Guardians of the Underworld bearing knives
Taken from Spell 144 of the ‘Book of the Dead’, they were the keepers of the gates of the Underworld, menacing the enemies of order with their sharpened knives.
“Egyptians were probably the first to be aware of the nobility inherent in the human form and to express it in art. One can sense the pleasure that the Egyptians must have taken in the balance of the shoulders and the delicate way in which they contrast with the aspiring shape of the rest of the body…
Julius Lange showed with great sensitivity that we should not imagine the fact that human figures in Egyptian art ‘have stiff and erect backs, with their heads held high, and set squarely on their bodies’ to be a sign of incompetence…
Rather ‘the awareness grew that this attitude expresses vitality and confidence in real life, and that it is therefore appropriate to the triumphant spirit which art should proclaim.’
The transition from the fat predynastic female figurines, with their heavy breasts, thighs, and buttocks, to the slender classical Egyptian pictures of women, which ‘remind one of the profiles of precious vases’ indicates how much effect aesthetic impulses had in the genesis of ‘Egyptian’ art; among these pictures, apart from a few exceptions determined by their contexts, only youthful, firm, and well-formed bodies are to be seen…”
— Principles of Egyptian Art, by Heinrich Schäfer
Detail of wall painting from the Tomb of Queen Nefertari (QV66). New Kingdom, 19th Dynasty, ca. 1292-1189 BC. Valley of the Queens, West Thebes.