Wall Paintings in the Tomb of Queen Nefertari

The image shows a wall paintings and ceiling within the burial chamber of the tomb of Queen Nefertari. The ceiling is painted with stars to represent the night sky. The tomb of Queen Nefertari in the Valley of the Queens at West Thebes, is one of the best preserved and most ornately decorated of all known tombs.

The paintings (from left to right) show a lion, heron, falcon, the mummy of Nefertari, falcon and a male figure. Beneath them are hieroglyphics from an ancient funerary text known as the Book of the Dead. Nefertari lived around 1300-1255 BC and was the first of the Great Royal Wives of Ramesses II. It was discovered by Ernesto Schiaparelli (the director of the Egyptian Museum in Turin) in 1904. It is called the Sistine Chapel of Ancient Egypt.

Wall Paintings in the Tomb of Queen Nefertari
Wall Paintings in the Tomb of Queen Nefertari

“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

New Kingdom, 19th Dynasty, reign of Ramesses II, ca. 1279-1213 BC. Tomb of Nefertari (QV66), Valley of the Queens, West Thebes.

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