Ancient Egyptian Perspective and Chinese Landscapes

June 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

When I taught in the Egyptian Galleries at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in the 80’s and 90’s, one of my favorite objects was the the tomb wall of Nespeqashuty. It was a river or landscape that depicted him as a corpse or a mummy with his wife being taken to his tomb by his son.  There is a second boat towing the one that carries the mummy figure. And along the shore are servants that were symbolic representations of different farms of Nespeqashuty, carrying the products of each. One of the great things about this work is that it was never completed. You can see the process of creation, the drawings in red ocher, the rough carvings and the finished carving. None of it was painted.  I had taught in front of this object for a number of years before I noticed the perspective. You had a river with two banks and they were stacked upon upon another visually like three books.  The closest bank on the bottom, the river in the middle of the stack and the far side of the river ( farthest away) in the top.  ( I loved it and it became something that I often pointed out to students)  Last week I was again at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, this time looking at monumental Chinese landscape paintings. Something began click in my head. Suddenly I saw it.  The Chinese painters were using what might be called near view, middle, and distant view that is also a stacking of land like three books upon each other with, in this case lots of misty voids , obscuring the links between them. I liked it!


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