In 1986, the band “The Bangles” sang about “All the ancient paintings on tombs” where the characters they depicted “walk like an Egyptian”. Although he was neither an art historian nor an Egyptologist, songwriter Liam Sternberg was referring to one of the most striking features of his ancient egyptian Visual Art – the depiction of people, animals, and objects on a two-dimensional flat plane. Why did the ancient Egyptians do this? Is ancient Egypt the only culture that created art in this style?
Drawing any 3D object requires a specific point of view to create the illusion of perspective on a flat surface. Drawing an object in two dimensions (height and width) requires the artist to depict only one surface of that object. And it turns out that highlighting a single surface has its advantages.
“In the pictorial representation, the outline holds most of the information,” John Baines, emeritus professor of Egyptology at the University of Oxford in the UK, told Live Science. “It is easier to understand something if it is outlined by an outline.”
Related: What hid the pharaohs of ancient Egypt inside the pyramids?
When drawing on a flat surface, the outline becomes the most important feature, although many Egyptian drawings and paintings contain details from many sides of the object. “There’s also a lot of focus on clarity and comprehension,” Baines said.
According to Bynes, in many artistic traditions, “size equals importance.” In mural art, royalty and tombs are often depicted much larger than the objects around them. If an artist uses a 3D perspective to render human dimensions in a realistic scene with a foreground and background, it will contradict this principle.
Another reason to depict many objects on a flat 2D plane is that it helps create a visual narrative.
“One just has to think about it [a] Bynes said the comics run parallel. There are widely accepted principles regulating how ancient Egyptian visual art was created and interpreted. “Originally, the writing was in vertical columns and the images were horizontal,” Bynes said. Information that is not easily placed in the picture. “Often these scenes are not real events” but are a general and exemplary representation of life. ”
However, not all pictorial images in ancient Egypt were only two-dimensional. According to Bynes, “Most of the art of photography was set in an architectural setting.” Some compositions on tomb walls included bas-relief, also known as bas-relief, in which a mostly flat relief is carved on a wall or fixed to a wall. In the tomb of Akhthotep, a royal official who lived during the Fifth Dynasty around 2400 BC, we can see two scribes (displayed below) whose bodies were carved on the flat surface of the wall. As Baines explained, “the relief also designs the surface of the body so you can’t say it’s a flat outline” because “they have texture and surface detail in addition to the outline.”
In several examples dating back to 2700 BC in the Early Dynastic period, artists painted over one of the reliefs to add more detail, as seen in the image of the scribes below.
Bynes said that Egyptian visual art uses “rather universal human approaches to flat-surface imaging”.
“He. She [Egyptian art] The impact of art on the ancient Near East, “such as the ancient Syrian (or Levant) art and Mesopotamia Baines said. The same conventions can be seen in many other ancient art traditions. Maya The art also uses figurative scenes and hieroglyphs. Although classical Greek and a novel Art is an exception, as there are even examples of similar artistic conventions of two-dimensional painting and drawing from medieval Europe. As Baines explained, “It’s a system that works very well and therefore there is no need to change it.”
Originally published on Live Science.
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