Saturday, January 5, 2013

Birds of Ancient Egypt

I am not quite ready to leave all the wonderful sights I saw on my recent trip to Chicago. There is an Oriental Museum on the University of Chicago campus.Their special exhibit was the on the birds of ancient Egypt. I am a birder so the exhibit was of particular interest to me.
 This is a picture that was drawn back in the era of the Pharaohs, which is way before the time of Christ. To the left is the mighty lion,then the egret with its long filmy feathers called aigrettes which they have in breeding plumage.On the right is the hawk. In Egyptian mythology, there is the hawk headed god of the sun named Horus. I have been to Egypt and seen this figure in many representations, including  walls in the Pharaoh's tombs.
 What impressed me about this picture is its absolute clarity and beauty. 
 I imagine  it is drawn on papyrus, which was  their paper made from that plant which grew along the Nile.For color I am guessing  that they ground up rocks, or even precious jewels, for their pigments.This is a practice that is used to this day, as in colors such as cobalt blue and the red pigments. The artist must have studied his subjects. Was there a sketch book before the finished product? Were artists well regarded, or merely slaves from a conquered country that served their master? Something this old makes me reflect on so many things. What I do know is that birds have added interest and intrigue to our lives  and artists have always tried to capture their image. 

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