Ever since we began the redesign and redevelopment of our galleries here at the museum we knew we wanted to do something a little different in our Egyptian Afterlife gallery. Instead of another text panel we decided to have a more artistic element, in the form of a tomb mural.
Linking our idea to our collection we decided to look at images from tombs from the site of Beni Hasan, at which our very own John Garstang excavated early in his career. Furthermore, one of our most beautiful and prized objects, the box coffin of Userhat (E.512) sits right in front of the mural.
The scene we settled on is from the tomb of Khnumhotep II (II because the locals of Beni Hasan during this time weren’t particularly original with their names), dating to the early 12th Dynasty (1985-1773BC). The scenes which decorate this tomb are complex and beautiful, showing elegant variations on what are often seen as classical themes. We started with a 20th Century line drawing of the chosen scene published by Percy Newberry (who also had long standing Liverpool links), we passed this over to our talented mural artist Matthew a.k.a. Monsieur Mural and he blew it up to the size required. Throughout the process, Matt used traditional sign-writing techniques to apply the image to the wall.
STEP 1: Applying the outline of the images to chalk-backed paper, this is done by tracing the elements onto the paper after applying soft pencil to the reverse.
STEP 2: Pouncing the image onto the wall. This is a traditional technique of applying chalk lines to the surface. When completed it leaves a rather ghost like version of the scene.
STEP 3: Once the chalk lines were up on the wall, Matt started the longest part of the process, the painting. It took around a day and a half to get from a blank wall to having a completed mural and a lot of this was taken up by the painting. As this is only around half life size, one can only imagine the time it would have taken to create the original piece at Beni Hasan – as not only was it larger but also carved in sunken relief, and finally painted in a garish array of bright colours.
We will be putting the students through their steps reading the text here as soon as the new academic year begins!