Tag Archives: hair in ancient egypt art

Hair in Egyptian Art for Respect and Reverence in Women.


Egyptian artisans of the New Kingdom used hair in their drawings for expressing body movements (dance, body bow…).

This technique, adopted from the way of drawing the professional mourners, was applied to the masculine figures in a respectful attitude. The front lock of hair forwards helped the Egyptian artist to represent the respectful bow in front of deities.

Later on, we find that this same practice was applied also to some femenine figures.

In the Papyrus of Anhai, which dates from XX Dynasty, the dead women was represented  also bending her body to the goods, but her whole mane of hair is shaken forwards. The gesture remembers the one of the mourners covering their faces with their hair.

Papyrus of Anahi. the dead woman with her hair forwards and bending her body as a sign of respect. XX Dynasty. Ancient Egypt . British Museum.

Papyrus of Anahi. the dead woman with her hair forwards and bending her body as a sign of respect. XX Dynasty. Photo: British Museum.

Obviously we are not facing here a mourning rite. The Egyptian artist took the tachnique from the mourning scenes and this way he could stress the gesture of respect of the dead women in front of the goods.

The point here is to see how this practice of the whole mane of hair forwards is applied in Egyptian art to a female figure. While for the dead men the front lock of hair was enough for stressing the respectful attitude. The idea that comes to our mind is that the hair forwards covering the face was in Egyptian art just a female gesture.

Book of the Dead of Henuttawy. XXI Dynasty. Ancient Egypt. British Museum

Book of the Dead of Henuttawy. XXI Dynasty. Photo: British Museum

The Book of the Dead of Henuttawy dates also from XXI Dynasty and shows Henuttawy adoring the rising sun . In this case the body gesture is not just respect, but reverence. She is completely on earth, kneeling and facing the ground, while many locks of hair are falling in front of her head. Here the Egyptian artist utilised this femenine resource of the disheveled hair falling forwards for stressing the reverential attitude of the woman.

Summin up, Egyptian artists used the hair for representing the mourning gestures of women in funerals. This technique was later also adopted in Egyptian art from the New kingdom to express some quotidian body movements (playing music, dancing, bending) and some attitudes related to them (respect and reverence).

 

 

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Hair: a Resource in Ancient Egypt Art for Expressing Movement.


XVIII Dynasty tombs located in Luxor are especially rich in small details, some of them escaping easily from our sight, which give much information about Ancient Egypt.

This is the case of an image in the scene of the banquet in the tomb of Rekhmire (I have to express my gratitude to Dagmar Krejci, who called my attention on it).

Banquet in Rekhmire's tomb.Ancient Egypt. Egyptian Art

Banquet in Rekhmire’s tomb in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo

The whole scene shows many women during the Egyptian banquet being assisted by young girls. These servants are pouring drinks, offering floral necklaces and playing music. The Egyptian artist expressed the youth of those girls by means of their hairstyle, made by lateral fine plaits and a thicker back lock.

musician girls in Rekhmire's tomb. Ancient Egypt

Musician girl playing the long neck lute. Tomb of Rekhmire in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo courtesy: Dagmar Krejci.

We want to focus on one girl playing a long neck lute, whose hair covers her face. About this girl Dagmar Krejci and Peter Zamarovsky, from Czech Republic, already wrote something, paying especial attention to the lute she is playing.

What about her hair? Watching carefully, we realize that her hairstyle is the same one as her fellows’, with the lateral plaits and the back lock. However her face is covered by the plaits, while the black stroke in her front seems to be her back lock, which is now onwards. Why?

The answer could be in her gesture. This girls is slightly bended forwards for playing the lute. Maybe the Egyptian artist tried to find a way of expressing this position drawing her hair forwards.

However, some other girls in this same scene appear also bended, in many cases with a real nod, and their hairstyle has no changes. Then, which is the difference with our lute player?

We need to consider two things: 1) the long neck of the lute based on the ground and 2) the fact that she is playing while standing. Maybe for playing with this posture she needed to move and this movement was expressed by the Egyptian artist with the change in her hairstyle. So, she was not just playing, but also moving.

Rishi coffin. Right side with the funerary procession. On the left a common mourner shaking hair forwards. XVII-XVIII Dynasty. Thebes. Funerary ceremony in Ancient Egypt.

Rishi coffin. Right side with the funerary procession. On the left a common mourner shaking hair forwards. XVII-XVIII Dynasty. Thebes. Photo: www.metmuseum.org

The movement expressed by means of the hair forwards is not new for us. We have seen all over this blog that it was a resource in Egyptian art for depicting the movement of the Egyptian mourners. On the other hand, in Rekhmire’s tomb there are many new artistic solutions for expressing different things: the girl turning her back, the lateral perspective of the shoulders, the body spinning around, the dynamism of some workers…

Man spinning his body around. Tomb of Rekhmire. Ancient Egypt. Egyptian Art

Man spinning his body around. Tomb of Rekhmire in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo

Girl turning her back. Tomb of Rekhmire. Ancient Egypt. Egyptian Art

Girl turning her back. Tomb of Rekhmire in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo

The XVIII Dynasty was a moment of news in Egyptian art and the young lute player in the tomb of Rekhmire could be a sign of it. The Egyptian artist manipulating her hairstyle, tried to express as real as he could what the young girl was exactly doing: moving herself while playing the lute.