Culture Magazine

Ancient Egyptian Tomb Paintings

By Egyking
Ancient Egyptian civilization is regarded as the most conservative and rigid ever. The basic patterns of Egyptian institutions, beliefs and artistic ideas were formed during the first few centuries and didn't change, reoccurring till the very end. The knowledge of Egyptian civilization rests majorly on the tombs and their contents. The Egyptian concept was that each person should equip himself well for a happy afterlife, which leads to the vast repertoire of grave goods and myriad tomb paintings in the pyramids. An early development of tomb art can be seen in a fragment of the wall painting from Heirakonpolis, with standardised human and animal figures and large white boats.
Ancient Egyptian Tomb Paintings
The Old Kingdom developed much further in this field in trying to create a replica of the daily life of a living man for his soul(ka). The Hippopotamus Hunt at the tomb of Ti in Saqqara is a perfect example because of its landscape setting. The representation of the deceased on all tomb paintings of the Old kingdom was passive and static, as an onlooker of all the action around him. It might be a subtle way of conveying the death of the human body but the continuation of the living soul. During the Middle Kingdom a loosening of the established norms can be observed in the tomb paintings of the princes of Beni Hasan, carved in the rock.
A good example is the mural "Feeding the Oryxes" from the rock-cut tomb of Khnum-hotep, where the painter has experimented with foreshortening and spatial effects. The best of all tomb paintings are derived from the New Kingdom. The formulas of projecting an image onto a flat surface continued, but there is more naturalism in the figures. The figure of the deceased is not static anymore but involved in the whole action, and he is also brought down in scale. There is relaxation of the stiff rules of representation and the set themes once thought appropriate for tomb paintings. King Akhenaton, along with starting a new faith based on Aton , gave a new direction to artistic activity.
There was a temporary relaxation of the Egyptian preoccupation with life in the hereafter, and greater concern with life on earth. There grew a different, more naturalistic way of representing the human figure. The survival of the Amarna Style( as this art was called) is seen in the tomb of Tutankhamen. The paintings on the panels of a golden chest portray the king's mission to define himself as the imperial conquerer. The chest depicts the king as a hunter and a warrior, a double proclamation of his royal power.
Although by Tutankhamen's times, the Amarna style had almost vanished, some lingering features were still practised, but the Pharaohs after Akhenaton re-established the cult of Amen, and returned to the old manner of art. Illustrated papyrus scrolls became the essential equipments of all well to do tombs. The scroll of Hu-Nefer in the Theban necropolis is an excellent example that represents the final judgment of the deceased.

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