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Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

Portraying Women in Ancient Egyptian Art, Op-ed


Sat 25 Apr 2020 | 10:23 AM
Ahmad El-Assasy

The ancient Egyptian artist had rules to follow, as he was first concerned with imaging the man’s body.

Man in Ancient Egypt came in the first place because he was the head of the household and the owner of the tomb. However, showing the woman’s body and grace came second.

When we look at the images of the woman’s body and her shape during the periods of the entire Pharaonic history, we will see that the artist committed to portraying the woman without any change of the body sizes, except a very slight change that people may not take notice.

The artist portrayed ancient Egyptian woman as attractive, graceful, and slim, with small breasts, wide almond-shaped eyes.

The woman would like to be in elegant graceful shape in the other world.

The woman’s clothes in pictures in Ancient Egypt were simple at first, then they evolved into garments with beautiful folds. Woman's garments were made of transparent fabric that shows parts of her body.

When we look at the images of Queen Nefertari who appeared in various shapes showing her in the most beautiful clothes.

The Ancient Egyptian artist did not image the woman dressed in naked clothes inside the tombs, but he was able to draw the woman dressing clothes that show some details of her body through the use of thin, transparent fabric or knitted clothes.

This indicates that the Ancient Egyptian artist did not show absolute nudity but rather used clothes to show the woman’s beauty.

The Ancient Egyptian was careful not to show the woman naked at all, but the images of the goddess Nut, the goddess of heaven, were in the shape of a naked woman.

There are wonderful scenes that the Ancient Egyptian left for us to show his ability to draw the beauty of women, even though they are attired in clothes.

The most beautiful women's scenes were found in the Tel Amarna, the city where Akhenaten ruled and worshiped the god Aten, whose strength lies behind the sun disk. One scene represents princesses sitting eating.

The Ancient Egyptian artist portrayed women in different forms and put a specific shape for each woman.

For example, the queens were portrayed differently because they are goddesses.

We see clear scenes of queens inside the tombs of the kings in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor. The ancient artists likened the queens to the goddess Hathor, unlike the scenes of nannies, maids, bridesmaids, or lactating women, as well as women of the noblemen.

Every woman has a special shape in the temples and tombs in Ancient Egypt.

We have a papyrus codex found in Deir el-Bahari (the Northern Monastery) in Luxor that shows many scenes of a priestess known as "Maryam M Wbint" while she lives in the other world.

She was drawn enjoying life in paradise which the Ancient Egyptians called the Ayarwa Paradise. This shows us the artist in Ancient Egypt adhered to certain features when he was drawing the woman.

Here I may say that the images of the women appeared on the walls of the tombs in the Upper cemetery of the tombs of the workers and builders of the pyramids, may show the resemblance in drawing the body, but the face differs from one woman to another.

Contributed by Ahmed Moamar