All You Should Know about the Egyptian Paintings on Tomb

All You Should Know about the Egyptian Paintings on Tomb

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The ancient part of Egyptians is evidently one of the longest antiquities to reign as well, admittedly by many experts, to be inspiring and advance in their time. They're structured, systematic, and functional. Egypt especially holds a strong position when it comes to culture and art. Their civilization, in fact, is ravishing. Ancient Egypt is distinct, fascinating the eyes and mind until centuries later even after all buried under the ground. Who doesn't know about their great pyramid, sphinx, and mummy? We know that the ancient Egyptians created it. However, it's not only those they're famous for. The arts from their antiquity are prominent and it's not only in the art wise of beauty. Although it's one as a companion, the value of the Egyptian paintingslay elsewhere. In their time, painting is more than the art we know today. If you're familiar with the slogan of 'art for art's sake', our earth predecessors from Egypt didn't know a single concept about that. Ancient Egyptian paintingsare more promising shreds of evidence, which allow the present to dive in and take a grab of their vibrant society, than merely arts for aesthetic purposes.

Unlike the paintings found in other ancient cultures, the Egyptian paintingsare mostly spotted on top of tombs. Tomb paintings are found in almost every grave revealed by the archeologists, and on those are lively and colorful paintings which not only catch the eyes but tell a story of many men's lives. It illustrates the life owned by the one inside the tomb before death fetched him from the living world. How he lived, what he worked, what he loved; the paintings expressed it. Hence, the Egyptian paintingson the tomb are more than ornaments. It is details of their civilization, a strict and unique ritual as a way to lead their beloveds in the afterlife.

If you have a glimpse about the ancient Egyptians, they had a strong belief of the afterlife as they had for the world. Thus, this part of the culture is influenced greatly by that mindset. They believed by paintings the tomb; the ka (soul) will have the guidance to cross the other side. Therefore, paintings for the Egyptians are sacral to a degree and must be done in a proper way which bears a lot of meaning. However, there's more about their paintings than that, so here are all the things you need to know about the Egyptian paintings.

What are the important aspects of Egyptian paintings?

The first thing you'll be introduced to is the important and meaningful aspects in Egyptian paintings. We'll first look on the surface and slowly dive in deeper, so strap your seat belt tight and let's start.

As talking about the important aspects of the ancient Egyptian paintings, there're three which make a big difference between each tomb painting from others. It's also the classifications that lead to uniqueness in Egyptian paintings. Although similar, there's hardly possible for a tomb in Egypt to have an exact copy.


Widely known by the world, the social status had been a strong game in ancient Egypt. The slavery issue was also one suffered in this antiquity. There’s a hierarchy that group people and the status for them are taken to death.

To show this, they expressed it through the size of the paintings. In short, higher status had a bigger picture and lower status got the smaller one. The difference can be seen between the tomb of man and woman. Women were regarded as lower importance than man, so the painting of the human depicting them will be smaller. Their prestige was believed as innate and given to them since birth. Thus, it should be taken to the afterlife as a part of identity.

An interesting fact that might escape many minds is the slaves and poor ones didn’t get any tomb and in accordance with no paintings. They can’t afford the paintings because it’s expensive and they’re seen as a lower society who none cares. Unfortunate for them, however, this is hardly mentioned. Well, who can be blamed? The Egyptian paintings are indeed exciting and it shadows the ugly side it also comes with. So, it can be said that the Egyptian paintings, especially on tombs, only are the culture for the rich and powerful people in ancient Egypt.


The next aspect in Egyptian paintings is Color. Color is a dominant aspect of any kind of painting, in any culture, in both modern and ancient. It holds a special place which determines the value of paintings. The better the mix, the better it becomes. Or it’s what we’re seen around.

However, the application is a bit different in Egyptian paintings. In ancient Egypt, the color is valued not merely on its beautiful shades but also the meaning and power embedded in it. This is originated from their belief that the colors had the power to guide the soul in the journey of the afterlife. They believed for certain that each color had special power linked to their gods than the mere symbolic it portrays.

The important colors found from those many tombs are green, blue, red, yellow, white, silver, and black which each relates to a god. Those colors are each believed to have the relationship with the gods. Yellow, for example, is famous to be the representation of Ra and Green is to represent Osiris. Thus, colors are an important aspect of Egyptian tomb paintings. By giving the color, it’s believed to be the safeguard of the deceased.

In fact, Egyptians were utterly serious when it came about their paint for painting. They didn’t only make good paints for short use but they made paint to be used for a long time, as long as for eternity. The quality is proven by the vivid color on the paintings which is visible until now. This perseverance of the color is also maintained by the dry air surrounding Egypt.


It’s no doubt that symbol in Egyptian paintings as important as the previous two aspects. There’re always countless symbols in each of Egypt tomb. Some symbols are really simple, like a stone in hand showing the liking for hunting. But, it can also be complicated and traditional. Ankh, lotus, Bennu bird, ‘was’-scepter and the eye as an example, to know those symbols, one will need an in-depth knowledge of the Egyptian culture.

The symbol of ankh was central in tomb painting since ankh stood as the key for the gate of the death and beyond. It’s the first way for the soul in his way to the afterlife. This is a symbol which pictures the ability to give and take life away. In first glance, we would never guess such a simple looking symbol possessed such great power.

Tomb paintings were rich in symbols, and each of the symbols has specific meaning as well function to lead the deceased in his next journey. The symbols may also embody the image of gods worshipped in that era.

Is there any specific characteristic?

The second section you will jump in is about the noticeable characteristics of Egyptian paintings which are not found in other cultures. In this level, we’ll still look on the surface of the painting, the details which label those paintings as Egyptian’s. However, slowly, we’ll go deeper to show you those sides of our great ancient Egyptians and their famous and fascinating paintings.

While the size, color, and symbol make the Egyptian paintings, there must be something that distinguishes their paintings from other arts. Indeed, there are two characteristics of their paintings considered odd by others.

Stoic face

When you’re googling about Egyptian paintings, you must be seeing the stoic and emotionless faces filled your searching tab. The Egyptians are prone to draw their painting emotionless, and if you read it right, that’s the first characteristic of Egyptian paintings. This one isn't hard to point, eh? Well, for a lot of time, you must be thinking that it’s just a style choice. However, it’s more than a mere coincidence or a style grown in the middle of Egyptian painters.

Actually, there’s a fundamental reason resulting Egyptians made their painting that way. That stoic unreadable faces which became flair of their painting identity and the dash of Egyptian style. The main reason is, the Egyptians believed that emotion is only transient which means temporary and isn't an identity. It didn’t last forever. Emotion and feeling for the Egyptians were pretty much like catching a cold, it stayed only for a while then gone. Thus, their paintings didn't bear any emotion, because it was never necessary for them. Fundamentally, the ancient Egyptians believed that one’s identity didn’t practically include emotion and so in their paintings dedicated to guide and give a knowledge of the deceased about their identity, emotion shouldn’t be worn in the paintings.

Typically alike

If you take a second look of the paintings, you must realize that there’s a vivid similarity between the paintings. Even though the tombs didn’t exactly resemble each other, it seemingly has standard rules or guidelines which make it similar. Do you have it cross your mind? May that idea cross; it is, in fact, true and not by any casual coincidence. The ancient Egyptian didn’t have yet the concept of painting for art’s sake. Painting and art are structural, functional, and sacral in its making. Thus, there’re standards for the proper painting. Pretty different to our current understanding about art, no? But, it was exactly what makes the Egyptian paintings interesting.

The painters in Egypt are following the previous mold left for them, trying to perfect it, and making a beautiful art too. The Egyptians took the paintings duty to a different level. In Egyptian paintings, it’s greater than the pretty look but it’s an in-depth relationship with their belief. It’s a scarce responsibility to make the guidance for the dead. Hence, their paintings are seemingly similar in some carves.

What does it tell about the people?

Now, the last part is here. After we digest about the superficial sides of the paintings, it’s the moment to see its importance and its functions. Let’s swim deeper about what is the use of these paintings for them and for us? What’s the significance?

Well, the Egyptian paintings are a prominent field in their culture and surely it’s not because of nothing. Do you follow? The paintings are closely related to the world after death or the afterlife for ancient Egypt. It’s the connector which allowed the Egyptians to tend to their respected or beloved ones to the new journey, to meet their gods, and to be revived as one in the new world. The paintings spoke volume for the one it’s drawn for.


Within the paintings, the status of class and position was shown boldly using lavish color and bigger size. Indeed, for the Egyptians, until death will their status remain. It might sound arrogant in some ways, or plain egoist. However, the Egyptian strongly believed to fate, to the gods who gave wonder to a specific human in order to rule the country. It’s inevitable for the ancient Egyptian to have the status painted on the tomb. It’s an identity that they’re proud of, and identity of one’s life should be taken and reminisced by his soul as he crossed the way to the afterlife.

The paintings embroidered the tomb was, again, to guide the soul to remember who he was on earth. Status, class, and position from this world, therefore, were necessary and vital to the being. Without having an identity, the soul can lose his way. Nonetheless, if we think back to the poor ones that can’t have the proper burial, it may come rudely. Still, this was a belief they’re standing for and there’s the willingness to follow from the others.


The identity was also depicted from the lifestyle, daily life. In the tomb paintings, the painters added many symbolic elements and combination of colors. Those were to portray and preserve the image of the deceased. It might help the soul to identify more about himself and accordingly have an easier way to the afterlife. To know who they are is the main priority because, in the old belief in ancient Egypt, the soul would meet the gods. They’ll go through trials as a response to their doing in the previous life.

Thus, Egyptian paintings gave a clear and vivid image about the life walked by that person before he died. It’s to help the soul linking to him.


Any living man would have a journey of their own; be it small or be it grand, it’ll be a memorable part of their life. Hence, in Egyptian painting, it’s included as the ornament of the tomb. As the pictorial of daily-life, this journey or will were also put in symbols around the tomb.

After all, a journey was something unforgettable and for some, it’s just grand and they wished for it to be remembered as a part of them. Yes, before the death knocked on the door, some Egyptians did make their wish, which is a bit similar on with the modern culture these days. However, unlike today, it’s for themselves than the people around them.

Return to the issue of the journey, having it painted on the tomb reminded the soul about the bravery and their achievement. It told the soul capability and, again, it’ll be a great asset for their afterlife.

The Afterlife

The most delicious dish is always served the last. Thus, this one is served as closing, the dish none will dare to skip. In this case, details. The Egyptian paintings are not simply only picturing about the person. It’s also telling about the world after death. The tombs are painted in a combination of stories about afterlife, prayers and magic spells. It gives the basic knowledge for the deceased about the afterlife he’s going to be transferred into. In backward effect, it reminds the living about the afterlife and the gods who rule and give mercy for their life. In each tomb, since the new kingdom, a book of death is put inside the tomb, giving all the important guidance to get safely to the other side. The book of death is resided beside the body, telling the tale of the life after death.

In addition, if you ever meet someone who suggests or have yourself thinking that those magic spell around the tomb can revive mummies, that's half of the truth there. Between those magic spells to purify, to protect, and to guide the soul, there’s also the magic spell which intentions are to resurrect the dead. Sadly, if you’re possibly a fan of thrill, it didn’t revive the deceased back to the world but it’s going to revive the soul to the afterlife. Strongly emphasized, it's to resurrect them in the next world not to return to our world. Thus, it’s only half the truth you assumed.

The underlying intention of Egyptian paintings is indeed ravishing. Though, it seems that our Egyptian fellows had a huge concern about the world after death. Their paintings make credible evidence for that. It is not only stood on an aesthetic level but it bears deep secrecy for the deceased, an unspoken ritual between the soul and the living world. The paintings, in accordance, had a significant role to connect the soul and the afterlife. This painting tradition also lasted for 3000 years, untouched. Ancient Egypt was truly inspiring for their culture is a vast field with a fascinating concept. How they protected their culture and preserved it is something the modern world should learn.

Anyway, that you know much about the Egyptian paintings if you get a chance to visit Egypt and take a close look of those antiques, why don’t you try to do a simple analysis about the ancient Egyptian? Wouldn’t it be cool if you can take a peek through that painting about the antiquity and the afterlife?

Tags: Egyptian paintings, Egyptian tomb paintings, Egyptian pharaoh paintings

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