Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Glyphs a bit closer

Here are the glyphs to the right of the cartouches a bit closer. Next I'll paint the part of the wall on the right of Caesarion's torso.

Guess what? Some more hieroglyphs!

And here are some more hieroglyphs - on top of Caesarion's censer.

Amazing how much faster the painting proceeds now as compared to the beginning stages. I'm beginning to be much more confident when doing the glyphs - they eye-hand coordination has certainly improved. But I still cannot say it is a quick process. Rather painstaking work - as I still haven't a table where I could rest my hand when doing the tiniest details. Just the easel. (And achy shoulders...)

A lot of painting ahead still. Lets see if I manage to finish this in under 100 hours of work. Nearing 70 hours at this stage.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Incense burner closer

Here is a closer look at the incense burner... Parts of it were hacked, but the part near to Caesarion probably was in the form of a hawk's head. And I think in the center we have a sitting god/goddess-figure...

Censer / Incense burner

Now I have added the censer / incense burner in Caesarion's left hand - and the hand also of course. He is burning incense in front of gods and goddesses which are not visible in this painting. (Good heavens if they were - don't dare to think the hours painting this would then have taken LOL).

Sort of feel better now that the human figures are complete. I paint with this "puzzle painting style" = small area at a time because working on the painting as a whole just wouldn't work with all these tiny details.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Caesarion's Cartouches Up Close

And here are the cartouches of Caesarion a bit closer.

Cartouches of Caesarion

Here I have added some stars and hieroglyphs, but most importantly the cartouches of Caesarion.

His cartouche on the left reads:
Caesar living forever, beloved of Ptah and Isis.

And the name tells all there is needed to know of his father.. He was threat enough to Octavian, the heir of Caesar, to have Caesarion killed after Cleopatra's death (I just saw an interesting program about how it was not possible for her to have died of a snake bite as quickly as the story says... And that in all probability Octavian killed her too. The whole snake story would have been a fabrication - but ironically enough it was the very thing that has kept her memory alive.)

Octavian conquered Alexandria on the 1st of August. Octavian named the eight month (Sextilis) after himself, because it was both the month when he received the title "Augustus" and the month in which "Imperato Caesar [Octavian] freed the commonwealth from a most grievous danger". (source: Joyce Tyldesley: Cleopatra, Last Queen of Egypt)

This most grievous danger was Cleopatra, of course.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Caesarion's Legs a Bit Closer

Here are the legs a bit closer - it seems I took the pic at an angle, the soles of his feet are on the same level in the painting.

There seem to be sandal straps in Caesarion's right foot, but I did not see them on the left one. Barry's reference photo was excellent and I really did look carefully.

Like I mentioned before my own ref photo has the sunlight coming at a different angle than all the other photos I have received. It seems even the slightest change in lighting conditions brings out new details - and can hide others. Real detective work is sometimes need to get the details right.

Caesarion's Legs

A busy week behind - only today I found time to paint some more. This time I did Caesarion's legs.

They were covered by a pleated "skirt" - took some thinking to plan how to make that effect show...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Caesarion's Ka

Managed to squeeze some time to paint today. This time I concentrated on Caesarion's Ka.

The pics are a bit yellow again - artificial light...

Last time the details were about those 30 captives Caesarion was about to smite to kingdom come -this time it was the little "scales" on the Ka's kilt. (sorry, no better photo, thanks to poor light...)

The two hands on Caesarion's head are of course the hieroglyph for Ka. The left one is a bit damaged from elbow to wrist.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Caesarion's Kilt

Ok, now I moved on to Caesarion's kilt. An egyptology-student-friend, Barry Burnett, visited Denderah last month and I finally got detailed enough photos to see what was depicted on the kilt.

And this brought a bit of a dilemma - putting in all those details might make the overall "painting" look suffer a bit. Still - considering who might be interested in this kind of a painting, I'd say people who already knew something about Egypt. And those people would love to see details. Also I have been striving for details all through this painting.

So I kept the outlines visible and made the kilt a bit darker than it is in real life, so that the details showed.

And I really wonder why did they not settle with the good old pharaoh-smiting-AN-enemy...

Caesarion had a handful of them - 30 to be exact. Just imagine doing 30 captives in quite a small area of a painting! Sheesh, I repeat I must be nuts to do this...

Here is the kilt in detail:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hieroglyphs a bit closer

And yesterday's hieroglyphs a bit closer. Some of them had suffered a little, but all in all this spot of the wall was pretty well preserved.

Hope I got the spelling right!

Some more hieroglyphs

Goodness, what a week! Had no time to paint until today.

So here you have some more hieroglyphs added between the figures. I have to say I am glad we use the Western alphabet... If I am not much mistaken the amount of hieroglyphs was a lot bigger during the Ptolemaic dynasty than it was in the Old Kingdom. I have to admit here on Denderah wall I have seen hieroglyphs I have never seen before. (Not that I was any expert in hieroglyphs, though)

So far I have used 50 hours into this painting, and I suppose it will take almost as much to finish... Slowly but surely...

Monday, November 2, 2009

A block of stone

Painted a little of the stone between Cleopatra and Caesarion. And now I'm off to read a book about the rise of civilization in the Nile Valley...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Caesarion's torso a bit closer

And a little closer... You may see the arch-shape on Caesarion's waist if you look carefully. I am not sure what that is...

Caesarion's torso

I had a little time to continue with Caesarion this morning. Painted the stone on the right of his face and his torso. I could make up these ever-so-faint forms along his waist, but I am not sure what they were...

Again took ages to make those little chisel marks on his "skin". Cleopatra was a lot easier!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Caesarion's arm a bit closer

This photo perhaps shows the differences in the "skin". Cleopatra's skin is smooth, Caesarion's filled with tiny chisel marks.

Caesarion's right arm

This morning I painted Caesarion's right arm.

It is interesting to see the difference between their arms: Cleopatra's are smooth, on Caesarion's you can see the chisel marks clearly. The theory that there was plaster on top of the stone would make sense. These little holes would make the plaster stick better...

Men were usually painted with red skin, women with yellowish. As the stone in Dendera is yellow on its own, maybe the stone was already of the right color to depict Cleopatra's skin color? So no need to plaster and paint her arms?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cleopatra and Caesarion a bit closer

Here are Cleopatra and Caesarion a bit closer.

Did you know Caesarion's real name was Ptolemy XV Philopator Philometor Caesar? Caesarion was a kind of a nickname.

Philopator means "father-loving" and Philometor of course "mother-loving".

Caesarion's face

Today I painted Caesarion's face for three hours. I had one sharp(ish) reference photo, but the light came from the opposite angle than in my own reference photo. You can imagine how it felt... I had to look at the pic with a magnifying glass to see what was causing the shadows and then imagine what kind of a shadow this "obstacle" would cast to the other direction. My own picture really could give only a rough idea.

And once it was more or less finished, I compared it to Cleopatra's face and noticed the shadows were way too deep in Caesarion. So back to the old easel... I admit I did try to give the boy some personality - the original carving has these tiny chisel marks all over the face, basically disfiguring it (in the sharp light that was casting strong shadows it looked like he had a severe case of acne...)

Caesarion's nose looks a bit "undefined" yet, but will become clearer once I paint the stone to the right - it will cast a shadow agaist his face.

He also has this gaping hole in the wall right under his jaw / ear. So at the moment his figure is a bit of a sorry sight, really.

Mother and Son Up Close

Made one more zoom to the faces of Cleopatra and Caesarion - even when his face isn't quite finished.

Their eyes were suprisingly dark in the reference photo I took myself - probably carved pretty deeply to begin with.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Detail of Caesarions Crown

Caesarion's crown(s) a bit closer. The photo is on the yellow side - taken in artificial light at 10 pm.

If the pharaohs really did wear such crowns they had to walk very carefully or else their "hat" would surely have fallen off... Or perhaps they just sat there and someone placed the crown on their heads. And then they just tried not to move... LOL

Caesarion's Crown

It was time to start painting Caesarion. He is wearing the crown of Egypt - or two crowns really; the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt. Together they symbolized that the pharaoh ruled the two lands - Egypt. Or Kemet (black land) as the ancient Egyptians themselves called their country.

The crown of Upper Egypt is the one that looks like a bowling pin. If it was colored here, it would be white.

The crown of Lower Egypt (the Delta) is the one surrounding the white crown. And it would be red.

In the famous Narmer palette you see the pharaoh wearing the crown of Upper Egypt on one side and the crown of Lower Egypt on the other side.

Caesarion has the ram's horns attached to the crown

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Closeup of Glyphs around Cleopatra

Here is a closeup of the glyphs surrounding Cleopatra's body One of the stones right at her knee-level seems to have been taken out of the wall in the past. (Some ancient robbers perhaps?)

Cleopatra All Done

Today I decided to paint the hieroglyphs on the right of Cleopatra, down to the soles of her feet. I wanted to define her figure, to use the shadows in the stone to bring her "out" of the stone.

I did not paint quite all of the hieroglyphs - there is a row on the right still. But had I started to paint that row, it would have taken me the whole day to finish.

It took me four hours to do this thin strip of stone. Hopefully I managed to make it look "stony" enough.

So next I will be moving on the Caesarion. He looks like an interesting project! I will be painting him from head to toe and then add the rest of the hieroglyphs between him and his mother.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Here's a closeup of the part I painted yesterday. Such a small space, yet it took almost three hours to finish.

You can see there are deep shadows on the stone above Cleopatra's hands. Painting shadows is not a straight-forward thing.

First of all I never use black. I have done the whole painting so far with blue and brown and white.

Shadows very seldom are black, if they are caused by the sun. Also shadows in themselves have light in them. When we talk about Egypt, the midday sun is so strong it is reflected back fromt he ground as well. And so these shadows here also reflect light from the ground.

(Oh, just noticed the upmost seam between the stones looks like it isn't straight. I must have helt the camera at an angle - in reality it is more or less straight.)

Space Under the Cartouches

Today I painted part of the stone wall on the right of Cleopatra. The lower part of the sistrum in her hand was almost destroyed, the upper part was more or less intact.

It took me almost three hours to do the little spot underdeath the cartouches. Stone is not easy to paint...

I read an interesting detail from Joyce Tyldesley's excellent book "Cleopatra - Last Queen of Egypt". There it is written about this scene that it was started year 30 BC, when both Cleopatra and Cesarion died. So the work was actually continued under the rule of Octavian who wanted to destroy all the images of Cleopatra?

So far I have used about 30 hours into this painting. I must be mad... LOL :D

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Here I paint away...

Hubby took a picture of yours truly, just as I started painting the hieroglyphs on the right of Cleopatra. This is my work room. We just moved so the only thing I have there is the easel (and the book shelf). And some cardboard boxes, cough cough...

(Yes, I know - I´d better get to emptying them soon or else in a year's time I'll still be having cardboard boxes around...)

Today I am reading "An Account of Egypt" by Herodotus as part of my Egyptology studies. Lets see if I find time to paint a bit also.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Detail of the Cartouches

Vincent mentioned in an earlier comment he likes to see details of the painting, so I´ll be posting those.

Here are the two cartouches between Cleopatra and Cesarion. Interestingly the lions were hacked away, as well as some bird figures (Hawks? I´m only learning the basics of hieroglyphs so I don´t have the expertise to tell the answer myself).

How to paint those tiny chisel marks again was an interesting thing to do. The destroyed area shows the shape of the original hieroglyph well, but still it needed to look "destroyed". I wonder if the hacking in question was done when Octavian wanted images of Cleopatra destroyed? I wonder if anyone knows?

I realized the shapes of the cartouches are not quite oval, but that happens when you paint with free hand using a brush. Oil paint is a bit tricky. You need to have it wet enough so that the brush leaves an even line on the canvas, but if you use paint that is too thin, you'll just end up adding more paint over the already painted area. And if the paint is a bit too thick, it spreads unevenly, especially when you use miniature brushes. It sort of clumps on the bristles.

Well - next I´ll be moving down so I get the stone done on the right of Cleopatra.

I have a slight problem with the tiny hieroglyphs on the left of Cleopatra - and also between Cleopatra and Cesarion. My reference photos aren't quite as sharp as they should. But I might get better pics - someone is travelling to Egypt and might be able to go to Dendera and take such photos for me I could use. If so, I'll be giving full credit to my "photo-assistant" :)

Cartouches on the right of Cleopatra

Two and a half hours went into the two cartouches on the right of Cleopatra. After that I went to see the news and rest my eyes (and shoulders).

When I came back I noticed I´ll probably need to work on the cartouches a bit more, but I´ll leave them for now. Once the underpainting is all done, I´ll then redefine the light and shadows of the whole painting to make it more unified.

The cartouche is an "oval" or an oblong enclosure that surrounds the names of rulers in hieroglyphic texts..

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Detail of the Upper Hieroglyphs

Here is a detail of the upper hieroglyphs.

The hawk had quite a few details - it has all of its feathers so beautifully carved you wouldn't believe. I used a magnifying glass to count them, but in the end I may have missed a feather or two. I mean I just didn´t have a paint brush small enough - try to see those tiny little feathers on the upper side of the right wing. And all that squinting might have caused me the headache in the end.

You see when I really forget myself into a painting, I don´t notice how time passes. I may start in daylight and then suddenly realize there isn´t enough light anymore. I do have a very bright work lamp - a good thing when I remember to use it...

What never ceases to amaze me is the level of detail these ancient artist could produce! Just imagine carving all this into stone - taking into consideration so many things. Straight lines, the depth of the carving, all those tiny little details... I really am in awe with their skills.

Upper hieroglyphs

I was going to paint the whole area on the right of Cleopatra including the cartouches, but had a bit of a headache, so this is how far I got this time.

You can see I paint from left to right. The reason for this is that I am right handed and this is oil paint and I don't want to smudge the already painted area with my hand.

Dendera is situated about 60 km north of Luxor.

I visited it with my husband in 2005 - we left early in the morning on a cruise ship. It was quite a surprise how cold it was at 7 am when the boat left - the staff gave us thick towels to use as blankets.

Dendera itself is a very old place of worship - shrines were built there from the earliest dynasties onwards. The present temple comes from the Ptolemaic age, with Roman additions and it is one of the best preserved temples in Egypt.

A beautiful place, well worth a visit!!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Cleopatra's wig

Here you can see a detail of Cleopatra's head (I´ll probably work on it later again). Cleopatra wears a tripartite wig and a head-dress with several uraei, a solar disk between cow's horns and double plumes.

It is true that often the nobility shaved their heads and used wigs. This was also a question of hygiene - head lice were quite a nuisance then - evidence of them can be found in mummies.

The royal wigs were pieces of art. Often the wigs were made of real human hair and braided in many styles.

Painting this wig was quite a lot of work. I´ll attach here a little snapshot of the details. You may guess I use a miniature brush...

The process was so time consuming and difficult I sometimes felt like throwing the brushes to our cats who very much would have wanted to play hockey with them.

But here is the detail of the wig behind Cleopatra's shoulder.

Ancient Egyptian Art

I did wonder what to call this blog, but maybe it was too easy...

I have loved anything Egypt since I was a child. I dreamt of studying Egyptology but it was not possible here where I live.

I have a full time job and studying during the daytime hours was not possible. But then, one day, I realized that in this time and age there simply had to be possible to study online. I did some research and found the Manchester University's Certificate of Egyptology course. I applied - and to my never ending surprise and joy I got in!

I am now waiting for my first year of studies to start.

I´ve been to Egypt once, and took many photos in the Luxor area. Out of these I chose the Dendera Temple to do my first ancient Egyptian painting.

The scene in question is from the back wall of the Dendera temple: Cleopatra and her son Cesarion making offerings to Osiris, Isis and Harsiesis.

To get this far I have used many hours - painting those tiny hieroglyphs sure takes time! And to make the stone look like stone... Oh dear. This is an oil painting and oil paint is... well - oily!

And stone is not. Do the math.

Cleopatra's hair/wig nearly drove me to desperation. I must have been staring at my photo for fifteen minutes to finally see what was the idea, how the wig was made. And then to make those teeny tiny details...

This is a grisaille painting which means that I do the underpainting in grayish tones and then layer very thin layers of paint on top to find the final color.

Welcome to follow the process!