Monday, February 17, 2014

My Egyptian Door

Several years ago, the Florida International Museum (sadly no longer in operation) hosted a splendid exhibition of Egyptian antiquity. I took a sketchbook along and made notations of those articles that were of most interest to me.

I was particularly impressed by a temple door that was actually levels of concentric door frames. Standing in front of it, I thought to myself, "I'd love to build a grand door like that someday."

Shortly thereafter I designed a temple door in the house of friends. They had a carpenter build it to my specs and he did a wonderful job. Because the house was not my friends' primary residence, the door remained unadorned for a long time, as shown above — not unlike an uncarved totem!

Recently, the house became their primary residence, and it was time to finally finish that door!

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Here's the door as it appears today.

I started at the base (and was happy that no one was there to photograph me as I sprawled on the floor). I put the hippopotamus at the base because he's the king of the Nile. Above him are stylized flora, and above that our solar sun. This segment of the door frame represents the physical world.

The next segment depicts the Roman-Egyptian god, Antinous Osiris. Antinous was the partner of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, and he drowned in the Nile. Hadrian then proclaimed him a god and had many temples built in his honor. So this segment of the door frame represents ascension as the Ancient World would have believed it. Above Antinous Osiris I've positioned a hieroglyphic of my own design. The two center triangles are a variant of the Star of David, one interpretation of which is energy simultaneously ascending and descending.

The next segment depicts the individual monograms of the two owners. Sphinxes support a cartouche that is framed by the snake that devours its own tail, the symbol of eternity.

I did a study of hieroglyphics, and these are bona fide inscriptions of a spiritual nature, relevant to each owner. Hieroglyphics are so interesting. Because vowels were not represented, similar-sounding words like "bat" and "bait" would have the very same iconography, followed by an icon that actually illustrated the item. There must have been a better way to communicate, and there was!

I was tickled that the paintings I did of the owners, two delightful gentlemen who have been partners for more than 50 years, are close enough likenesses that several of their friends wondered how I transferred photographs onto the wood!

The cartouches next to each portrait reveal the owners' names spelled phonetically in hieroglyphics. In Ancient Egypt, such cartouches would only be used for royalty or high officials.

The very stylized capitals are loosely based on the capitals of a temple in Thebes, a temple that was referred to as a "memnonium."

click to enlarge
The winged sun, which in the Old Kingdom would have looked like the black and white image, is actually a cross-cultural icon that has been used across the ages in many countries, and by many religions. It varies in meaning, representing royalty, sun gods, or the One God. I gave it a more universal interpretation, to represent Oneness.
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38 comments:

  1. Brilliant! And entirely suitable that this should be for royalty...such as we are!

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    1. Thank you, Sir! You are a prince to say that.

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  2. Your Egyptian doors are fantastic Mark. You have outdone yourself. I have always known that you are a fine draftsman. That along with your considerable design skills produced a very fine piece of art that will be forever treasured by your friends and all those who will see it. Congratulations!

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    1. Dea Gina,

      My friends are enjoying the door, and they embrace the symbolism. And they are discovering that the door is a good conversation piece when they have friends over for dinner!

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  3. Very handsome work, Mark! I love it all - from the door frame to your paintings, brilliant! I also thought those were photos. Thanks for sharing this impressive and original design project.

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    1. Thank you, Loi! As I was working on the door, I must have gone to another level of consciousness, because I felt no sense of time.

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  4. Dear Mark - the poor Duke is looking increasingly anxious at the activities being carried out by the bulldozer overhead.
    I know you mentioned on one of my posts that you had been studying hieroglyphics but I never imagined that you were involved in such a complex scheme. Your friends must be absolutely delighted with your talented work. The portraits, and all of the Egyptian details are so beautifully executed. Of course, you might guess that my favourite piece is the king of the Nile.
    Did you translate their names yourself into hieroglyphics or did you use a translator?
    I was going to sign my name in hieroglyphics but comments would not let me.

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    1. Dear Rosemary,

      Yes, the Duke is more than a little puzzled that his environment is shifting! Whatever will come next?!

      There is a site on the Internet that will translate modern names into hieroglyphics, but it's just for names — I don't think one could do a phrase on it.

      I'm glad you like the hippopotamus. My thought as I placed him at the base of the door (because I enjoy symbolism) is that he literally wades on the floor of the Nile. So that segment of the door is Egypt or the physical world from the very base to the sky.

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    1. Thank you, Scott. It means a lot to me that you like it.

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  6. Hello Mark, As always, the quality of your projects is amazing. You must have had a lot of fun with this one. I love the way you divided the outer door frame into elegant registers for your painting. I also like door in its unpainted state, which emphasizes its beautiful proportions. While very Egyptian, in its plain state it also reminds me of some Greek Revival architecture.

    I am curious what spaces this door connects--it has a large glass window, yet doesn't appear to be outdoors.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello, Jim,

      You are right; the unpainted door could fit into a Greek Revival scheme very nicely. I am currently looking at door frames in my own house and wondering how I might enhance them.

      The Egyptian door connects the owners' dining room to a hallway by a short and wide hallway that might best be described as a large alcove. Because the dining room narrows this way to lead to the hallway, the door is even more of a focal point.

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  7. What a delicious doorway, beautifully conceived and superbly executed. Bravo!

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    1. Thank you so much, Reggie — I haven't decided which is more fun, the conceiving or the executing!

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  8. I am new to your site and blown away by your talent and creativity. I came to your site because of a fleur de lis design you did and your mother worked but got totally lost in your other posts. The cat wants to be fed and I have work to do but have really enjoyed my visit.

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    1. Dear Rhonda,

      My sincere apologies to your cat!

      My mother was an almost constant needlepointer in her last years, and the pieces of her work that I have are among my most valued keepsakes. Thanks for appreciating her work!

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  9. How unique and extraordinary Mark !

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  10. Beautiful! You have such talent. The hippo is my favorite part.

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    1. Hi, Rachel,

      Thank you for the compliment. I've always loved hippos for their jolly-looking countenance, but did you know that they are actually very dangerous animals, and kill more humans in Africa than lions?

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  11. Mark, you are just the coolest guy out there. Love the door and the progress the bulldozer is making! Can't wait to see what you're up to.

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  12. Thank you, silverinthebarn. You made my day!

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  13. Your talents never cease to amaze me - great -especially the portraits. It stands on its own architecturally as so interesting but adding the painted design really ups it a notch.

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    1. Thank you, Mr. Architect! As you know, I've made my living as an advertising artist, but there's a big part of me that would love to have been an architect like you. Now I'm satisfying that yen through projects at my own house, and those of my friends.

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  14. Hello Mark,
    Catching up is always an immense pleasure. Can't wait to see your new look.
    Anyes
    xx

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    1. Hello, Anyes,

      I'm glad you aren't missing the "transition graphics!" Stay tuned!

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  15. Amazing, Mark. I'm blown away. I also liked your comment that you must have gone to another level of consciousness, because you felt no sense of time. Isn't that a beautiful place? I love it when that happens. It's so rare that we can allow ourselves that experience.

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    1. Thank you, Steve,

      That other level of consciousness is indeed a beautiful place, and I would like to believe that it could become sort of a default setting. Maybe if that could be achieved, it would be like having the Fountain of Youth inside of one (because it's really about being fully in the moment). I'm glad you experience that as well.

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  16. FABULOUS! So wonderfully designed and executed, Mark. I am enchanted, though not so surprised, I must say. I expect only the coolest stuff from you and this proves I'm correct to do so. :)

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    1. Dear Yvette,

      Thank you for the kind words. I'm sure that you, as the creative person that you are, know that the imagining and planning of such projects is such great fun. In a sense, one creates the project twice.

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  17. Dear Mark, it is a delight see and read the progression of the door. Our 30 plus years of friendship bestow a perspective on your work that I treasure. The door is the epitome of elegance.

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    1. Dear Sayrah,

      It's so good to hear from you here! By my calculation the friendship is now at 33+ years, hard to believe.

      (For the benefit of my other readers, I'd like to add that Sayrah has painted stunning murals throughout the Tampa Bay area — including at Busch Gardens — all of them based on local flora and fauna.)

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  18. I am just catching up on blog posts, and this is such a treat Mark!!!! You executed it impeccably and your research shows your passion. I really love the whole thing. It is totally fabulous!

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  19. Dear Theresa,

    You sound like the busy person I know that you are! So I'm extra glad that you checked in during my week of transition. Thanks for liking this — you touch on the word, "passion," and I believe, yes, it is the operative word here.

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  20. Mark,
    Hello hello!!!! As always, I'm completely inspired by your postings! Your project is absolutely stunning-- so wonderful in conception and execution... What a great talent you are!!! The changes you're making here make me feel like spring must be coming... Can't wait to see what's next!

    Warm regards,
    Erika

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    1. Dear Erika,

      Thank you for your kind comment. I own several books on Egyptian design, and always had a project like this one in the back of my mind. I was so fortunate that my friends' hallway was the perfect setting, and doubly fortunate that they encouraged me to follow through.

      Best wishes,

      Mark

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  21. Simply wonderful, and making it personal is perfect. I am so glad I stopped in to catch up on all you are doing-can't wait to move forward to more current posts! pgt

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    1. Dear Gaye,

      What you don't know is that the owners had only expected me to paint the winged header. They were away on vacation when I painted the entire door, and were very touched when they returned to see it personalized. Since this posting, it's become a great source of conversation in their house, particularly as guest dine in front of the door!

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