Top 10 Famous Ancient Egyptian Paintings

The history of Egyptian paintings goes back to the third millennium BC and is most often used to refer to two different things. 

The paintings and the drawings applied on a smooth flat surface and the relief sculptures found in the tombs where the depicted person stands out from the surface. 

The paintings resemble the stone carvings that are made by the artists using gold, glass, and semi-precious stones from the Nile valley.

Besides, the paintings also include unique and striking characteristics. For instance, the arms and legs are always shown in profile whereas the chest is seen from the front.

Men were painted in red or brown while the women were painted in yellow. The depicted figures are usually young and healthy, they stand in a stiff and rigid position but their facial expressions are neutral, serene, and calm. 

Egyptian pharaohs, Egyptian gods, Egyptian goddesses, and nobles were usually idealized in the paintings while the slaves, common people, animals were usually portrayed in a more realistic way to show their limited importance.

Here is the list of the top 10 paintings of ancient Egypt with some details.

10. Paintings in the Tomb

A painting of Xu Xianxiu in this tomb
A painting of Xu Xianxiu in this tomb
Source: Wikimedia Common

Tomb paintings often show the deceased person accompanied by members of his family, mainly his wife, mother & daughters. The scenes of daily life and feasts are also included. 

The feminine beauty is a significant characteristic that we see in these tomb paintings. Even the female mourners were depicting with a fascinating beauty as a part of the Egyptian artwork.

These paintings were made on the walls of the tombs of rich people to create a beautiful afterlife for the deceased. Those paintings had the theme of the journey of a deceased in the afterlife.

The side profile of the person was painted using a wide range of colors including red, green, black, and yellow. 

9. Mummification

A painting of mummification of an Egyptian Cat
A painting of mummification of an Egyptian Cat
Source: Wikipedia Common

The ancient Egyptians preserved the dead bodies as they believed that the bodies needed a place to live in their afterlife as well.

For that, they developed the art of mummification in 2600 BC and practiced it for over 3000 years. The full process used to be very expensive and only the rich and powerful people could afford it. 

The people with less money had to settle for simpler forms of mummification. If someone is among the privileged, the mummification process took around 70 days to complete. 

The dead body was brought to the embalmer who wore the mask of a Uba’s, the Egyptian god of mummification and the afterlife. The body was cleaned and the liver, lungs, stomach, and intestine were removed to be embalmed separately. 

They used to put those organs in individual containers called canopic jars. The brain was seen as having no use and was removed from the skull using a metal hook. The heart used to be removed from the body wrapped in linen and again replaced in the chest. 

The dead people would travel into the afterlife and their hearts would be weighed. If you had lived a good life you were received into a state of happiness but if your life was not full of good deeds, the devourer of the dead would destroy your spirit.

8. The book of the dead

A painting of a detailed scene from the book of the dead
A painting of a detailed scene from the book of the dead
Source: Wikimedia Common

Once mummified they would embark on a long and dangerous journey to an everlasting paradise. But to get there, they needed a guide with magic spells known as the book of the dead. 

The book of the dead was a guide and the collection of spells written in hieroglyphs script with colored illustrations. This guidebook helped the person heading towards the journey of the afterlife. 

7. Battle of Kadesh

A scene from the Battle of Kadesh
A scene from the Battle of Kadesh
Source: Wikimedia Common

The painting of the battle of Kadesh has been derived from the relief inside Abu Simbel Temple of Ramesses depicting how the battle was fought.

The battle, fought in 1274 BCE, is a thoroughly documented military engagement from the ancient world that resulted in the first known peace treaty in history.

It was between Egypt, under the rule of Egyptian Pharoah Ramesses II,  and the Hittite empire, under Muwatalli II. It took place in the city of Kadesh, near the Orontes River. Ramesses II backed up with a great victory against the army of Muwatalli II. 

6. Funerary Paintings

A scene from the Ancient Egyptian funerary paintings
A scene from the Ancient Egyptian funerary paintings
Source: Wikimedia Common

The ancient Egyptians were obsessed with the idea of the afterlife. The concept of funerary was of utmost importance among the ancient Egyptians.

It was believed that the gods would come at the funeral and decide if the dead person would be resurrected in their afterlife. A person was said to arrive in his afterlife only if he had a heart free from sins in his past life.

The painting depicts how the funeral proceedings took place and how the ancient Egyptians used to bury the deceased person. 

5. Afterlife paintings

A painting depicting the afterlife of ancient Egypt
A painting depicting the afterlife of ancient Egypt
Source: Wikimedia Common

The ancient Egyptians had different interpretations and ideas about religious concepts, mainly about the afterlife. Some traditional beliefs were certainly more popular in some places and some periods than others. 

The afterlife could mean living among the gods, the sun, and the stars in the sky. This idea was especially common for kings but expanded to more people over time. In this version of the afterlife, a person could live among the stars, hang out with the moon.

The afterlife could mean living in an even better version of ancient Egyptian rural life forever. One can think of this version as a type of paradise but you won’t find an angel sitting on clouds here. 

Instead, this place, which is often called the field of reeds by the ancient Egyptians was much like life in ancient Egypt before death.

The painting related to the afterlife shows how the dead are going to be immortal and continue their life after death and this must have to be painted for manifestation purposes.

4. Egyptian Relief paintings

A painting on the wall resembling the Egyptian relief painting
A painting on the wall resembling the Egyptian relief painting
Source: Wikimedia Common

Reliefs generally mean the designs and work of art inscribed on a solid background. Most of these decorations were symbolic of the previous life for which the tomb was created.

They were either religious or showing the past and the things that people enjoyed doing. Most of the ancient Egyptian reliefs used to be painted.

Sculptures and paintings in Egyptian relief were a massive artistic medium that was used since the prehistoric times of ancient Egypt. The relief was basically of three types and was used in both the secular and non-secular contexts. 

The three types included raised relief, sunk relief, and engraved relief. These reliefs are only to be used in sacred spaces, mostly in tomb environments and temples.

3. Egyptian gods and goddesses

A wall painting of Egyptian deities
A wall painting of Egyptian deities
Source: Wikimedia Common

Ancient Egypt, known for its numerous deities, believed in the divine power of its deity in everyday life aspects. Thye honored their deities by depicting them on walls of temples, tombs, and their houses. 

The painting of these deities is the most famous form of paintings and was present in almost every house of ancient Egypt. However, the most common paintings that were made included the painting of the first goddess was Mesh Kent or Mesh Canet, the goddess of childbirth. 

She was one of the earliest deities worshipped by ancient Egyptians. Most often she was depicted as a brick with the head of a woman. Her other form was more symbolic taking the form of a woman with a cow’s uterus on the top of her head wearing it as a headdress 

The other paintings included God Khepera, Goddess Ammit, God Horace – the patron god of Egypt, and God Heh – the God of infinity. God Heh was depicted as a beardless man with a traditional wig holding a notched palm branch in each hand.

2. King tut’s Cartouche

An image of Ancient Egyptian Cartouche
An image of Ancient Egyptian Cartouche
Source: Wikimedia Common

A cartouche is an oval magical thread that contains the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics that depicted the name of a King or Queen. It can be mostly found on Egyptian monuments and the rope was used in surrounding the name and its protection.

King Tutankhamun, generally known as King Tut, was the most popular pharaoh. His cartouche shows his birth name and the name of his throne. 

Since King Tut was popular his cartouche adds significance to the history of ancient Egypt which was why it was painted in the first place.

1. Siege of Dapur

A scene from the Siege of Dapur
A scene from the Siege of Dapur
Source: Wikimedia Common

The image commemorates the siege of Dapur that took place in 1269 BC. The pharaoh Ramesses II is painted larger than the rest suggesting his immortal nature. The paintings also depict the sons of Ramesses taking part in the Siege. The siege took place with the help of ladders, chariots, soldiers. 

There exists a relief that depicts the siege in the Ramesseum museum which is named after Ramesses II. The siege of Dapur remains one of the most glorifying moments of ancient Egypt and deserves a colorful touch.

Conclusion

The Egyptian paintings were not used for artistic and aesthetic purposes only. They were believed that they would create or provide a pleasant afterlife for the deceased person or the pharaoh. 

And usually in the burial chambers and the tombs, one can find hieroglyphs and paintings which depict Egyptian gods such as Anubis, who is the god of embalming and mummification, and Osiris who is the god of Death and resurrection. so to put it very simply, those paintings were believed to make the journey to the afterlife an easier process for the pharaohs. 

In addition to making the journey to the afterlife possible for the pharaohs, those Egyptian paintings depict the scenes of everyday life. In this way, we are given information regarding ancient Egyptian beliefs, costumes, traditions, and daily activities. Below is a list of the top 10 ancient Egyptian paintings which still lure history lovers to know more about the Egyptians.

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