Frederik Rogner

Space and Narrativity in the Flat Art of the Egyptian New Kingdom

In previous research, the narrativity of Egyptian images was determined by the criterion of the "historicity" of what was depicted. According to this, only representations of singular historical events could be narrative; for images of repeated events, on the other hand, this was not possible a priori. This evaluation, which can be criticized from a narratological as well as from a historiographical point of view, led to the evaluation of a large part of the Egyptian image production as "non-narrative". By applying adequate criteria that determine the image's intrinsic narrativizing mechanisms independently of the reference to a historical or fictional event "behind" the image, the question of the narrative potential of Egyptian images must be posed anew. The reliefs and wall paintings of the New Kingdom (ca. 1550-1050 B.C.) offer optimal conditions for this due to various innovations and the large amount of preserved pictorial material.

In addition, the previous assumption that the Egyptian conventions of representation did not allow any reproduction of spatiality in the flat image must be questioned. Numerous examples from the New Kingdom show the attempt of the image producers to increase the narrative potential of the images by using the methods available to them, among other things by introducing a spatial moment. This can be done on various levels - from the individual image object to the overall composition to the exploitation of the spatiality of the monumental image carriers themselves.

The "singularity of images" which forms the guiding heuristic of the Graduate School of the National Center of Competence in Research " eikones - Bildkritik ", allows in this context not only an evaluation of intericonic references, which reveals the attempt to actualize and thus narratively charge scenes in the field of tension between imitation and reconceptualization through increasing distance from the "hieroglyphic" shape of the elements. Also, the different ways of generating spatiality in different genres or environments - such as private tombs, temples, and royal tombs - allow insight into the different realizations of similar pictorial content and thus different degrees of dynamization and narrativization.

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