The art of Ancient Egypt represented the dominant high culture in the Mediterranean and exerted a strong influence on Minoan art. Egypt was a civilization with very strong traditions of architecture and sculpture (both originally painted in bright colours) also had many mural paintings in temples and buildings, and painted illustrations on papyrus manuscripts. Egyptian wall painting and decorative painting is often graphic, sometimes more symbolic than realistic. Artists as contemporary as Pablo Picasso have been directly inspired by Egyptian painting and sculpture. Egyptian painting depicts figures in bold outline and flat silhouette, in which symmetry is a constant characteristic. Egyptian painting has close connection with its written language - called Egyptian hieroglyphs. The Egyptians also painted on linen, remnants of which survive today. In fact painted symbols are found amongst the first forms of written language, and religion. However it is Ancient Egypt's mysterious and compelling architecture that has had the most impact on modern art historians. The Great Pyramids, the Great Sphinx of Giza, and the smaller pyramids and tombs of Ancient Egypt are among the Seven Wonders of the World.
To the north of Egypt was the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete. The wall paintings found in the palace of Knossos are similar to those of the Egyptians but much more free in style. Around 1100 BC, tribes from the north of Greece conquered Greece and the Greek art took a new direction.
Ancient Greece had great painters, great sculptors, and great architects. The Parthenon is an example of their architecture that has lasted to modern days. Greek marble sculpture is often described as the highest form of Classical art. Painting on the pottery of Ancient Greece and ceramics gives a particularly informative glimpse into the way society in Ancient Greece functioned. Black-figure vase painting and Red-figure vase painting gives many surviving examples of what Greek painting was. Some famous Greek painters on wooden panels who are mentioned in texts are Apelles, Zeuxis and Parrhasius, however no examples of Ancient Greek panel painting survive, only written descriptions by their contemporaries or by later Romans. Zeuxis lived in 5-6 BC and was said to be the first to use sfumato. According to Pliny the Elder, the realism of his paintings was such that birds tried to eat the painted grapes. Apelles is described as the greatest painter of Antiquity for perfect technique in drawing, brilliant color and modeling.
Roman art was influenced by Greece and can in part be taken as a descendant of ancient Greek painting and sculpture, but was also strongly influenced by the more local Etruscan art of Italy. Roman sculpture, is primarily portraiture derived from the upper classes of society as well as depictions of the gods. However, Roman painting does have important unique characteristics. Among surviving Roman paintings are wall paintings, many from villas in Campania, in Southern Italy, especially at Pompeii and Herculaneum. Such painting can be grouped into 4 main "styles" or periods and may contain the first examples of trompe-l'oeil, pseudo-perspective, and pure landscape.
Almost the only painted portraits surviving from the Ancient world are a large number of coffin-portraits of bust form found in the Late Antique cemetery of Al-Fayum. They give an idea of the quality that the finest ancient work must have had. A very small number of miniatures from Late Antique illustrated books also survive, and a rather larger number of copies of them from the Early Medieval period. Early Christian art grew out of Roman popular, and later Imperial, art and adapted its iconography from these sources.