|>| Space in Rekhmira Wall Painting

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The image above is a facsimile of a section of the paintings in the tomb of Rekhmira (T100) 1450B.C.. At first glance it appears a jumble of action, the figures flattened against one another into one complicated surface design. However, on close examination one begins to see distinct groupings of figures.

Charles K. Wilkinson, the artist that painted this facsimile for the Metropolitan Museum of Art made the following comment:

Prodded by the foreman, workman move cargo unloaded from boats. The great jars of wine and oil and bundles of papyrus are destined for warehouses of the temple of Amun at Karnak. The grouping in this scene is excellent, and the movements expressive of the hard labor involved….(1)

When one is able to distinguish the groupings, it becomes clear that the painting depicts three rows of figures arranged in a shallow space.

frontsmThe foremost row is putting down or picking up jars. Their movement is essentially vertical.

walkingsm The next row is in motion carrying jars and papyrus from the right to the left, moving horizontally.


The farthest row is made up of three observers two standing abreast with a single figure to the left. All three of these figures are looking to the right as if anticipating the next group in a parade. They establish another horizontal row but the row is in opposition to the movement of the second row both in the direction they are facing and in their stillness – their anticipation.
The following links display a short animation that illustrates the imagined motion of the figures. Goodwalk2 (Quicktime 1.7MB) |__|__| Goodwalk (ShockwaveFlash 1MB)
There is a blank screen before the figures fade in.

This reference to a space that figures can be imagined to move within is very rare in extant ancient Egyptian painting. Moreover, when it was attempted in other tomb paintings, the integration between the groups in space and the figures arranged across the decorative surface was never as flawless.

(1) Wilkinson, Charles Kyle. Egyptian Wall paintings, The Metropolitan Museum of
Art’s Collection of Facsimiles. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1983.