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Egypt

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message 1: by Ed (new)

Ed Smiley | 871 comments I thought we might want to look at some Egyptian stuff.

I am reading a book right now about Egyptian artistic canons. Dry, scholarly, be warned, but fascinating.

They had a complete system for encoding three dimensional objects in two dimensions without perspective in order to enhance the two dimensional decorative patterns. They portrayed the most typical view of each part, combining them in a seamless way, which reminds one of Cubism.

If a god (or king etc.) normally held a scepter in the right hand, they would portray the god that way if the god was facing right. They identified right with forward.

Sometimes, they would put a figure facing "backwards", to the left, to add rhythm.

If the same god were facing left, the god would be effectively mirror imaged, and the scepter would still be in the right hand but it would be attached to the left arm.

So the spatial logic of the scene, and the way that right/forward left/back was encoded in Egyptian art would trump the side of the had that the thumb in real life. And I am sure that most artists were aware of this, and it bothered them no more than blueprint of a building bothers us.


message 2: by Carol (new)

Carol (goodreadscomcarolann) | 1140 comments I was a big fan of Egyptian art when I was younger. My poor kids --I would take them to all the exhibits. A few favorites --

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model of a boat, ca. 2050 BC, wood with cloth and paint, The Walter’s Art Museum, Baltimore

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Funerary Stele of Tembu, ca. 1500-1470 BC, limestone with polychrome paint, The Walter’s Art Museum, Baltimore

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Relief depicting men bearing offering tables (from the Tomb of Mentu-em-hat at Thebes), ca. 680–640 B.C., Limestone with significant traces of red pigment, Yale Art Gallery

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Sarcophagus of Queen Hatshepsut, recut for her father, Thutmose I (box), 1473-1458 BC, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


The ancient Egyptian Temple of Dendur inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art


message 3: by Heather (new)

Heather | 4 comments That's really interesting, Ed. You described a perfect explanation for "encoding three dimensional objects in two dimensions without perspective in order to enhance the two dimensional decorative patterns". I wouldn't have envisioned what you meant otherwise. Now I find that I can look at the Egyptian artwork with a fresh perspective.


message 4: by Ed (last edited Jan 22, 2011 10:30PM) (new)

Ed Smiley | 871 comments Thanks Heather,

The book I am reading is a bit dry but they can see how the canon was worked out and how it changed.

In temples the work was usually completed. But in tombs the heirs usually stopped work when uncle Anentahiptohop dropped dead, since they needed to use the tomb, and they wanted to have something left of the estate.

Anyway, because the work is incomplete, they can see the way that the work is laid out.

There is a grid system for organizing and relating the major figures. It's sort of like the heads system in western life drawing--they just don't try to cover every possible situation at any possible angle like we do, anyway that would defeat the purpose of harmonizing everything in the plane.

This mostly applies to the major figures. Minor figures were almost invariably drawn freehand. Also, they relaxed almost all of the canon in depicting battles, since these were supposed to portray conflict.

I found this site that does a
one page summary


message 5: by Ed (new)

Ed Smiley | 871 comments Oh, I so hope that they will be able to reserve the Egyptian treasures.
Egypt's museum under siege.


message 6: by Heather (new)

Heather | 4 comments "In his blog posting, Hawass provided specific information about the Tut-on-a-panther statuette (which is actually one of two similar statuettes from the tomb), but not about the other items that appear to be damaged in the video. Why not? It could be because Hawass is still trying to get all the facts of the story straight, or because he's reluctant to publicize the full extent of the damage at this time. It's also possible that some of the items shown in the video are display replicas or gift-shop knock-offs rather than the real things."

I thought this article was really interesting, Ed. Why do you think that Hawass didn't relay all of the information?


message 7: by Ed (new)

Ed Smiley | 871 comments Hard to say. It may be he wants to confirm more information.


message 8: by John (new)

John David (nicholasofautrecourt) Ed wrote: "Oh, I so hope that they will be able to reserve the Egyptian treasures.
Egypt's museum under siege."


They won't, I'm afraid, Ed. The animal that Tut was placed atop (I think it was a ram or something similar) was utterly trashed. They talked about it on "60 Minutes" tonight.


message 9: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 1948 comments 25 or 30 years ago, I attended a talk by Zahi Hawass at Cal State San Bernardino. He was fascinating.


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