Ancient Egyptian civilization left a great artistic and cultural heritage and some of its elements persisted till the present days. At the same, the findings of archeologists prove the fact that ancient Egyptian art, especially Egyptian fresco and painted reliefs, had strong traditions and canons, in accordance to which ancient artists created their works. This is why it is actually possible to estimate that there was a consistency of ancient Egyptian art which persisted over the time. In order to better understand the extent to which the old traditions influenced the later works of Egyptian artists it is necessary to discuss the major trends in Egyptian fresco and painted reliefs in different epochs.
First of all, it should be said that traditionally religious themes were very strong in frescos and painted reliefs of ancient Egypt. It was the result of the significant role religious beliefs played in the life of Egyptian people. Speaking about the development of ancient Egyptian art at large and fresco and painted reliefs, in particular, it is necessary to point out that the period of the 18th dynasty may be viewed as the golden age of ancient Egyptian art because the major tradition and standards were established and perfected during this period. At the same time, its influences remain very strong during following epochs.
As it has been just mentioned above, the religious themes were very strong and many frescos and painted reliefs depict gods, which traditionally accompany humans. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the works created in the 18th, 19th and 22nd dynasty where gods play a very important role in the paintings of ancient Egyptian artists. On looking at the painted relief in the tomb of Merenptah, Valley of the Kings, 19th dynasty (Image 1), it is possible to observe King Merentpah standing before the falcon-head god Horus, who is carrying the crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. It is very important that in this painting the Pharaoh is depicted next to the god. This painting perfectly conveys the traditional views of ancient Egyptians on the Pharaoh and gods. In fact, this painting symbolizes that gods give the Pharaoh the power over Egypt and, therefore, his power is divine and could not be challenged or disputed. At the same time, it is important to underline that the god the Pharaoh are of the same size, which was also very important in traditional Egyptian painting. As a rule the size of an image of a person corresponded to his/her social status. In addition, this painting also perfectly illustrates the difference in the depiction of representatives of different genders in ancient Egypt frescos and painted reliefs. To put it more precisely, the female image in the right of the painted relief is executed in light brown color. This is the common trend typical to many traditional painting of ancient Egypt. In fact, the color of skin was one of the distinguishable features of male and female in Egyptian painting. It is only Osiris, the god of death, is an exception because his skin was traditionally painted in green or black color. As for male images, they were traditionally painted in dark brown colors.
Furthermore, similarly to other painting, the painted relief in the tomb of Merenptah, Valley of the Kings, 19th Dynasty (Image 1) does not have a perspective. There are no three-dimensional paintings, while people, gods, animals and other elements of painting are depicted next or above each other. It is very important because this trend may be easily traced in many other works of Egyptian art.
For instance, another painted relief on the tomb of Seti I (Image 2) is also use the same perspective and dimension as the one discussed above. The goddess Isis is depicted in this painting stretching her wings in a protective gesture.
The fact that the artist depicted the goddess is also quite symbolic because gods and goddesses accompanied ancient Egyptians even after their death and this is why the image of the goddess is depicted in the painted relief on the tomb of Seti I. The style of the painting and its composition are basically similar to the painting of the 18th dynasty discussed above. Isis is surrounded by different images which are depicted above and under the goddess. It is also quite symbolic that she is depicted in a protective position. In such a way, the artist emphasizes the power of gods who could not only give the power to the Pharaoh but also protect people from various threats. Also, it should be said that the color of skin of the goddess is also quite traditional, the light brown color, which were used to depict female images.
On fact, the basic trends of ancient Egyptian painted were preserved in consistently later epochs. For instance, in the funerary Stella of Aafenmut (Image 3) it is also possible to trace the traditional style of ancient Egypt painting. To put it more precisely, the artist depicted the Pharaoh next to the god. This means that the religious traditions were still very strong in Egyptian society and artists paid a lot of attention to the depiction of gods and goddesses which accompany humans in their life as well as afterlife. In this painting the Pharaoh is depicted next to the god intentionally because again similarly to the painted relief of the 18th dynasty, this painting emphasizes the link between gods and official rulers of Egypt. Similarly to the paintings discussed above the funerary Stella has no three-dimensional perspective and traditional dark brown colors are used to depict males.
Thus, taking into consideration the fact that all three paintings discussed above were created in different epochs, namely in the 18th dynasty, the epoch of the greatest progress of ancient Egyptian art, the 19th dynasty that followed, and, finally, the painting of the 22nd dynasty, which was quite distant in time. All these works of art have similar trends and characteristics. Obviously, religious theme occupies one of the central places in all the painting discussed.
There are distinguishable trends in the depiction of male and female characters which persisted throughout different epochs. Finally, there is a common approach to the painting which has no three-dimensional perspective and this trend persisted in the course of the development of ancient Egyptian art.