THE HEIGHT OF THE EIGHTEENTH DYNASTY: AMENHOTEP II - AMENHOTEP III 1450-1372 B.C.
THE episode with the hyena in the tomb of Amenemheb (No. 85) (Plate 107A) shows a carelessness of execution which is immediately apparent when compared to Intef's paintings (Plates 103B and 104A). This sketchy treatment was to appear more and more in the tombs of the period between the end of the reign of Tuthmosis III and that of Tuthmosis IV. The painters were developing an impressionistic use of brushwork which is seen at its best in the fish being harpooned by Horemheb in Tomb 78 (Plate 108A) and the birds on the clump of papyrus behind his light craft.1 Side by side with this looser technique, the old orderly tradition of carefully drawn detail was to be continued, but combined with an ever-increasing interest in richer texture. Not only were more colours used in different combinations, but they are affected by the breaking up of the surface with fine strokes of the brush to suggest such things as fur and feathers. Thus the newly developed technique of brushwork could be used broadly with wide, swift strokes, as on Plates 108A and 122B, or meticulously applied with a multitude of fine lines and stippling (Plates 107B and 129B). We have seen the Egyptian attempting this before, in both the Old and Middle Kingdoms, but he was now learning more about how colour could be manipulated with the brush. Working independently of the carved outlines and modelling of relief sculpture, the painter still placed his chief reliance upon line and was, in fact, making significant new use of curving lines. But there is occasionally a remarkable effort to suggest a tenuous substance, such as the flames and smoke of the furnace in the craftwork scene in the late Eighteenth Dynasty tomb No. 181.2 A rare Ramesside example seems to carry such an experiment even farther. Pale streamers of blue apparently attempt to imitate the shimmering space through which the winged figure moves (Plate 166B).
Certainly there was a fairly frequent use of a kind of shading with pigments, as on the darkened ends of the wing-tips and grey upper surface of the body of the ostrich (Plate 108B). In other cases there is no darkening, but only the use of a more intense hue which produces deeper accents on the same ground colour. This frequently is very successful in suggesting texture (Plate 129A),3 and in the stippling of the bodies of the birds on a ceiling from the Palace of Amenhotep III (Plate 121B) produces something of a feeling of a rounded form. We shall see that in Ramesside times there was an occasional attempt to indicate form in this fashion (Plate 159B). These exploratory beginnings were never consistently developed, but they are unique in early painting, and should be remembered as anticipating a line of investigation to be carried out logically by the Greeks in much later times.4