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The figures in the tomb were drawn according to a convention that was well established, first shown on the Narmer palette. The convention was: head in profile, eye full frontal, shoulders full frontal with distinct collar bones, arms in profile, hand does not appear as a hand but as a symbol for a hand, upper chest side view with one nipple, navel three quarters with belly button showing two thirds along, legs profile, feet striding, inner side of foot always shown so depending on the direction of the figure there will be two left or two right feet. It is not until the New Kingdom that both left and right feet will be shown. Mostly the figure is shown facing left which means when it was turned to face right, for example on both sides of a doorway, it can be a little clumsy.
The convention used to depict the tomb owner can differ from that used for other individuals. The re-creation of physical activities doesn’t extend to the deceased who is usually shown in a “passive role, watching rather than doing”, and is often looking towards the tomb’s entrance. David (1975, p.68) explains that a son may be encoded by the side-lock of youth and is typically depicted significantly smaller than his father. From the titles associated with Ptah-Hotep’s children they must have been adults when the tomb was decorated. David emphasizes that the size of figures indicates status and not perspective. In any scene the largest figure is the most important. The tomb owner and other important figures were “rendered as young, vigorous and beautiful”, while other less important figures are shown more honestly but still within established conventions
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Jul 13th, 2015
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