The Tomb Chapel of Menna (TT 69) The Art, Culture, and Science of Painting in an Egyptian Tomb

Reading January 26. 2019

The Tomb Chapel of Menna (TT 69): The Art, Culture, and Science of Painting in an Egyptian Tomb. Edited by Melinda Hartwig. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2013.

Project description

The conservation and documentation of the tomb chapel of Menna (TT 69) at Luxor was implemented between 2007 and 2009, under the direction of Melinda Hartwig of Georgia State University, with the support of USAID and the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE). The results of this project were published in a lavishly decorated book, The Tomb Chapel of Menna (TT 69): The Art, Culture, and Science of Painting in an Egyptian Tomb (edited by Melinda Hartwig, and published by The American University in Cairo Press, in 2013).

Decorative program 

The eighteenth dynasty tomb of Menna is one of the most beautiful and complex painted tombs of the Theban necropolis of the Nobles at Luxor. 

The tomb, cut into the rock of the upper ridges of Sheikh Abd Al-Qurna, “is situated in a slightly sunken, enclosed forecourt. The plan of the tomb chapel is in the form of an inverted ‘T’ composed of a broad transverse hall and a long inner hall with a shrine at the end.” (see page 9 for more information)

“The architecture of the tomb was organized specifically for the eternal life of the tomb owner. The upper level or superstructure of the tomb related to the solar cult and the worship of the sun. The middle level was the place in which the tomb owner’s cult was celebrated, and it remained accessible to the living. This included the forecourt, where the relatives of the deceased gathered to honor the dead during necropolis festivals; and the tomb chapel, that acted as a type of festival hall. The lower level, or burial, was closed after the funeral ceremonies, and related to the Osirian realm and the containment of the body. The decoration of the private tomb complex conformed to this tripartite division with solar themes in the upper level, scenes focusing on the life, cult and afterlife of the tomb owner in the chapel or middle level, and images of the hereafter in the burial chamber (if decorated).” (see page 21 for more information)

“The decorative program in the tomb chapel of Menna is almost perfectly preserved, which allows for a nuanced reading of its images and texts. The decorative focus was on Menna and his family, their identity, and their well-being in this and the next world. Menna’s decorative program also included specific gods and goddesses from whom he sought favor or protection, and whose presence reflected the religious temper of the time.” (see page 22 for more information)

Documentation method

Digital Line Drawings

“The digital drawing specialist for the project, Pieter Collet, took the stitched photographs and traced them as vector drawings directly on the interactive screen of a Wacom Cintiq® 21UX in Adobe Illustrator®. For the drawings, he followed the thickness of the painted line, and fixed it to a color key of black, gray, green, and blue. Black fills of differing thickness followed the size of the outlines of the paintings, independent of their original colors. Black was also used for internal details, and areas in which black paint was used extensively. Where preliminary drawings were visible, black brushstroke-fill was used as well. In the case of colored areas that were not outlined, a consistent weight for a black line was applied. A mid-gray was applied in those cases where the brushstrokes were so close to each other that, upon reduction, they would meld together. A lighter gray was used for the grids and sketch lines, where visible. A dark-gray fill indicates the graffiti painted over one of the filled grain baskets on the agricultural wall. Green was utilized to reconstruct what was once visible in earlier photographs (Mond, Burton, Schott, etc.). Blue was employed for earlier underdrawings and paintings that are, today, visible to the eye.” (see page 130 for more information)

Visual example(s)

Figure 2.6a Osiris wall with (1) Menna and Henuttawy followed by two attendants adoring Osiris, the god of the underworld, seated in a kiosk; and (2) sub-scene of offering bearers and men lighting two large braziers. Broad Hall Small Left (BHSL) (Photo).

Figure 2.6b Osiris wall with (1) Menna and Henuttawy followed by two attendants adoring Osiris, the god of the underworld, seated in a kiosk; and (2) sub-scene of offering bearers and men lighting two large braziers. Broad Hall Small Left (BHSL) (Drawing).

Figure 2.10a False-door stela with a cavetto cornice and offering text. The inside stela: (1) with Anubis before Osiris and the western goddess (upper left), and Re-Horakhty with Hathor on the right; (2) middle register with two representations of Menna and Henuttawy; and (3) lower register with two sets of figures including Menna and his wife, followed by priests adoring before an offering table. At the sides of the false-door stela, figures of Menna and Henuttawy adore on two registers. Broad Hall Small Right (BHSR) (Photo).

Figure 2.10b False-door stela with a cavetto cornice and offering text. The inside stela: (1) with Anubis before Osiris and the western goddess (upper left), and Re-Horakhty with Hathor on the right; (2) middle register with two representations of Menna and Henuttawy; and (3) lower register with two sets of figures including Menna and his wife, followed by priests adoring before an offering table. At the sides of the false-door stela, figures of Menna and Henuttawy adore on two registers. Broad Hall Small Right (BHSR) (Drawing).

Figure 2.8b: Valley Festival wall (Drawing detail).

What we like

  • The drawing technique (vectorized lines occasionally enhanced by a solid black fill), applied for representing the outlines of decorative elements, succeeds in capturing the distinct brushwork of the original.
  • Although color representation is omitted from the outline drawings, certain elements such as damage outlines, internal details, preliminary sketches, grids, graffiti etc. are differentiated by the systematic use of greyscale hues.
  • The widespread utilization of black fill concerning elements other than painted outlines (wigs, hieroglyphs etc.) creates a stark contrast with the rest of the visual representation.
  • The only bright hues that appear on the drawings are green and blue which are intended to differentiate between reconstructions based on archival photographs and earlier underdrawings respectively (see Figure 2.8b).
  • As not to be too obtrusive while keeping the focus on the decorative elements, only larger damaged areas are indicated. Furthermore, wherever represented on the drawings, their outlines are rendered by a subtle light gray hue.

Addititonal reading

You can purchase “The Tomb Chapel of Menna (TT 69): The Art, Culture, and Science of Painting in an Egyptian Tomb” directly from the publisher through the website of The American University in Cairo Press (LE 600).

It is also available via numerous retailers, American readers can order the book through Amazon.com ($58.83), while readers from the Old Continent can buy it at Amazon Germany (EUR 99), Amazon France (EUR 93.78) and Amazon UK (from £35.78).

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