A Treasury of Painting
Many paintings have been found in tombs. More have been found in Egypt than in any other ancient civilization. They have been well-preserved because of the dry climate and the pigments used. Blue was made from a carbonate of copper; green, from powdered malachite; red, from iron oxides; and black, from carbon or soot.
Although many paintings show conventional poses, some of the best pictures show expressions of intimacy, character, and movement. The subjects are shown as being youth, with a peaceful appearance. The face is portrayed in profile with one eye showing, having the pupil prominent. The front side of the torso is shown, while the legs and feet are in profile. When the body would in the future be brought back to life, it was important that the most important features were present – thus, the impossible pose.
There were a number of standard scenes for tombs, and the owner of the tomb would make a choice in consultation with the painter. There was limited opportunity for innovation, especially for royalty and nobility.
Proportion and Harmony
Figures in painting and relief followed a standard rule of proportion. The basic unit was the fist. A grid was drawn up using this unit. The figure was arranged so that the hairline was eighteen units high, the shoulders six units across, the arm from the elbows four and one-half units, and the foot three units long. The same proportion as for a standing person was used for a sitting person. Similar grids were used for animals.
Since images were symbolic rather than naturalistic, the figures were given such props as headdresses and objects to carry to denote status or context. However, there was no way to show perspective.