Names and uses of colors:
Color in Art :
Color in Hieroglyphics:
Where the signs were not painted black or red, each sign received its own basic color or combination of colors. The colors assigned to the various signs are in most cases simply the colors of the objects themselves. So signs for leg, arm, hand, mouth, or other body parts, were usually in red, whereas reeds and other plants were green, water was blue, etc. Other objects had more symbolic coloration, for example, metal butcher knife was red, the sickle was green, and the bread loaf was blue.
The Painter’s Work:
The paintings extant in the beautiful tomb of Nefertari are excellent examples of the symbolic and practical uses of color. After the outlines of the scenes were completed, color was applied with coarse brushes made from bundles of palm fibers, or pieces of fibrous wood chewed or beaten at one end.
Dry pigments were prepared by crushing various substances in a mortar or on a grinding palette with a stone pestle. These were then mixed with a water-soluble gum or egg white to bind them. Intermediate shades were derived by laying one pigment over another.
Many of the reliefs seen today in museums and even on the temple and tomb walls in Egypt itself have little of the tints originally placed upon them. But conservation is underway, and hopefully, as with Nefertari’s tomb, the vibrancy of the Artist’s craft, part of the soul of ancient Egypt, will return.
Soft stone, whether cut in place such as a rock cut tomb, or carved into blocks as in free standing temples, was usually covered by plaster prior to being decorated. Paint was sometimes also applied to hard stone, but often it was left visible for its symbolism. Hence, black stone such as granodiorite was representative of the life giving black silt left by the Nile inundation, thus symbolizing new life, resurrection and the resurrected god of he dead, Osiris. Red, brown, yellow and gold were associated with the sun, and so stones of those colors, such as red and brown quartzite and red granite, symbolized the sun. Green stone referred to fresh, growing vegetation, new life, resurrection and Osiris as well, who sometimes appears with black skin and sometimes green.
Limestone and other soft stones were carved with copper chisels and stone tools. Hard stones were worked by hammering and grinding them with tools made of even harder stone together with sand, which is basically quartz, acting as an abrasive. Stone vessels were hollowed out using drills with copper bits, together with an abrasive. These tools were also used to apply details and inscriptions to hard stone monuments. Afterwards, the finished object was polished with a smooth rubbing stone.
If the stone was to be painted, the surface had to be smoothed and any holes in the stone or joints between blocks filled in with plaster.
Scenes on stone surfaces were often cut into relief before painting (or when not painted at all). There were two main types of reliefs, consisting of raised and sunk relief. In both, chisels were used to cut around the outlines of figures. Then, in raised relief, the stone of the background was cut away, so that the figures were left standing out from the surface. In sunk relief, it was the figures that were cut back within their outlines, leaving the surface of the background at a higher level. In both methods, the figures were modeled to a greater or lesser extent within their outlines. Traditionally, sunk relief was used on outside walls and raised relief on interior walls, because bright sunlight has the effect of flattening raised relief and enhancing sunk relief. It should be noted that such work could also be applied to plastered surfaces on soft stone.
In Theban tombs which were often simply painted, as opposed to relief-cut, rock cut walls, the walls were first covered with mud that was then plastered before painting. Treated similarly to soft stone, mudbrick was used in houses, palaces and other public buildings. And like the walls in Theban tombs, the mud was prepared for decoration with a layer of plaster.
Prior to actually painting the prepared surfaces of stone or plaster over stone or mudbrick, scenes were laid out by first marking off the area to be decorated and then drawing in the initial sketches in red, to which corrections were often made in black, probably by the master draughtsman in charge of the project.