11 April 2010

Egyptian Art Redux, Part I

For the past few years, whenever I stumble upon it on the internet, I've been collecting graphic art relating to ancient Egypt. There's no shortage of it, given Egypt's popularity with fantasy & sci-fi artists, New Age mysticism, and role-playing games. The most popular god for graphic artists appears to be Anubis, who has taken on quite a frightening aspect in his contemporary reincarnations. Here he's rendered by Herbert Lowis, a video game character artist:

And here's the Anubis card from Ragnarok, an online role-playing game:

It's interesting that Anubis has become the snarling, muscular, rock star god of the Egyptian pantheon, since he is not a deity associated with warfare or destruction. In his earliest forms, he was "foremost of the westerners", a leader of the dead. After Osiris became the central figure of the afterlife, Anubis' practical functions in the mortuary cult were emphasized: he was the patron of embalmers and mummification, said to have been the one to prepare the body of Osiris.

Rock Star Anubis is a product of Hollywood. The masks worn by the alien life forms in Stargate (1994) could be described as techno-canine; in The Mummy, a giant statue of Anubis guards the Book of the Dead; and in The Mummy Returns, a ferocious, axe-wielding Anubis and his entire army of vengeful jackals give eternal life to the Scorpion King. [I've been informed that there is an Anubis-like creature in Lost, but since I've yet to watch a single episode of the show, I think I'll stay out of those waters for now.]

Mauricio Herrera's depiction is indebted to
the Stargate vision:

Ironically, the god who is affiliated with chaos and conflict - Seth - gets much less attention than Anubis. Perhaps the fact that he looks like an aardvark has something to do with it. Here's one of the few examples of Seth that I've been able to find:

However, my favorite piece of graphic art is a representation of the epic battle between Horus and Seth. During the course of their 80-year conflict, Seth rips out Horus' eye; because it is eventually restored to him, the eye of Horus becomes a symbol of wholeness, destined to grace the wrists of poptarts forever.

Stay tuned for the next installment, featuring Bastet, Sekhmet, and a truly bizarre Horus.

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