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7 Stunning Portraits of Women by Egyptian Artists

The Mona Lisa is not the only portrait painting you should be familiar with.

Perhaps the most intimate form of visual art is portrait painting. A pair of eyes looking back at you from a canvas and freezing in motion gets your mind thinking about the essence with which the painting communicates to you and the state of the moment frozen in the artwork. However, many amongst us might be unaware of the larger-than-life portrait paintings Egyptian artists have produced. This list is the first step.

Ghada Amer 

The controversial Egyptian artist has raised eyebrows as the blunt erotic themes portrayed in her work use strings and other media to create intensely sexual artistic portraits, as well as patterns that focus on the human body and its sexuality. The vivid colours that jump to our eyes in this portrait and the placement of English letters to create this collaged art piece definitely redefines the way to look (and paint) women portraits. The sass and vividness of Amer’s style are easy to follow in the face of her portrait; making us wonder what’s going through the woman’s clustered head, with her eyes averted from ours.

Sally el Zeiny 

The artist, who paints with incredible detail, ornamenting the women she paints with traditional folkloric accessories, dresses, and even face art (such as native chin tattoo) interrupts our blurred world with images of serenity, colour, and celebration of life. However, what is perhaps most fascinating about the painter is the fact that many of the women she paints have a peculiar look upon their faces that seem - from certain angles - to depict a buried frustration, in contrast with the flowers in their hair, the surrounding doves, and the feel of an older serene Egypt that seems to envelop them. This is quite evident in this portrait of a young lady whose deeply made-up eyes, with the dark and green shades, is the focus of the painting. The deep and melancholic stare contrasts with the jewelry and the dove that surround her. 

Riham El Sadany 

With a perverted pose, as if caught just in the moment of her metamorphosis into a beast in a distorted room that seems to fall on its head, Riham El Sadany’s portrait of a horned woman is absolutely pivotal in the creation and progression of Egyptian portrait art. The horned blue angel that seems to be floating with the beautiful woman in the room only adds to the striking mystery that enchants the eyes when they wander around the painting. We wonder where the woman is going and feel envious.

Hashem L. Kelesh 

Despite being only partially coloured and appearing unfinished, this stunning portrait by young Egyptian Hashem L. Kelesh effortlessly draws attention to the confused and perhaps frustrated state the woman must be in. With most of the colour focus going towards her eyes, we feel that we can relate to the young woman even without knowing what exactly she’s going through or feeling. The artist’s technique of leaving great sections of the sketch empty and exposing the naked lines untainted by the dots and strokes with which he paints leave in us an impression of fragility and frailty. 

Aya al Fallah 

Rough strokes and deep black shades characterize this haunting portrait by artist Aya al Fallah, which shows a young lady staring in our direction, though not directly at us. Her averted eyes and the way she seems to be holding a bundle of bed cover disclose a state of distress and loss. The only object that seems to be stealing the (dark) spotlight from the young woman is the open window (the only bright item) behind her that seems to contrast with her current state. The think fluttering curtain adds to the contrast of movement versus her static state. 

Eman Osama (featured in the main image)

Perhaps a green-faced young lady in a Victorian dress holding a white feather and half smiling to us is not our idea of a portrait, but Eman Osama seems to think otherwise in this gorgeously mysterious painting. The young lady, who seems to be at ease and comfort from where she’s standing, still emits a rare glow of beauty and majesty despite the dolled up face and the unibrow. Her black dress adorned with splashes of purple conveys a hidden surreal journey that we seem oblivious of and simultaneously deeply aware of. 

Seif Wanly 

The seeming fragmentation of the young lady in red with her bent neck and face looking away beautifully merges with the greenness of the background. Her apparent attempt at writing a letter, at composing, contrasts with the state of fragmentation in which her body looks to us. "So, perhaps," we think, "the woman is trying to compose a long over-due letter and, perhaps, what she is about to write in the letter is actually what has broken and fragmented her.”