The Turin Erotic Papyrus (Papyrus 55001) is somewhat a pornographic artwork, which is now stored in Turin museum of Egypt heritage, situated in Italy (Manniche 52). This ancient artwork is made of a series of vignettes, which are drawn on a papyrus tube.
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The tube is divided into three parts, with the first part consisting of birds and animals – it humorously show animals performing different human activities such as climbing tree to obtain fruits, playing musical instruments, and driving chariots.
The artist possessed a considerable level of skills – he had a good mastery of human feelings, together with other critical aspects of human life such as sexual feelings (Antelme and Rossini 23).
The second part consists of explicit sexual acts – it openly shows a man engaging in sexual acts with a woman. This artwork is thought to have been created by a Deir El-Medina Village painter.
In 1824, the artwork was described by a French scholar as “an image of monstrous obscenity that gave me a really strange impression about Egyptian wisdom and composure” (Manniche 52). The artwork was first discovered in 19th century, and was christened as the “world’s first men’s mag.”
The Turin Erotic Papyrus gives an exceptional insight into thoughts regarding ancient Egypt sex and comedy. This art work reflects an Egyptian attitude towards erotic sex, which was discreet and kept secret. The paintings are thought to have been made by a draughtsman from Thebes, Upper Egypt, at around 1150 BC.
He made them on a scroll of papyrus. Many years later, when the drawings reappeared, they were subjected to multiple of opinions and interpretations (Antelme and Rossini 23).The artworks consist of 12 vignettes, all of which exhibit similar participants. Each vignette depicts an aroused and untidy man, having sexual intercourse with a beautiful woman. The woman, who is almost nude, is seemingly attractive than the man.
The sexual positions are explicit and performed differently. In a separate vignette, the man is standing on the side of a chariot while the woman is standing inside – making the scene to appear very implausible. Notably, the merit of the artistic vignettes cannot go without being noticed.
The papyrus, perhaps, was owned by an enlightened person and targeted to an enlightened audience. The rooms appear to be well furnished for sexual activities – the activities are taking place in the house (Antelme and Rossini 23).
The scroll is written erotic messages which went as follows: “love potion to win a woman’s love, how to make a woman love her husband, how to force a woman to enjoy intercourse and how to separate a man from a woman, and a woman from her husband” (Kamal 12). Unlike other scenes, the central scene consists of horizontal erotic vignettes – they depict a woman who is lying on a bed, and trying to embrace a man.
The central vignette is particularly dominating the other scenes, which are not prominently treated. The groupings are set in a manner that can allow easy reading of the papyrus scroll.
Groupings seems to have been set in a manner that the papyrus scroll could be read – by unfolding one end and folding the other end, divulging only a segment at a time. Watching a group after the other is like reading through a big book (Hussein 23).
This can be understood as an indication of human satire and desires – especially as indicated by the animals on the first papyrus. The males’ insatiable desire for sex is clearly depicted by the manner in which they are conducting themselves. This is the same case with the women who are servicing them.
The women, though not very enlightened, are presented as very attractive and young – this makes the artwork even more sexually attractive. The amusing, satirical and pornographic enthusiasm is heightened by the women who are presented as elegant, as suggested by the papyrus’s scenarios.
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The Turin Erotic Papyrus also reflects satirical and frank Rabelaisian events, which are not likely to experience in ordinary comedies, such as those of Shakespeare’s clown vistas. Such an explicit portrayal of sex can be viewed as suitable for the decorum of tombs and temples (Antelme and Rossini 23).
According to some Egyptology’s, some sexual messages were used to maintain respect, through what was referred to as ‘high’ Egyptian art. Phillipe Derchain, a French scholar suggested that the act of holding duckling between breasts of a woman could signify her sexual involvement.
Derchain, yet another scholar suggested that the act of a woman sitting next to her husband in a sober mood, while the family watches by, is a reality depiction of sexual union which goes beyond the grave (Kamal 12). Furthermore, sex is represented visually, in Egyptian’s formal art.
For instance, shooting could mean to ejaculate or to shoot an arrow, depending on the hieroglyphic determinative principles. A scene representing the pharaoh shooting birds from a distant, in company of his beautiful wife could be understood to be a representation of sexual union – according to the Egyptian’s symbolic interpretation (Hussein 56).
Egyptologisty’s differ fervently, in regard to whether there exists erotic embodiment in Egyptian art. Nonetheless, the Egyptian myths and beliefs in regard to life after death could have contributed to ignorance of sexuality in such context.
If we could gather evidence from the books written on ancient erotic life, the Romans and Greeks would be found to be the ones who initiated description of such aspects of human behavior. Although this may be true, it must be understood that the Egyptians had laid the ground for this. During the ancient times, the ancient Egyptians spread erotic life along river Nile.
This was recorded in pictures and words, which is contrary to what is popularly thought. There are strong indications that ancient Egyptians recorded different ways of boosting their sexual drive and controlling impotence. Furthermore, they used various kinds of aphrodisiacs and magical spells.
They explained different cures that could be taken through application on the penis as local cures, as well as through the mouth (Kamal 25).
In Egypt, sexualized adolescent have been depicted in different artworks, right from the eighteenth dynasty. The Turin Erotic Papyrus represents adolescent girls, who portray youthfulness, engaging in sexual acts – they seem to be aiding sexual acts though they are not really being penetrated by the males.
These acts can as well be understood to reflect the fact that, featuring adolescents in sexual scenes was not considered immoral. Nonetheless, the sexual scenes that feature young women can also be seen to have religious connotation, which means that they could not be representing a usual scenario of everyday (Brown 52).
Just like other activists of the times, this artist did not possess technical knowledge regarding perspective and anatomy. However, he possessed a considerable level of skills compared to his followers. In essence, he had a good mastery of human feelings, together with other critical aspects of human life. On the other hand, his work was designed in two dimensions, lacking resemblance of space and depth.
This could have been achieved through application of modeling, linear perspective and shadow. He created an emotion of mortality and sex by use of perspective (Antelme and Rossini 23). The fact that this kind of art was targeted to the public means that it could serve as a civic art.
It was also known from traditional literally descriptions and survivals, serving a patriotic purpose. In this view, this form of art could attempt to infer contemporary political angle from the antiquarian style of Masaccio and Giotto too (Antelme and Rossini 23).
This art is a significant advancement of pictorial illusionism, in that it seeks to join the fictive space with the real space of the viewer. The effect of a space displacement is positioned only in imagination, rather than illusion, of an external beholder of an alive existence, involving linking together of an external and internal viewer (Antelme and Rossini 23).
The boundary between fictive and real inner and outer reality is barred. Assuming that this incidence of an observer is highly attained by means of works’ framing, together with perspective, and then the eventual spatial uncertainty ensues, which represents the external perspective. A resultant rupture rips off between such dislocated space and works’ bounding structure (Antelme and Rossini 23).
Antelme, Ruth, stephane, Rossini. Sacred sexuality in ancient Egypt: the erotic secrets of the forbidden Papyrus: a look at the unique role of the goddess of love. New York: Inner Traditions, 2001. Print.
Brown, Carolyn. Dancing for Hathor: Women in Ancient Egypt. London: Group, 2010. Print.
Hussein, Mark. Mental Health and Psychological Medicine at the Time of the Pharaohs, MS Thesis Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine.Cairo: Cairo University, 1993.print.
Kamal, Halon. The Ancient Egyptian Medicine (in Arabic). Cairo: National Board for Books, 1998. Print
Manniche Lex. Sexual Life in Ancient Egypt. KPI Ltd. London: KPI Ltd, 1987. Print.