I'm looking for a word to describe the peculiar style of some ancient Egyptian art, where the body is shown frontally (with all four limbs and appendages clearly visible), but the feet and face are depicted in profile. And it can't be Egyptian, because the text I'm writing is set in a fantasy/sci-fi setting where the narrator would not be aware of Egypt.

Either a single noun describing the style, or an adjective describing it as '[ADJECTIVE] profile' or '[ADJECTIVE] style' etc would be good.


2 Answers 2


Disclaimer: not an Egyptologist

"Composite pose" or "composite perspective" appear to be the terms of art most appropriate for what you're getting at, although it may not necessarily signify if your reader doesn't already have context for it.

Here is some more on the significance of those choices, which may be handy to draw from: http://mentalfloss.com/article/64752/why-does-egyptian-art-look-so-flat-and-static


For sculpture in this style, bas-relief (or low-relief, or just relief) might fit. This refers to sculptures which attempt to show three dimensions but themselves are relatively shallow, such as these Egyptian gentlemen and their ox:

enter image description here

Sculptures in bas-relief often appear in awkward poses in order to show necessary detail, although later use became more sophisticated, especially in things like coinage, which can appear much more three-dimensional.

For painting, profile is certainly descriptive, but even among art historians there seems no other term for this distinctive style which includes the legs, head, arms, and other artifacts symbolically positioned. It seems to be referred to as "Ancient Egyptian" style.

One term you might find useful is hierarchical proportion, meaning that the size of the figures is related to their importance. For example in this "agricultural scenes tomb of Nakht" :

enter image description here

Nakht, an Egyptian official, and his wife are the largest figures, with various agricultural vignettes depicted around them.

So if you write your fantasy art as sculpted murals, then you can use bas-relief. Otherwise, if you really want them to be paintings, then you might have to get creative.

  • bas-relief is any kind of sculpture of a picture in stone. It does not refer to the view in the picture (like profile or 3/4 or head -on, or landscape or whatever). Much of Egyptian carvings are bas-relief, but that does not refer to the perspective within the picture.
    – Mitch
    Jul 15, 2019 at 21:55

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