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The mystery of the ancient ceremony in the picture of Bridgman: “The procession of the bull Anubis”

Frederick Arthur Bridgman is one of the most popular Orientalist painters. He created a canvas that carries the viewer in the time of Ancient Egypt. What secrets of the Egyptian tradition are illuminated by his painting, The Procession of the Sacred Bull of Anubis?

Frederick Arthur Bridgman is known for his paintings on the theme of the East. At the age of five, he stated that he decided to become an artist, and at sixteen he dropped out of school and began his career as an engraver at the American Banknote Company. However, this work soon bored Arthur, and in 1866 he went to Paris to study with the artist and sculptor Jean — Leon Gerome at the School of Fine Arts. In 1873 he went to North Africa.

In Africa, Bridgman worked for five years, creating hundreds of sketches and collecting artifacts and costumes. Bridgman painted the East and Africa magnificent, mysterious, luxurious and, most importantly, realistic. His images of exotic people and cultures fascinated Americans and Europeans throughout the 1880s. Subsequently, Bridgman created many more oriental paintings from memory, inspired by a large collection of acquired Egyptian and Algerian souvenirs.

What allowed Bridgman to convey this region so naturally-like in his paintings to the smallest detail is work from nature. Unlike colleagues, the artist was allowed to enter the houses and harems of the people he met. Traveling to Algeria and Egypt, Bridgman completed over three hundred sketches and many photographs depicting a world of richly decorated and luxuriously dressed women in veils using transparent effects. A huge collection of artifacts that he acquired during his travels, including costumes, objects of architecture and art, adorned his house.

After some time, the painter felt the need for a change of subject and tried to find himself in the genre of symbolism, and then, in the 1890s. turned to historical, biblical themes and to ancient mythology (“Pharaoh Crossing the Red Sea” and “The Assignment of the Assyrian King”). In 1890, in New York, he published the book Winter in Algeria, which he illustrated with his paintings. These later works were not as successful as his eastern canvases. After the First World War, his popularity declined sharply, and he moved from Paris to Lyon-la-Foret (Normandy, France), where he lived until the end of his days, without leaving a painting.

Procession of the Sacred Bull of Anubis – Analysis
In one painting by Bridgman, “The Procession of the Sacred Bull of Anubis,” let us dwell in more detail.

The picture belongs to the historical genre and has a link to the ancient Egyptian tradition of the bull. Already in ancient times, people deified cattle – bulls and cows. William Tyler Alcott in his book Myths about the Sun describes in detail the details and meaning of an Egyptian procession with a bull.

Apis – in Egyptian mythology, the god of fertility in the guise of a bull with a solar disk (which we see on the head of a bull in the picture). Apis was associated with the cult of the dead and was considered the bull of Osiris (hence the name of the painting “bull Anubis”). The procession is led by priests, and jubilant crowds accompany her. The palace employees carry a sculpture of Osiris himself.

On the day of Osiris, the priests brought the bull to the banks of the Nile and solemnly drowned it in the Nile River. Then embalmed and buried in Memphis. The mourning continued until there was another bull, reminiscent of the previous one, with the same marks. “Apis appear at large intervals. Their appearances are celebrated with universal glee. Apis is a calf from a cow, which at birth can never be pregnant (that is, it gives birth once). According to the Egyptians, a ray of light descends from the sky from a cow, and from it she gives birth to Apis. The apis is black, on the forehead there is a white triangular spot, on the back there is an image of an eagle, on the tail there is double hair, under the tongue is an image of a beetle ”[Herodotus, 3: 27-28].

The symbolism of the bull is interesting: the black hair of the bull symbolized the scorching effect of the sun on the bodies, and the white spot on the forehead of the animal and the crescent on its side – the symbol of the moon. Eagle and beetle are symbols of the sun. The rhythm plays an important role in the picture: the procession moves, we even hear people rejoicing, practically we catch every wave of musical instruments in the hands of the priestesses. The most prominent “spot” in the picture is, of course, the bull – the protagonist of the painting. The artist achieved this with the help of the darkest colors (if the main part of the picture is painted in light brown, brown tones, then the bull himself has black wool, which focuses attention). The priestess in front of the procession looks directly at us, the audience, as if inviting us to take part in the bull festival. The light in the picture flows smoothly from left to right – in the direction of the procession itself, falls on columns with Egyptian patterns, illuminates the bull and leading priests. Bright sunshine also allows us to see the murals on the walls of the palace.

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