The Egyptologists Nina M. Davies (6 January 1881 – 21 April 1965) and Norman de Garis Davies (1865–5 November 1941) were a married couple of illustrators and copyists who worked in the early and mid-twentieth century drawing and recording paintings in Egypt. Their work was often published together, as N. de Garis Davies, and so it is usually difficult to determine who drew which illustration.
Nina M. Davies was born Anna Macpherson Cummings in Salonika, Greece, but returned to Scotland with the death of her father, Cecil in 1894. Her parents were of English and Scottish ancestry. Nina was schooled in England:14 and showed considerable promise as an artist in her youth, with her family moving to London for her training. She was on a vacation in Alexandria, Egypt in 1906 when she met Norman de Garis Davies.:14 They married in Hampstead, London on 8 October 1907 and settled near the Theban Necropolis and began documenting tomb paintings. Nina spent half of her time making drawings for the Metropolitan Museum and spent an equal amount of time replicating the tomb paintings for Alan Gardiner, which became part of collections at other museums.:14 Nina developed a skill of quickly, accurately, and conscientiously capturing the images, creating a large number of facsimiles.
Norman de Garis Davies studied theology at Glasgow University, gaining a M.A. and B.D., and studied at Marburg University as a postgraduate. He was a Minister in the Congregational church at Ashton-under-Lyne when he first visited Egypt in 1897. He worked there for Flinders Petrie at Dendera. He became head of the Egypt Exploration Fund's Archaeological Survey. From about 1898 to 1907, Norman documented tombs in Egypt, such as Tell el-Amarna. He became an expert at interpreting the Egyptian hieroglyphics within the context of the painting.
In 1907 an Egyptian Expedition was developed to make facsimiles of Egyptian Wall Paintings for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Norman, Nina, and other artists took tracings of the tombs, using a technique that allowed for nearly exact brushstroke and color replication. In most cases, the copies reflected the actual scene, including any damage that may have been sustained over time or as the result of vandalism. In a some cases, the drawings were rendered to look like they would have when created several thousand years ago. The Graphic Section effort was led by Norman, who had a dual-role interpreting the hieroglyphs and copying the images. The artists signed their work. Nina's signature was Na.deGD and Norman signed No.deGD, but there were also signatures of NdeGD where it was not clear if the work was performed by Nina or Norman.
The tombs were located on the Nile's west bank of western Thebes. The museum was particularly interested in the tombs of officials, Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens royal tombs, and Deir el-Medina artists' tombs. These sites are, according to the Metropolitan Museum, "the richest source of ancient Egyptian paintings preserved anywhere in Egypt.
The tomb images vary across dynasties and reigns, providing insight into daily life, flora and fauna changes, and ceremonial and burial customs in the distinct periods. Artistic techniques also varied across time. By 1941, about 350 facsimiles were painted and are now key displays in the Met's Egyptian department.
They worked for the Egypt Exploration Society, London and Oriental Institute, Chicago by documenting other Egyptian sites, like Abydos and Amarna. In 1939, they returned to England. Norman died two years later. Nina died in 1965.