Representing negative space with texturing in the Apse of the Emperor’s Chamber at Luxor Temple

Aug 17, 2020

In order to document the late Roman murals at Luxor Temple, a crosshatched texturing technique was developed to represent the graphical impression of the surviving pigment on the surface. The method was a radical step away from the Survey’s traditional dotted outline drawing representation applied on pharaonic relief. ⠀ ⠀

The artist reinforced every little pigment spot over the digitized photographic background by adding a pencil texture with variable strength (the so-called medium tone layer), slowly forming a textural impression of the paintings on paper. To be able to show the stylistic differences between the Roman paintings and pharaonic art, two additional paint-specific layers were introduced in order to emphasize perspective and depth. ⠀ ⠀

One of the layers strengthened the details, such as facial and costume features, well definable objects, and so forth, and represented dark areas, especially black panels. The other much lighter layer showed the painted background wherever it was preserved. Both additional layers operated with the same texture style as the medium tone layer, but the opacity of the layers varied according to their importance.⠀ ⠀

On certain areas, as to be seen on the above photograph, the painted surface was eroded to a point where only paint scars of the formal decorative elements could be observed. Occasionally, once elaborately painted features left only their negative impressions in the background. Such was the case with emperor Chlorus holding a laurel branch as a generic symbol of victory. ⠀ ⠀

Drawing these deteriorated elements, the artist had to carefully “texture” around the impressions, leaving the feature itself as white space, slowly bringing the paintings back to life.

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