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Colors of Ancient Egypt

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Colors of Ancient Egypt
Colors of Ancient Egypt

Color (Ancient Egyptian name 'iwen') was considered an integral part of an item's or person's nature in Ancient Egypt, and the term could interchangeably mean color, appearance, character, being, or nature. Items with similar color were believed to have similar properties.

Colors were often paired: silver and gold were considered complementary colors (i.e. they formed a duality of opposites just like the sun and moon). Red complemented white (think of the double crown Ancient Egypt), and green and black represented different aspects of the process of regeneration. Where a procession of figures is depicted, the skin tones alternate between light and dark ochre.

Purity of colour was important to Ancient Egyptians and the artist would usually complete everything in one color before moving on to the next. Paintings would be finished off with fine brushwork to outline the work and add limited interior detail.

The degree to which Ancient Egyptian artists and craftsmen mixed colors varies according to dynasty. But even at its most creative, color mixing was not widely spread. Unlike today's pigments which give consistent results, several of those available to Ancient Egyptian artists could react chemically with each other, for example lead white when mixed with orpiment (yellow) actually produces black.

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