together to form the finished work.
Apart from statues representing deities,
kings, and named members of the ruling
elite, there are also three-dimensional
representations that depict generic figures,
frequently servants. The function of such
statues is quite different. Many were created
to be placed in the tombs of the higher
classes, in order to serve the tomb owners in