Ancient Mediterranean + Europe
- New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period, an introduction
- Temple of Amun-Re and the Hypostyle Hall, Karnak
- Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut and Large Kneeling Statue, New Kingdom, Egypt
- The tomb-chapel of Nebamun
- Paintings from the Tomb-chapel of Nebamun
- A bottle and a toy: Objects from daily life
- Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and Three Daughters
- Akhenaten, Nefertiti, and Three Daughters
- Portrait head of Queen Tiye with a crown of two feathers
- Thutmose, Bust of Nefertiti
- Thutmose, Bust of Nefertiti: backstory
- Thutmose Bust of Nefertiti
- Tutankhamun’s tomb (innermost coffin and death mask)
- Head of Tutankhamun from the Amarna Period of Egypt’s New Kingdom
- Last Judgement of Hunefer, from his tomb
- Hunefer, Book of the Dead
- Ancient Egyptian papyrus in the Book of the Dead Exhibition
- Last Judgement of Hunefer
By The British Museum
The British Museum contains 11 fragments of wall painting, some of the most famous images of Egyptian art. The fragments come from the now lost tomb-chapel of Nebamun, an ancient Egyptian scribe or, "scribe and grain accountant in the granary of divine offerings," in the Temple of Amun at Karnak. Nebamun died c. 1350 B.C.E., a generation or so before Tutankhamun. His name is damaged but he was almost certainly called Nebamun.
"Antiquity’s equivalent to Michelangelo"
The tomb-paintings were discovered by the local agent of Henry Salt in Thebes and acquired by the Museum in the 1820s. The location of the tomb from which they came is still not known with any certainty, but it is thought to be in the northern part of the necropolis in the area known as Dra Abu el-Naga. Stylistically, the magnificent wall paintings can be dated to either the final years of the reign of Amenhotep III (1390–1352 B.C.E.) or the early years of his successor. The fragments were constantly on display until the late 1990s. Since then, the fragile wall-paintings have been meticulously conserved, securing them for at least the next fifty years.
The project has provided numerous new insights into the superb technique of the painters called by one art-historian "antiquity’s equivalent to Michelangelo" —with their exuberant compositions, astonishing depictions of animal life and unparalleled handling of textures. New research and scholarship have enabled new joins to be made between the fragments, allowing a better understanding of their original locations in the tomb. They will now be re-displayed together for the first time in a setting designed to recreate their original aesthetic impact and to evoke their original position in a small intimate chapel.
The paintings show scenes of daily life and include images of banquets, agriculture, animal husbandry, hunting and scenes of offerings. The quality of the drawing and composition is outstanding, and the superbly detailed treatment of the animals makes these some of the finest paintings to survive from ancient Egypt.
A place of commemoration
Nebamun’s tomb-chapel was a place for people to come and commemorate Nebamun and his wife after his death with prayers and offerings. Nebamun himself was buried somewhere beneath the floor of the innermost room of the tomb-chapel in a hidden burial chamber.The beautiful paintings, which decorated the wall, not only showed how Nebamun wanted his life to be remembered but what he wanted in his life after death.
Building a tomb-chapel was expensive and would have only been done by the wealthy. The majority of ancient Egyptians would have been buried in cemeteries.
How the tomb-chapel was built and used
Nebamun’s tomb-chapel was cut into the desert hills opposite the city of Thebes (modern Luxor and Karnak). Workmen would have cut the tomb out of the rock using flint tools and copper-alloy chisels. The walls and ceilings of the tomb were then covered in a layer of mud plaster, followed by a layer of white plaster. This provided a smooth surface for painting.
The tomb-chapel was painted by a team of artists. They first sketched out the designs and figures before painting the final pattern. Sometimes the sketches can still be seen, showing how the artists changed their minds. The artists used black, white, red, yellow, blue and green paints.
The tomb-chapel probably contained three sections: an outer chamber, an inner chamber and an underground burial chamber, which was sealed once Nebamun and his wife had been buried. Outside the tomb-chapel a courtyard was cut into the hillside. The walls of the chapel facade were decorated with rows of pottery cones stamped with the names and titles of the owner.
M. Hooper, The Tomb of Nebamun (London, British Museum Press, 2007).
R. Parkinson, The painted Tomb-chapel of Nebamun (London, British Museum Press, 2008).
A. Middleton and K. Uprichard, (eds.), The Nebamun Wall Paintings: Conservation, Scientific Analysis and Display at the British Museum (London, Archetype, 2008).
© Trustees of the British Museum
Want to join the conversation?
- How come the paintings are so different from Egyptian decorum? For example the musicians are seated in a less rigid and more natural manner than is normal for most Egyptian paintings and art in general. Everything is a lot less stylized and more realistic (the geese in particular, are exquisite).(7 votes)
- An educated guess is that even though we associate ancient Egypt with one kind of art and bodily representation doesn't mean that this was the custom through all centuries and dynasties. The ancient Egypt lasted for a very long time.(5 votes)
- "His name is damaged but he was almost certainly called Nebamun." How do we know that?(3 votes)
- This link explains that a parts of the inscription was hacked out at a time of religious strife. http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/aes/n/nebamun%E2%80%99s_cattle.aspx
The man's name starts with Neb, and is preceded by a hacked away name of a deity. The last part of the man's name is also hacked away. Since Amon/Amun was the god whose name was being repressed at the time, and since deity names were often part of personal names, it has been deduced that his name was Nebamun.(6 votes)
- "The fragments were constantly on display until the late 1990s. Since then, the fragile wall-paintings have been meticulously conserved, securing them for at least the next fifty years."
Does this mean that these precious wall paintings may only last another 50 years? I must be reading this incorrectly.(4 votes)
- Surely not! The author merely means to say that after this restoration, no new restorations will be necessary for at least fifty years.(1 vote)
- Is there anything left in the tomb of Nebamun.(2 votes)
- No one knows! The merchant Henry Salt, who sold some of the rock paintings, had a worker, named Giovanni d'Athanasi. He and his workers found the tomb and removed the paintings that they wanted from it. Later on, he died before telling anyone where the tomb actually was. Therefore, the tomb was lost to history, and all that remain are the frescoes mentioned.
If you want more information on Nebamun you can click on the link.
Or, if the link refuses to work, you can google 'Tomb of Nebamun.' That should pull up a Wikipedia link which will work.(3 votes)
- In the first paragraph, it says that his name was "almost certainly Nebamun". Below, MargaretMMerrit asks, "How do we know that?" I have a similar question, specifically about the vowels. Since the ancients didn't include vowels, how do we know what vowels were used and where they were place in the name? The consonant sounds recorded were (probably) equivalent to NBMN, and wonder if the name could have been something different, such as Inbemonu?(2 votes)
- Well it may not be 100% right. I think they decipher the language using the rosette stone and later languages from the area, but I am not 100% sure either.(2 votes)
- In the first paragraph, it said that their were 11 fragments of wall painting, does that mean that there are more fragments around the world, or are there only the 11 of them?(2 votes)
- It says The British Museum contains 11 fragments of wall painting, some of the most famous images of Egyptian art. That would mean that there would be only 11 fragments in that museum(2 votes)
- in the last paragraph of antiquity's equivalent to Michelangelo, it says paintings were created of everyday lives of regular people. Why didn't they paint pictures of special events, or even memories they wanted to preserve. Why was everyday life more commonly drawn?(3 votes)
- People probably did make pictures of special events, but there may not be as many. I think this just means that in the tomb-chapel, most of the pictures showed daily life. I do know that there are other paintings showing more special and "sacred" things.(1 vote)
- In the first paragraph, it said the he was scribe so why did they build a whole Tomb Chapel for him and his wife instead from all the other people being(2 votes)
- If they built him and his wife a temple, he must have been a very important scribe. Like for the Christians, in the Bible there was a man named Joseph. He was sold to Egypt as a slave, and became a very important person among the Egyptians.
btw, hi William.(1 vote)
- Since these wonderful chapels/tombs would have taken quite some time to make - from months to years - did the ‘client’ (in this case Nebamun) take an active part in the tomb design, or did he die first, was stored somewhere, and then the building began, and he was entombed when it was finally finished?(2 votes)
- When did people find all these tomb paintings? How were they not broken or anything? 0.o(2 votes)