Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Monday, March 22, 2010

Artistic Works Inside Egyptian Tombs

Drawing by Faucher-Gudin taken from a ¨squeeze¨ from the tomb of Ti. The domains are represented as women. The name is written before each figure with the designation of the landowner. Image from

This post is the second part of the previous one (About the Egyptian Village). 
It is an excerpt from the book at project History of Egypt, Chaldea, Syria, Babylonia and Assyria. By G. Maspero, who is introduced as ¨Honorable Doctor of Civil Laws, and Fellow of Queen´s College, Oxford; Member of the Institute and Professor at the College of France¨. Edited by A. H. Sayce, professor of Assyriology, Oxford. The Grolier Society, London. (out of print)

Drawing by Faucher-Gudin, from a photograph by Dumichen, Resultate, vol.i. pl. 13. Project

¨Neither pictorial effect nor the caprice of the moment was permitted to guide the artist in the choice of his subjects; all that he drew, pictures or words, bad a magical purpose. Every individual who built for himself an "eternal house," either attached to it a staff of priests of the double, of inspectors, scribes, and slaves, or else made an agreement with the priests of a neighbouring temple to serve the chapel in perpetuity. Lands taken from his patrimony, which thus became the "Domains of the Eternal House," rewarded them for their trouble, and supplied them with meats, vegetables, fruits, liquors, linen and vessels for sacrifice.
In theory, these "liturgies" were perpetuated from year to year, until the end of time; but in practice, after three or four generations, the older ancestors were forsaken for those who had died more recently. Notwithstanding the imprecations and threats of the donor against the priests who should neglect their duty, or against those who should usurp the funeral endowments, sooner or later there came a time when, forsaken by all, the double was in danger of perishing for want of sustenance. In order to ensure that the promised gifts, offered in substance on the day of burial, should be maintained throughout the centuries, the relatives not only depicted them upon the chapel walls, but represented in addition the lands which produced them, and the labour which contributed to their production. On one side we see ploughing, sowing, reaping, the carrying of the corn, the storing of the grain, the fattening of the poultry, and the driving of the cattle. A little further on, workmen of all descriptions are engaged in their several trades: shoemakers ply the awl, glassmakers blow through their tubes, metal founders watch over their smelting-pots, carpenters hew down trees and build a ship; groups of women weave or spin under the eye of a frowning taskmaster, who seems impatient of their chatter. Did the double in his hunger desire meat? He might choose from the pictures on the wall the animal that pleased him best, whether kid, ox, or gazelle; he might follow the course of its life, from its birth in the meadows to the slaughter-house and the kitchen, and might satisfy his hunger with its flesh. The double saw himself represented in the paintings as hunting, and to the hunt he went; he was painted eating and drinking with his wife, and he ate and drank with her; the pictured ploughing, harvesting, and gathering into barns, thus became to him actual realities. In fine, this painted world of men and things represented upon the wall was quickened by the same life which animated the double, upon whom it all depended: the picture of a meal or of a slave was perhaps that which best suited the shade of guest or of master.
Even to-day, when we enter one of these decorated chapels, the idea of death scarcely presents itself: we have rather the impression of being in some old-world house, to which the master may at any moment return. We see him portrayed everywhere upon the walls, followed by his servants, and surrounded by everything which made his earthly life enjoyable. One or two statues of him stand at the end of the room, in constant readiness to undergo the "Opening of the Mouth" and to receive offerings. Should these be accidentally removed, others, secreted in a little chamber hidden in the thickness of the masonry, are there to replace them. These inner chambers have rarely any external outlet, though occasionally they are connected with the chapel by a small opening, so narrow that it will hardly admit of a hand being passed through it. Those who came to repeat prayers and burn incense at this aperture were received by the dead in person. The statues were not mere images, devoid of consciousness. Just as the double of a god could be linked to an idol in the temple sanctuary in order to transform it into a prophetic being, capable of speech and movement, so when the double of a man was attached to the effigy of his earthly body, whether in stone, metal, or wood, a real living person was created and was introduced into the tomb. So strong was this conviction that the belief has lived on through two changes of religion until the present day. The double still haunts the statues with which he was associated in the past. As in former times, he yet strikes with madness or death any who dare to disturb his repose; and one can only be protected from him by breaking, at the moment of discovery, the perfect statues which the vault contains. The double is weakened or killed by the mutilation of these his sustainers.¨


  1. Cada vez me gusta más este blog. Muy buenos artículos, gracias!!

  2. Muchas gracias Silvia, me alegra que te guste!



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