The Middle Kingdom, with its capital at Thebes (2000–1786 B.C.), was a new age of experiment and invention that grew out of the turbulence of the First Intermediate Period (2134–c.2000 B.C.). The forms of the Old Kingdom were retained, but the unity of style was broken. Increasing formalism was combined with a meticulous delicacy of craftsmanship. The paintings of the rock-cut tombs at Bani Hasan (e.g., Slaves Feeding Oryxes and Cat Stalking Prey, Tomb of Khnemu-hetep) are outstanding for freedom of draftsmanship. In sculpture the sensitive portraits of Sesostris III and Amenemhet III (both: Cairo) are exceptional in Egyptian art, which at all other times showed a reluctance to portray inner feeling.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.