Fowling Scene from the tomb of Nebamun 1400 BCE - 1350 BCE Thebes, Egypt Dynasty 18

Context:  Much of the art and architecture of ancient Egypt is based on the belief in the afterlife as outlined in the Egyptian "Book of the Dead" which is a kind of Egyptian guide or bible of religious thought.

This painting is form the tomb of Nebamun, a minor official and aristocrat in the Egyptian government shortly before or after the reign of King Akhenaton.  The practice of creating tombs for the deceased was wide spread among the priestly and aristocratic classes in Egypt because their religion was devoted to the idea of survival in the afterlife.  Although the bodies of the dead were preserved through mummification, frescos and sculptures depicting the inhabitant of the tomb were placed throughout it so that the individual's animated spirit or "ka" would have a replacement body to inhabit in the afterlife.

Form:  The figure of Nebamun is central in this mural dry painted mural (paint on dry plaster is referred to as fresco secco).  He is rendered with idealized body in typical composite view and his size is exaggerated in accordance with hieratic scale.  The scene is surrounded by hieroglyphic writing which either describes his activities or are prayers taken from the "Book of the Dead."

Iconography:  The idealized body and composite view of the figure is probably based in the desire to create an image that is the most perfect and complete and therefore the most magically potent.  The scene is a genre scene. (A scene of everyday life.)  Although a scene of everyday life, the iconography indicates his importance and his place in Egyptian society.  He is larger than the figures of his wife and daughter and he is depicted going about a leisure activity hunting on the Nile.  The genre elements represent his status, the types of activities he enjoys, and his abilities (has caught three birds) he enjoys as one of the elite in the afterlife.

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