Egyptian Wall Painting – 2000 Years of Art History: Francisco Tiradritti
This is one of those lectures that are really difficult to write up without the slides but I will do my best.
Francisco started off with a little test. He showed a set of glyphs with one blanked out and asked us to guess what colour it was. It was the T in glyphs which is often described as a loaf of bread. This was done to make us really look at the thing properly. The colour was black which is not the colour of a loaf of bread. In fact ancient Egyptian bread was like modern Egyptian bread, flat. The early European Egyptologists though it looked like a loaf of European bread but in fact the colour of black, like the land gives away the real meaning, the primordial mound. This means we have to take a fresh look at paintings and colours and throw away our old ideas.
Colours can be viewed as (this is where you need the slides a lot)
• Primary colours
• Computer display
Egyptian colours should be viewed as the Egyptians saw the world around them Desert, Cultivation, Sun. He used an example that Italians have 2 words for blue because they see the division of the sky and sea all around them. Different nationalities have a different view of colour because of the world around them (he made a quip about Britain and grey).
The Ancient Egyptians had 4 main colours
• Hed yellow/white
• Deshret red
• Kemet black
• Wadjet blue/green
Dark blue does not have a colour name but is referred to by the word for lapis lazuli. It is very close to black and in fact the Ancient Egyptians had 2 different blacks which you can see in Old Kingdom tombs at Sakkara where they use a black background and then paint individual items like the T glyph a darker black (sorry you had to have seen the slide on this one). This is unique to the Ancient Egyptians. They had a concept of light and absence of light.
So their palette ranged from green blue dark blue black dark black brown red yellow white with positive and negative determinations like a man is red and a woman is yellow.
They had a good colour sense and there is a stele in the Louvre that shows the rays of the sun multi coloured like you would see through a prism.
They separated their world showing man at the centre like a bowl from Nagada II period which shows a man in the centre with his arms and legs spread just like Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian man surrounded by plants and animals with the desert on the edge.
Art was early in the culture e.g. tomb 100 Hierakonpolis which has complicated [pictures including what might be a boat procession and fighting
He then did an analysis of the medium geese from the 4th Dynasty showing how although they are very naturalistic they also obey all sorts of conventions. Three in glyphs means plural and there are 2 groups of 3. They were in two groups and the geese with its head down uses the same space as the two geese giving a sort of perspective that it is in front. There is mirroring of the image. There is motion with the 2 geese following the 1 goose. This painting was cut out by an artists and he could see the perfect balance.
Another example of naturalistic art is the cattle wading through the water in the Old Kingdom tomb of Titi.
He then did a detailed analysis of the tomb of Ankh Tifi (yes the one I wrote about). The painting of the papyrus was like an Impressionist work, the artist was not worried about proportion but about colour. The tomb has a pattern with the hunters on the back wall going towards the desert while the donkeys are going to the cultivation which is shown on the left hand side wall. There is a man looking over his shoulder and the scene on the front wall at that point is of the festival of Henen. A cow is looking directly at you on a pillar and the scene on the wall is the donkeys.
In the Turin Museum there is a man painted in yellow the woman’s colour and you can see he is an ‘office’ worker. Another picture shows blood spurting from the neck of a bull as it is being killed. A cow that has just given birth is licking the blood from its calf.
A picture from the 1st Intermediate Period shows bulls fighting
The Middle kingdom tomb of (sorry I am not sure of the name I though he said Ankh something but definitely TT60 yet that is Senet, mother of vizier Intefiqer, early Dynasty 12 if anyone can confirm I haven’t made a mistake I would appreciate it) has dancers again in groups of three clapping, those were drawn by the student and the master has come along and drawn more spoiling the balance but making a better naturalistic picture. You can see the difference in the legs.
At Beni Hassan, which is in need of restoration, they paid more attention to proportion and had short stories like how to catch a pigeon. The walls are divided into dessert, Nile and banks of the Nile.
The arrival of Hyskos altered the art and also makes it less insular with pictures of bulls leaping like at Knossos. There is speculation that artists came from Crete to do the decoration. (The tomb of Rekhmire shows a Minoan.). The 17th Dynasty was much freer in expression. There was artistic trade between Egypt Crete and Minoa.
18th dynasty has some great art
Picture of Senemut wonderful portrait
TT81 Ineni shows what looks like a hyena but it is huge like a monster demonstrating how brave the owners was
Rekhmire’s banquet the woman’s scene
The vine ceiling of Sennefer
In the tomb of Nakht the scenes of non scribal work are heavily influenced by the attitude of a scribe having the best kind of job. So the farmer is shown bent and careworn. Also Nakht is sitting in a pavilion with lots of supplies around him but the supplies for the workers in the field are much smaller even though it has to sustain more people.
Meena is a scribe who does counting of the harvest so his tomb shows that scene out of order at the top because it was the most important aspect of Mena’s life. The girls in the field quarrelling was copied by Monthemet. He also shows a chariot right in the middle of the field which is not logical but he wants to be shown so rich he uses a chariot even in the fields. Like Francisco would be painted with a Ferrari.
The three dancers are shown with slanting eyes which was a temple stele of painting rather than a pace style. Other paintings show the light behind the robe making it transparent.
The palace of Malkata has many beautiful pieces like a ceiling with birds flying everywhere giving the impression it was open to the sky.
Ramose's tomb the mourners are very natural one having a saggy breast but yet formal with their tears which are the glyph for crying. The carved walls were never intended to be painted the carving was so good it represented the painting.
The Amarna period was the height of creative work and after that art went downhill imitating the past.
Next week it is the temple of Khonsu Pamela Rose and Brett McClain