Creating borders: new insights into making the Papyrus of Ani

Bridget Leach and Richard B. Parkinson

Research at the British Museum over the last decade has identified many of the pigments used on polychrome papyri. Along with the expected use of red and yellow ochres many occurrences of the arsenic pigments, red-orange realgar and yellow orpiment, were also found. Realgar and orpiment fade when exposed to light and there are many examples of such changes among the illustrated papyri in the British Museum collection. These examples show various degrees of fading depending on how much light they have received and often reveal where different paints were used to obtain what was originally a relatively even and uniform colour. This difference is particularly clear with the red and yellow borders on the Book of the Dead of Ani, where both ochre and arsenic pigments have been used.  In many places, the arsenic pigments have changed, while the ochres have not, resulting in a highly varied colouring in the bands of the borders. This lead to a re-examination of the borders, which showed that the papyrus had been made up of several separate rolls each of which had been pre-painted with borders before the full roll was assembled for the text and vignettes to be copied. This can be seen on areas around some joins where the artist has been forced to ‘line up’ bands that were out alignment and where the lines of overdrawing and a thick layer of over-painting are clearly visible.

Creating borders: new insights into making the Papyrus of Ani

To reference this article we suggest:

Leach, B. and Parkinson, R.B. 2010. Creating borders: New insights into making the Papyrus of Ani. BMSAES 15, 35–62. http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/online_journals/bmsaes/issue_15/leach_parkinson.aspx

Contact the authors
rparkinson@britishmuseum.org
bleach@britishmuseum.org