Archaeology Odyssey 4:5, September/October 2001

Eros in Egypt

By David O’Connor

We moderns tend to believe that ancient Egyptian art contains little that is overtly sexual. Egyptian painting seems to lack the strong sensual qualities of much classical art and its descendant, the richly textured art of the Renaissance.

This impression is mistaken, however. In paintings and reliefs in Egyptian temples and tombs, the sexuality is often only suggested—as when a husband and wife are depicted sitting demurely side by side—befitting the dignified surroundings. In the “low” art of papyrus scroll-painting, on the other hand, Egyptian artists created explicitly erotic images. Unfortunately, only one of these scrolls has survived.

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