I, You, and the Others

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Ever since the beginning of times, Man has always sought to represent himself in various ways. We can trace back the appearance of human representation on the walls of prehistoric caves.

At that time, drawings show men in hunting scenes chasing wild animals, triumphing over them. At this early stage of human evolution, the aim of these drawings was hardly decoration. Hunting scenes showing gangs of men surrounding a large animal and working their weapons into it were supposed to help men achieve their goal hunting the animal.

For them, it was as if representing what they wished for would help make it occur in reality. The representation was thought to have magical effect on real events. The reproduction of the form of the self, as well, was a way for Man to emphasize his presence during a short life span. It was his way to tell the universe: “I was here”; a wishful trial against destiny’s erasing hand.

The Ancient Egyptians’ legacy is a rich source of human representation showing men and woman during various scenes of daily life. While Pharaohs, kings and queens are shown triumphing over enemies, offering libations to the gods or just standing or sitting solemnly, revealing their omnipotent status and gazing to infinity.

In paintings and wall reliefs, the style was very distinct. Ancient Egyptian artists chose to represent the human body from the side view for the lower part from the waist down to the feet, while for the upper body part, they drew the torso from a frontal view. Once again, face is of side view, eye frontal. This was naively interpreted by some to be due to a lack of rendition abilities of the ancient artists, a grave erroneous belief.

This amazingly free interpretation reveals, if ever, reveals the advanced level of creativity and free thinking of the ancient Egyptian artists. They deliberately altered perspectives to render the human form from the best angle for each part of the body; thus, attaining an eagerly sought after level of aesthetic perfection.

The abilities of the artists for life-imitating drawings are proven through much evidence of less orthodox representation on sketch-like figures on papyri and ostraca where the artists used to practice. In such representations, artists expressed themselves freely and demonstrated their skills in lively renditions of the human body that was not tolerated for formal temple and funerary scenes.

Here again art uses the representation of the human body used instrumentally to serve a message that man wants to communicate to his fellows. The king is great; he is in the most perfect form, bigger than anybody else and dwells in the company of the gods. It is marketing in its most modern sense.

Photo Caption:

Ramses II triumphing over the enemies, relief from Memphis

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