“Due to reopen at the Musées royaux d’art et d’histoire in Brussels in September, L’Art du contour, le dessin dans l’Egypte ancienne focuses on one of the foundations of art in ancient Egypt, the art of drawing.
Presented in a small temporary exhibition space in the Richelieu wing of the Louvre, the exhibition could almost be overlooked by visitors hurrying through to the museum’s main collections. However, the exhibition’s small size belies its importance, since this is apparently the first time that the subject has been dealt with in a dedicated exhibition, and it has benefitted from the kind of scholarly treatment that perhaps the Louvre almost alone of all international museums is still able to devote to it.
There is an impressive catalogue containing specially commissioned essays on various aspects of ancient Egyptian drawing by recognised specialists. These consider topics such as the formal and technical aspects of ancient Egyptian drawing, as well as the material conditions of its production, including the training, remuneration and professional status of ancient Egyptian artists. The aim has been to explore how western-trained art historians might make sense of ancient Egyptian drawing, the curator, Guillemette Andreu-Lanoe, says in her introduction to the catalogue, before going on to quote the opinion of Giorgio Vasari, the Italian Renaissance artist, for whom drawing was “the father of the arts of architecture, painting and sculpture.”
L’Art du contour, the title of the exhibition, might be translated as the art of the line or of the outline, and it is with the notion of outlines that the exhibition begins. When referring to the visual arts or visual artists, the ancient Egyptians talked of the sesh kedout, or “outline scribe”, literally the “writer of forms”, who was responsible for producing the designs that famously decorated the walls of tombs or temples along with papyrus texts, funerary stelae, and occasionally domestic items. This vocabulary brings the ancient Egyptian art of drawing close to the art of writing practised by other scribes in the form of hieroglyphics, which, as the exhibition points out, were often pictograms or graphically encoded language” – via Al-Ahram Weekly.
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L’Art du contour, le dessin dans l’Egypte ancienne is at the Musées royaux d’art et d’histoire, Brussels, from 13th September 2013.