12.08.2014

Blue Treasure of Ancient Egypt: The Importance of Natural and Manmade Blue Colored Materials in Egypt from the Time of the Fourth Dynasty to the Twenty-second Dynasty

Most of what we know of the Egyptian culture has been deducted from hieroglyphics, but we can also learn a lot about the culture from the artwork that has been discovered. Art was very important for their religious and political practices so they were very innovative in the ways they used the materials available to them[i]. This research paper is going to describe how impactful blue colored materials were for this culture during the time around 2500 B.C. to 900 B.C., and how they used both natural and man-made materials. Scholars have found that they paid attention to detail when it came to their art, and their man-made materials will be the focus of this paper to show how innovative and religious the Egyptian culture was. The man-made will also be compared to the natural materials available to them to show why they might have preferred the imitations.
            The Egyptians had many close resources available to them like limestone, calcite, sandstone, schist, and preywacke. Harder stones were quartzite, diorite, granite, and basalt[ii]. Blue colored Egyptian art pieces are most likely going to be made of either lapis lazuli, turquoise, glass, faience, Egyptian blue, or glass glazes from what we know today.
Colors are kept pure in their artwork without hardly any tinting or shading[iii]. Colors of the various stones were important to the Egyptians and they applied different meanings and symbols to each of the colors. For example, warm hues represented the god Horus or the sun and black was often a symbol of the life giving soil from the Nile. Osiris, the god of the underworld, was represented with green or black because of their belief in his resurrection[iv]. Gods that were painted or carved from blue materials would be related with the sky, cosmos, divinity, or other godly traits. The Nile River was an important eternal life source and the color blue imitated all the life giving aspects of the waters. Every color had multiple meanings and the color blue was used a lot in their art, so it must have been a very important symbol for their culture[v].
Precious metals were also important as symbols. Gold and silver personified the flesh and bones of gods. The combination of blue with the metals had an aesthetic purpose, but more importantly, it was used to show the high ranking status of the subject it represented[vi].
Turquoise and lapis lazuli were highly cherished because of their beautiful blue colors and the challenges that it took to get them. Turquoise had been brought over from Sinai, and they used trade routes in Afghanistan for lapis lazuli since both could not be found in Egypt[vii]. Even with the challenge of getting blue colored materials, they made many things out of natural blue semiprecious stones.  Egyptian artwork, besides sculpture and paintings, almost always had semiprecious stones inlaid into patterns. Cloisonné was a form of inlaying where metals would be melted or shaped to look like tiny borders outlining the desired pattern. Glass or stones would be carved to fit into the shapes so that the metal would outline the patterns. Wearable artworks were mostly cloisonné pieces or intricate beaded patterns. (Fig. 1) is a gold cloisonné necklace pendant inlayed with natural materials. The light sky blue color is turquoise, the dark blue colors are lapis lazuli, and the burnt orange is carnelian.
The Egyptians had experimented with creating their own blue glazes and materials to imitate real gemstones[viii]. Egyptian artwork made with faience has been found in funerary complexes dating back as early as the third dynasty[ix]. The process for making faience started in Mesopotamia and the knowledge must have eventually been taken to Egyptians through trading routes. The Egyptian word for the material is tjehenet, but in English it is known as faience[x]. This man-made material was cost effective, and the materials used to create the blue color were less expensive than the real semi-precious stones. Its placidity was perfect for smaller items and jewelry.
The process had been in the Egyptian culture for so many centuries that they were able to finely tune their knowledge on how to make the best quality glazes of all different colors, and the imitated colors match very closely to their natural models[xi]. The picture to the left (Fig. 2) shows two processions creating faience artwork. The man on the bottom left corner is holding a round symbol that looks similar to a beaded necklace and the next seems to be holding a weaving contraption. The use of blue Egyptian faience must have made these processes faster since they didn’t have to travel far to get the materials, but it was still considered a very valuable and have been found in many high ranking tombs. Faience is created by grinding a base of the readily available quartz and sand with a combination other materials, and then mixed with a little water to be molded and shaped. Small molds for beads and figures have been found throughout artist’s workshops[xii]. Colored glazes were added using an efflorescence, cementation, or application glazing[xiii] on the surface of the quartz base to change the color. The right combination of minerals made it very aesthetically pleasing for being an imitation of the highly desired precious stones and there are many that closely resemble with turquoise or lapis lazuli[xiv]. The mixture was fired after being molded and glazed so the process seems to be faster and easier to create objects of Faience than it was to carve stone.  The Egyptians were known for taking innovative steps for grand architecture and inventions, but even something as simple as creating their own colors to save on time and resources is an achievement[xv].
Faience is an interesting glazing technique because of the brilliant colors and textures that can be created. Like previously mentioned, it could be manipulated into many colors and they wanted to imitate precious materials that they already knew, but it was much brighter and shinier than stones. It had very strong hues and a glassy ceramic look.
The Amarna period is known to have a very different style of art compared to most of the traditional art from the austere Egyptian culture. They have found numerous artifacts of glass and faience that date back to the Amarna period. (Fig. 3) Glass artwork like vessels were created during this time. Faience might have been the preferred material because of its industrial qualities, its verstilbility, and it had many possibilities with bright colors because blue wasn’t the only color that was popular during this time. They created a lot of faience jewelry that was multi-colored with white, green, yellow, red, purple, and others[xvi].
Jewelry is a great example of how they would combine man-made and natural beads to make intricate patterns, but other combined forms of art are death masks, furniture, internal organ coffins, and sarcophaguses. (Fig. 4) The Death Mask of Tutankhamen, created after the Amarna period, is a masterpiece of gold work and inlayed gems. Blue stripes of glass paste are inlayed in the headdress, eyebrows, and outlining the eyes[xvii]. Egyptian glass paste, is not a paste, but is colored glass that has been shaped and cemented into the grooves of gold. The blue color in the glass came mainly from cobalt and/or copper.  Cobalt found mixed into the glass meant that Egyptian glass workers were connected with glass makers from other cultures because Egyptians didn’t have immediate access to Cobalt[xviii]. The man-made and natural materials harmonize well with each other and are durable enough to last so many years.
They created many artworks that were purely imitation. Shapes of small figures were usually of animals or deities, but most shapes were beads and decorative objects for jewelry and clothes. Shapes of small faience figurines called Shabtis (Fig. 5) are miniature versions of Egyptian sarcophaguses or sculptures and they were placed inside the tombs of mummies[xix]. Details were painted with manganese after they were fired[xx]. Hieroglyphics are almost always seen on Shabtis to describe their purpose or to guide the person in the afterlife. Hundreds of these were needed to work on behalf of the dead according to their beliefs. Because of the need for so many figurines, faience would have been perfect because of how easy they were to produce, their amazing colors, and smooth surface quality[xxi].
There are many other aspects of blue treasures of Egypt that can be learned from, but most importantly, they show how essential artwork was and how productive the Egyptian culture was. Shapes and colors in the art symbolize their religious beliefs, and because the color blue had important symbolism of godly traits and the Nile, natural materials such as turquoise and lapis lazuli were highly prized. Natural stones were significant religiously even though they were harder to acquire and were not as manageable compared to the man-made art materials like faience and glass. So man-made materials like faience and glass were also important and highly valued blue treasures even though they were only imitations.

Citations 
[i] Tiradritti, Francesco, and Araldo De Luca. Egyptian Treasures from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1999. Print
[ii] Robins, Gay. The Art of Ancient Egypt. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2000. Print. 24.
[iii] Robins 24.
[iv] Singer, Graciela G., Dr. "Color in Ancient Egypt." Acadamia. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Dec. 2014. <http://www.academia.edu/386121/Color_in_Ancient_Egypt>. 11.
[v] Singer 11.
[vi] Robins 25.
[vii] Robins 114.
[viii] Robins 25.
[ix] Tiradritti 47.
[x] Shaw, Ian, Paul T. Nicholson, Ian Shaw, and Ian Shaw. The Princeton Dictionary of Ancient Egypt. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2008. Print. 110.
[xi] Mark, Joshua J. "Faience." Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 11 Aug. 2010. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http://www.ancient.eu/Faience/>.
[xii] "Faience Openwork Collar." The British Museum. Trustees of the British Museum, n.d. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.britishmuseum.org%2Fexplore%2Fhighlights%2Fhighlight_objects%2Faes%2Ff%2Ffaience_openwork_collar.aspx>
[xiii] Shaw 111.
[xiv] Mark.
[xv] Shaw 111.
[xvi] "Ancient Egyptian Art | Vessel | F1909.416." Ancient Egyptian Art | Vessel | F1909.416. Smithsonian Insititution, n.d. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http://www.asia.si.edu/collections/zoomObject.cfm?ObjectId=4914>.
[xvii] Tiradritti 235.
[xviii] Lucas, A., and J. R. Harris. Ancient Egyptian Materials and Industries. London: E. Arnold, 1962. Print. 189.
[xix] Hawass, Zahi A. Valley of the Golden Mummies. New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams, 2000. Print. 142.
[xx] Shaw 110.
[xxi] Hawass 142.
Bibliography
Alfred, Cyril. Egyptian Art in the Days of the Pharaohs, 3100-320 BC. New York, NY: Thames and Hudson, 1985. Print.
"Ancient Egyptian Art | Vessel | F1909.416." Ancient Egyptian Art | Vessel | F1909.416. Smithsonian Insititution, n.d. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http://www.asia.si.edu/collections/zoomObject.cfm?ObjectId=4914>.
Crane, Anne. Image of Blue Faience Royal Shabti. Digital image. Antiques Trade Gazette. N.p., 8 Nov. 2012. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http://www.antiquestradegazette.com/news/2012/nov/08/lively-demand-at-paris-auctions-for-egyptian-antiquities/>.
"Faience Openwork Collar." The British Museum. Trustees of the British Museum, n.d. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.britishmuseum.org%2Fexplore%2Fhighlights%2Fhighlight_objects%2Faes%2Ff%2Ffaience_openwork_collar.aspx>
Freed, Rita E., Sue D'Auria, and Yvonne J. Markowitz. Pharaohs of the Sun: Akhenaten, Nefertiti, Tutankhamen. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts in Association with Bulfinch/Little, Brown, 1999. Print.
Hawass, Zahi A. Valley of the Golden Mummies. New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams, 2000. Print.
Image of Death Mask of Tutankhamen. Digital image. Paul Donovan: King Tut’s Toot. The Sunday Times, 17 Apr. 2011. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/culture/film_and_tv/radio/article603247.ece>.
Lucas, A., and J. R. Harris. Ancient Egyptian Materials and Industries. London: E. Arnold, 1962. Print.
Málek, Jaromír. Egypt: Ancient Culture, Modern Land. Norman, OK: U of Oklahoma, 1993. Print.
Mark, Joshua J. "Faience." Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 11 Aug. 2010. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http://www.ancient.eu/Faience/>.
Robins, Gay. The Art of Ancient Egypt. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2000. Print.
Shaw, Ian, Paul T. Nicholson, Ian Shaw, and Ian Shaw. The Princeton Dictionary of Ancient Egypt. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2008. Print.
Singer, Graciela G., Dr. "Color in Ancient Egypt." Acadamia. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Dec. 2014. <http://www.academia.edu/386121/Color_in_Ancient_Egypt>. 11.
Tiradritti, Francesco, and Araldo De Luca. Egyptian Treasures from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1999. Print.

12.02.2014

Ivory Sculptures: The Influence of Carolingian and Ottonain Ivory Carvings on Cathedral Portals during the Romanesque and Gothic Era

Art is progressive and is constantly changing throughout history. To learn about why certain styles and subjects became popular we have to look at the previous artwork. The purpose of this research is to learn about ivory manuscript coverings created during the Carolingian and Ottonian empires[i] and how that sculpture work later influenced the stonework on cathedrals during the Romanesque[ii] and Gothic eras[iii].Carved ivory plaques and tablets were used to decorate manuscript coverings during the Carolingian and Ottonian empires. The iconoclastic controversy caused a pause in history with any standing sculpture innovations[iv], so relief carvings were the most popular form of sculpture, and ivory was a great material for beautiful lightweight carvings[v]. There is an apparent influence of ivory carvings on a lot of sculpture work because of the limited amount of techniques they could use.

Ivory has been used for centuries as a valuable art form It’s a hard dense material that comes from elephant tusks or animal horns. It was carved out to create relief and free standing sculptures. The longevity and durability of ivory is attractive because it endures and lasts through erosion over time. It has beautiful light colors that can be either matte or slightly shiny. Elephant tusks were more available than mammoth tusks and reindeer horn. Sculptures created from ivory can only be as big as the tusk so they are usually small plaques and sculptures[vi]. The size was also perfect for the time because standing statues were considered idols in the early Christian era[vii]. They got rid of any sculptures that were large and free standing and replaced them with mosaics or paintings. Ivory carving was around for thousands of years before the Carolingian and Ottonian eras but Charlemagne and rulers after him wanted to use them even more to fulfill religious and educational needs[viii]. During the persecutions of the early Christians, before Christianity was the dominating religion, ivories were a useful form for them to create crucifixes and holy relics because it small and portable to carry since they didn’t have major church buildings[ix].

Since the Christians used a lot of ivory, the subjects that were depicted in the artwork were mostly ecclesiastic stories and depictions. The stories of Christ were taught most in the church, so artwork would usually depict the Last Judgment, the Atonement, his crucifixion, the birth of Christ and others. Any other subjects might include old testament stories and non-ecclesiastical subjects were most likely going to have royal subjects[x]. During the Carolingian era, there was a revival of older art forms and a want for classical literacy and education[xi]. The Carolingian era in the late 8th century until the early 11th century[xii] started with Emperor Charlemagne who was the first emperor in the East since the dwindling of the Roman Empire[xiii]. Charlemagne was fascinated by the Roman and classical styles of art, and this was the time the Byzantines were going through the iconoclastic controversy. Charlemagne emphasized on the importance of art and literature and wanted to start schools for scholars and artists to come and create a learning hub, and the copying of manuscripts increased during this time and bound manuscripts were valuable. The subjects that the ivory was carved into were mostly religious[xiv].

There are many purposes of ivory, but this section will describe why it was useful for manuscript covers. Ivory is a charming and lightweight material that was great for carving details. Wood isn’t as durable as ivory and it’s harder to get fine detail in stone without having it break and chip. With precious metals you can get the same amount of details and subtleties like ivory but precious metals were often recycled for other purposes so it’s more likely that metal artwork wouldn’t endure new owners. Ivory can’t be burned or recycled so once it’s been carved it’s likely it won’t ever be changed again[xv]. Once scrolls became hard to come by people began to create the codex which needed hard covers to protect the pages. Commissioners of the books were usually wealthy so there was a lot of attention paid to the worth and artwork of the covers made out of precious metals, gems, wood, and ivory. Ivory was perfect for book covers because of its light weight compared to stone and metal, its beautiful coloring went well with the jewels encrusted around the plaque, It was more durable than wood and leather, and it was great for carving details and figures out of it[xvi].

The style of relief sculpture is usually flat and filled with symbolism in a horror vacui fashion because of the small size, so there’s little room for realism.The ivory plaque of The Virgin Child with Zacharias and John the Baptist (Fig. 1) was a cover for the Lorsch gospels created in 810 during the Carolingian empire. Analyzation of this plaque helps to give a general familiarity of what Carolingian ivory carvings were like[xvii]. The composition is split into five sections, and the figures are sorted into a hierarchy of scale and position with the most important figure being the largest and placed in the middle section.

The beginning of the Romanesque era came around 1000 AD and the churches that were built during this time were simple but very dense and heavy feeling[xviii]. The inside of the churches were decorated with mosaics and paintings but they were dark because the architects were still in the process of learning how to make tall buildings and larger windows without having too many structural problems. There was not much progress in terms of sculptural decorations on the Romanesque style buildings, but if there was sculpture it would be decorating the portals for the doorways. A great example of a sculptural portal is on The Cathédrale St-Lazare built in 1130-1146 which is a very important historical building in Autun, France. The master sculptor Gislebertus worked on the tympanum


A manuscript cover called The Crucifixion (Fig. 3) from the Book of Periscopes of Emperor Heinrich II 1002 – 1012 AD during the Ottonian Empire before the Romanesque era and after the Carolingian empire. It is a plaque of ivory with a gold border inlaid with jewels[xxi]. The ivory work on this piece differs slightly from the Ivory cover of the Lorsch gospels because the focal point is less dominant. Christ is centered but he is roughly the same size as the other figures so the hierarchy of scale isn’t as prominent. There is more movement in this story because of the different poses and actions of the figures, and the decorative patterns surrounding the figures are more prominent. This ivory of the Crucifixion is closer in age and resembles the portal of Autun cathedral more so than the Virgin and Child with Zacharias and John the Baptist ivory plaque, so this style might have more influential to Romanesque buildings. (Fig. 2) on the portal which is covered with relief sculptures and decorations[xix]. The Romanesque tympanum (Fig. 2) resembles an enlarged ivory manuscript cover. The figures are not realistic but are more symbolized in humanoid form. The story is of the Last Judgment where Jesus Christ is positioned in the middle sitting on a throne with saints, devils, and people waiting to be judged are surrounding Christ in a horror vacui style. It’s very organized and figures are split into sections on the main part of the tympanum. Christ splits the composition in half vertically above a row of small figures. The use of hierarchic scale and the stretched out figures helps to unify the vibrating zigzag lines. The figures are still very flat even though they are cut away from the base wall. Square lines also make the figures unrealistic and stylized. An idealistic or realistic sculpture would have more smoothed out and rhythmic lines, but that was not the goal for this piece. Because of these features in the sculptures there are many similarities between ivory carvings and cathedral stonework. Ivory artists are said to have been influenced by manuscript illumination artists for the style of carvings, so it’s logical for stone carvers to get some measure of influence and knowledge from the older ivory work[xx].

The Gothic era started around 1300 AD after the Romanesque era, which is known for its change of styles in architecture[xxii]. Gothic style was very prominent in the Christian cathedrals and churches which had become more decorative on every section throughout the building. Many modifications of the Romanesque style included sculpture work because this was a time when relief sculpture was slowly breaking into realism[xxiii]. Portals on Notre Dame de Paris (FIG 4) is an example of how the figures started to become rounded and slightly father away from the base as seen on the crucifixion ivory (FIG 3).

Progressions in sculpture work throughout Medieval Europe show the influence of ivory carvings on larger sculpture work. Ivory was valuable and durable so it was a well known material to sculptures. During the Carolingian and Ottonian empires, ivory plaques made for illuminated manuscripts. There is a multitude of resemblances between ivory plaques that were used for illuminated manuscripts and the sculpture work on portals of cathedrals, so the sculptors of the Romanesque and Gothic eras must have been influenced by ivory work available to them because new art styles come from a continual progression and is influenced by past work.


Bibliography
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Duby, Georges. History of Medieval Art, 980-1440. New York: Skira/Rizzoli, 1986. Print.
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Works Cited
[i] Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner's Art through the Ages. a Global History. Boston, MA: Thomson, 2009. Print. 429.
[ii] Kleiner 458.
[iii] Kleiner 495.
[iv] Snyder, James. Medieval Art: Painting-sculpture-architecture, 4th-14th Century. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1989. Print. 128.
[v] "Early Christian Sculpture (c.100-1050)." Early Christian Sculpture: History, Characteristics. Encyclopedia of Sculpture, n.d. Web. 4 Dec. 2014. <http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/sculpture/early-christian.htm>.
[vi] "Ivory Carving (35,000 BCE - Present)." Ivory Carving: History, Characteristics of Ivories. Encyclopedia of Sculpture, n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2014. <http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/sculpture/ivory-carving.htm>.
[vii] “Early Christian Sculpture”
[viii] "Ottonian Art." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 4 Dec. 2014. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/435216/Ottonian-art>.
[ix] “Ivory Carving (35,000 BCE – Present).
[x] “Ivory Carving (35,000 BCE – Present).”
[xi] Kleiner 415-16.
[xii] “Ottonian Art”
[xiii] Kleiner 415.
[xiv] Kleiner 415-17.
[xv] “Ivory Carving (35,000 BCE – Present).”
[xvi] Kleiner 418.
[xvii] Snyder 225.
[xviii] Kleiner 459.
[xix] Toman, Rolf, and Achim Bednorz. Romanesque: Architecture, Sculpture, Painting. Köln: Könemann, 1997. Print. 274.
[xx] Snyder 225.
[xxi] Snyder 226.
[xxii] Kleiner 494.
[xxiii] Toman, Rolf, and Achim Bednorz. The Art of Gothic: Architecture, Sculpture,   Painting. Köln: Könemann, 1999. Print. 311.