TOEFL reading test 27 with answers

Ancient Egyptian Sculpture

In order to understand ancient Egyptian art, it is vitalto know as much as possible of the elite Egyptians’ view of the world and the functions and contexts of the art produced for them. Without this knowledge we can appreciate only the formal content of Egyptian art, and we will fail to understand why it was produced or the concepts that shaped it and caused it to adopt its distinctive forms. In fact, a lack of understanding concerning the purposes of Egyptian art has often led it to be compared unfavorably with the art of other cultures: Why did the Egyptians not develop sculpture in which the body turned and twisted through space like classical Greek statuary? Why do the artists seem to get left and right confused? And why did they not discover the geometric perspective as European artists did in the Renaissance? The answer to such questions has nothing to do with a lack of skill or imagination on the part of Egyptian artists and everything to do with the purposes for which they were producing their art.

The majority of three-dimensional representations, whether standing, seated, or kneeling, exhibit what is called frontality: they face straight ahead, neither twisting nor turning. When such statues are viewed in isolation, out of their original context and without knowledge of their function, it is easy to criticize them for their rigid attitudes that remained unchanged for three thousand years. Frontality is, however, directly related to the functions of Egyptian statuary and the contexts in which the statues were set up. Statues were created not for their decorative effect but to play a primary role in the cults of the gods, the king, and the dead. Theywere designed to be put in places where these beings could manifest themselves in order to be the recipients of ritual actions. Thus it made sense to show the statue looking ahead at what was happening in front of it, 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 whose only opening was at the front, making it natural for the statue to display frontality. Other statues were designed to be placed within an architectural setting, for instance, in front of the monumental entrance gateways to temples known as pylons, or in pillared courts, where they would be placed against or between pillars: their frontality worked perfectly within the architectural context.

Statues were normally made of stone, wood, or metal. Stone statues were worked from single rectangular blocks of material and retained the compactness of the original shape. The stone between the arms and the body and between the legs in standing figures or the legs and the seat in seated ones was not normally cut away. From a practical aspect this protected the figures against breakage and psychologically gives the images a sense of strength and power, usually enhanced by a supporting back pillar. By contrast, wooden statues were carved from several pieces of wood that were pegged together to form the finished work, and metal statues were either made by wrapping sheet metal around a wooden core or cast by the lost wax process. The arms could be held away from the body and carry separate items in their hands; there is no back pillar. The effect is altogether lighter and freer than that achieved in stone, but because both perform the same function, formal wooden and metal statues still display frontality.

Apart from statues representing deities, kings, and named members of the elite that can be called formal, there is another group of three-dimensional representations that depicts generic figures, frequently servants, from the nonelite population. [■] The function of these is quite different. [■] Many are made to be put in the tombs of the elite in order to serve the tomb owners in the afterlife. [■] Unlike formal statues that are limited to static poses of standing, sitting, and kneeling, these figures depict a wide range of actions, such as grinding grain, baking bread, producing pots, and making music, and they are shown in appropriate poses, bending and squatting as they carry out their tasks. [■]


1. The word “vital” in the passage is closest in meaning to

A. attractive

B. essential

C. usual

D. practical

2. Paragraph 1 suggests that one reason Egyptian art is viewed less favorably than other art is that Egyptian art lacks

A. a realistic sense of human body proportion

B. a focus on distinctive forms of varying sizes

C. the originality of European art

D. the capacity to show the human body in motion

3. In paragraph 1, the author mentions all of the following as necessary in appreciating Egyptian art EXCEPT an understanding of

A. the reasons why the art was made

B. the nature of aristocratic Egyptian beliefs

C. the influences of Egyptian art on later art such as classical Greek art

D. how the art was used

4. According to paragraph 2, why are Egyptian statues portrayed frontality?

A. To create a psychological effect of distance and isolation

B. To allow them to fulfill their important role in ceremonies of Egyptian life

C. To provide a contrast to statues with a decorative function

D. To suggest the rigid, unchanging Egyptian philosophical attitudes

5. The word “context” in the passage is closest in meaning to

A. connection

B. influence

C. environment

D. requirement

6. The author mentions “an architectural setting” in the passage in order to

A. suggest that architecture was as important as sculpture to Egyptian artists

B. offer a further explanation for the frontal pose of Egyptian statues

C. explain how the display of statues replaced other forms of architectural decoration

D. illustrate the religious function of Egyptian statues

7. The word “they” in the passage refers to

A. statues

B. gateways

C. temples

D. pillared courts

8. According to paragraph 3, why were certain areas of a stone statue left uncarved?

A. To prevent damage by providing physical stability

B. To emphasize that the material was as important as the figure itself

C. To emphasize that the figure was not meant to be a real human being

D. To provide another artist with the chance to finish the carving

9. The word “core” in the passage is closest in meaning to

A. material

B. layer

C. center

D. frame

10. According to paragraph 3, which of the following statements about wooden statues is true?

A. Wooden statues were usually larger than stone statues.

B. Wooden statues were made from a single piece of wood.

C. Wooden statues contained pieces of metal or stone attached to the front.

D. Wooden statues had a different effect on the viewer than stone statues.

11. The word depicts in the passage is closest in meaning to

A. imagines

B. classifies

C. elevates

D. portrays

12. According to paragraph 4, what is the difference between statues that represent the Egyptian elite and statues that represent the nonelite classes?

A. Statues of the elite are included in tombs, but statues of the nonelite are not.

B. Statues of the elite are in motionless poses, while statues of the nonelite are in active poses.

C. Statues of the elite are shown standing, while statues of the nonelite are shown sitting or kneeling.

D. Statues of the elite serve an important function, while statues of the nonelite are decorative.

13. Look at the four squares [■] that indicate where the following sentence could be added to the passage. Where would the sentence best fit?

In fact, it is the action and not the figure itself that is important.

14. Directions: An introductory sentence for a brief summary of the passage is provided below. Complete the summary by selecting the THREE answer that express the most important ideas in the passage. Some sentences do not belong in the summary because they express ideas that not presented in the passage or are minor ideas in the passage. This question is worth 2 points.

The distinctive look of ancient Egyptian sculpture was determined largely by its function.

A.    The twisted forms of Egyptian statues indicate their importance in ritual actions.

B. The reason Egyptian statues are motionless is linked to their central role in cultural rituals.

C. Stone, wood, and metal statues all display the feature of frontality.

D. Statues were more often designed to be viewed in isolation rather than placed within buildings.

E. The contrasting poses used in statues of elite and nonelite Egyptians reveal their difference in social status.

F. Although the appearances of formal and generic statues differ, they share the same function



1.B, 2.D, 3.C, 4.B, 5.C, 6.B, 7.A, 8.A, 9.C, 10.D, 11.D, 12.B, 13.D, 14.BCE