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~ Short History of Egyptian Wall Paintings ~
From Tombs and Temples
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Egyptian Painting was the necesssary complement to engraving, a means of making it more expressive and evocative, of endowing the work with magical life. All Egyptian ancient art was coloured . The ordinary people of ancient Egypt painted poor quality wood, pottery or stone; the "great" people commissioned funeral effigies with polychrome effects and iridescent reliefs for their tombs; kings had their burial chambers decorated with remarkable paintings in which they figured alongside the gods and spirits; The walls of the Temples were embellished throughout with gold leaf and painted reliefs; the hieroglyphs on the obelisks were studded with lapislazuli. Furniture too was inlaid or painted. To earthly life and to etnernal life colour was as vital as any other element able to confer existence and mortality.

There were important and strict injunctions to such sacred painting. For instance, women's skin is always painted light or pinkish yellow whereas men skin is red ochre. The only exception was the goddess Hathor who according to the law, had a skin as dark as one of a man.

Backgrounds are white and less freguently yellow. The only break with tradition was in the Amarna period and the years immediatly preceding and following that era of rapid evolution.

Picture 1

From the tomb of Seti I, in the Valley of Kings. Isis is streching out her wings in a protective gesture. XIXth Dynasty.

It took the form of a search for new colours, a freedom in the expression of movement and versimilitude in the representation of forms which had never been attainded before. Even then however, the artist remained bound by the artistic conventions established "in the time of the Gods".
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