Why Ancient Egypt?

I remember when it started. I was looking at a reproduction of an ancient tomb painting that had been hanging in my studio for years. The tomb wall it had been copied from was missing several sections and had been deliberately vandalized. The copyist had restored some of the missing sections in a lighter color which, though sensitively done, disrupted the original’s color scheme. At the best, I was looking at an image that was many huge steps distant from the original. It is, after all, a printed reproduction of a painted copy of a damaged and restored fresco painting that was over 3000 years old. But, even so, the original design was so attractive that it managed to shine through all of the damage, the additions, and centuries of neglect. I was convinced that this was a masterpiece of ancient Egyptian painting.  But as I looked at it on that particular evening, I was startled to realize, for the first time in all those years, that the composition represented a shallow depth as well as an exquisite pattern of shapes. I was intrigued by this discovery because I had been led to believe that Egyptian designers were not interested in creating depth. Though the occasional craftsman might paint an object or an animal that seemed to show a small amount of sculptural form, this was an exception to the general focus on flatness and was rarely seen in known tomb paintings and even more rarely seen in those paintings that depicted people. And yet here were three rows of workers distributed in an intentional three dimensional space in the tomb of a highly place Egyptian bureaucrat.

How was I seeing this depth? Why had it been so hard to notice? Did this illusion occur in other Egyptian paintings? What tomb was this painting from and when was it painted? I was excited. Had I found a new way to look at Egyptian art? I had some questions to answer.

I’ve been answering these questions for myself for the last several years.  Now I would like to share some of my ideas and perhaps create some discussion. I’ll start by creating some background information about topics listed below. I would appreciate your comments.

Space in Painting – Several essays outlining how the illusion of depth is created on a two dimensional surface.

Tomb Painting – Ideas from my research and thoughts about the function of wall paintings in ancient Egyptian tombs

Rekhmira – An inspection of the specific tomb from which the copy was made.

One Response to “Why Ancient Egypt?”

I hope those of you looking for information about the Rekhmira tomb site will comment.

admin added these pithy words on Jul 08 08 at 12:18 pm

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