Manual Of Egyptian Archaeology And Guide To The Study Of Antiquities In Egypt
by Gaston Camille Charles Maspero
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The enormous rectangular mass which the Arabs call Mastabat el Faraun, "the seat of Pharaoh" (fig. 141), stands beside the pyramid of Pepi II. Some have thought it to be an unfinished pyramid, some a tomb surmounted by an obelisk; in reality it is a pyramid which was left unfinished by its builder, King Ati of the Sixth Dynasty. Recent excavations have, on the other hand, shown that the brick pyramids of Dahshur probably belonged to the Twelfth Dynasty. The stone pyramids of that group, which may be older, furnish a curious variation from the usual type. One of these stone pyramids has the lower half inclined at 54 deg. 41', while the upper part changes sharply to 42 deg. 59'; it might be called a mastaba (Note 35) crowned by a gigantic attic. At Lisht, where the two pyramids now standing are of the same period (one of them was erected by Usertesen I.), the structure is again changed. The sloping passage ends in a vertical shaft, at the bottom of which open chambers now filled by the infiltration of the Nile. The pyramids of Illahun and Hawara, which contained the remains of Usertesen II. and Amenemhat III., are of the same type as those at Lisht. Their rooms are now filled with water. The pyramid of Medum is empty, having been violated before the Ramesside age. It consists of three square towers (Note 36) with sides slightly sloping, placed in retreating stages one over the other (fig. 142). The entrance is on the north, at about 53 feet above the sand. After 60 feet, the passage goes into the rock; at 174 feet it runs level; at 40 feet farther it stops, and turns perpendicularly towards the surface, opening in the floor of a vault twenty-one feet higher (fig. 143). A set of beams and ropes still in place above the opening show that the spoilers drew the sarcophagus out of the chamber in ancient times. Its small chapel, built against the eastern slope of the pyramid, with courtyard containing a low flat altar between two standing stelae nearly 14 feet high, was found intact. The walls of the chapel were uninscribed, and bare; but the graffiti found there prove that the place was much visited during the times of the Eighteenth Dynasty by scribes, who recorded their admiration of the beauty of the monument, and believed that King Sneferu had raised it for himself and for his queen Meresankhu.

The custom of building pyramids did not end with the Twelfth Dynasty; there are later pyramids at Manfalut, at Hekalli to the south of Abydos, and at Mohammeriyeh to the south of Esneh. Until the Roman period, the semi- barbarous sovereigns of Ethiopia held it as a point of honour to give the pyramidal form to their tombs. The oldest, those of Nurri, where the Pharaohs of Napata sleep, recall by their style the pyramids of Sakkarah; the latest, those of Meroe, present fresh characteristics. They are higher than they are wide, are built of small blocks, and are sometimes decorated at the angles with rounded borderings. The east face has a false window, surmounted by a cornice, and is flanked by a chapel, which is preceded by a pylon. These pyramids are not all dumb. As in ordinary tombs, the walls contain scenes borrowed from the "Ritual of Burial," or showing the vicissitudes of the life beyond the grave.

[30] This section is reproduced, by permission of Mr. W.M.F. Petrie, from Plate VII. of his "Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh." The vertical shaft sunk by Perring is shown going down from the floor of the subterranean unfinished chamber. The lettering along the base of the pyramid, though not bearing upon the work of Professor Maspero, has been preserved for the convenience of readers who may wish to consult Mr. Petrie's work for more minute details and measurements. This lettering refers to that part of Mr. Petrie's argument which disproves the "accretion theory" of previous writers (see "Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh" chap, xviii., p. 165).—A.B.E.


Excavated Tombs.

Two subsequent systems replaced the mastaba throughout Egypt. The first preserved the chapel constructed above ground, and combined the pyramid with the mastaba; the second excavated the whole tomb in the rock, including the chapel.

The necropolis quarter of Abydos, in which were interred the earlier generations of the Theban Empire, furnishes the most ancient examples of the first system. The tombs are built of large, black, unbaked bricks, made without any mixture of straw or grit. The lower part is a mastaba with a square or oblong rectangular base, the greatest length of the latter being sometimes forty or fifty feet. The walls are perpendicular, and are seldom high enough for a man to stand upright inside the tomb. On this kind of pedestal was erected a pointed pyramid of from 12 to 30 feet in height, covered externally with a smooth coat of clay painted white. The defective nature of the rock below forbade the excavation of the sepulchral chamber; there was no resource, therefore, except to hide it in the brickwork. An oven-shaped chamber with "corbel" vault was constructed in the centre (fig. 144); but more frequently the sepulchral chamber is found to be half above ground in the mastaba and half sunk in the foundations, the vaulted space above being left only to relieve the weight (fig. 145). In many cases there was no external chapel; the stela, placed in the basement, or set in the outer face, alone marking the place of offering. In other instances a square vestibule was constructed in front of the tomb where the relations assembled (fig. 146). Occasionally a breast-high enclosure wall surrounded the monument, and defined the boundaries of the ground belonging to the tomb. This mixed form was much employed in Theban cemeteries from the beginning of the Middle Empire. Many kings and nobles of the Eleventh Dynasty were buried at Drah Abu'l Neggeh, in tombs like those of Abydos (fig. 147). The relative proportion of mastaba and pyramid became modified during the succeeding centuries. The mastaba—often a mere insignificant substructure—gradually returned to its original height, while the pyramid as gradually decreased, and ended by being only an unimportant pyramidion (fig. 148). All the monuments of this type which ornamented the Theban necropolis during the Ramesside period have perished, but contemporary tomb-paintings show many varieties, and the chapel of an Apis which died during the reign of Amenhotep III. still remains to show that this fashion extended as far as Memphis. Of the pyramidion, scarcely any traces remain; but the mastaba is intact. It is a square mass of limestone, raised on a base, supported by four columns at the corners, and surmounted by an overhanging cornice; a flight of five steps leads up to the inner chamber (fig. 149).

The earliest examples of the second kind are those found at Gizeh among the mastabas of the Fourth Dynasty, and these are neither large nor much ornamented. They begin to be carefully wrought about the time of the Sixth Dynasty, and in certain distant places, as at Bersheh, Sheikh Said, Kasr es Said, Asuan, and Negadeh. The rock-cut tomb did not, however, attain its full development until the times of the last Memphite kings and the early kings of the Theban line.

In these rock-cut tombs we find all the various parts of the mastaba. The designer selected a prominent vein of limestone, high enough in the cliff side to risk nothing from the gradual rising of the soil, and yet low enough for the funeral procession to reach it without difficulty. The feudal lords of Minieh slept at Beni Hasan; those of Khmunu at Bersheh; those of Siut and Elephantine at Siut and in the cliff opposite Asuan (fig. 150). Sometimes, as at Siut, Bersheh, and Thebes, the tombs are excavated at various levels; sometimes, as at Beni Hasan, they follow the line of the stratum, and are ranged in nearly horizontal terraces.[31] A flight of steps, rudely constructed in rough-hewn stones, leads up from the plain to the entrance of the tomb. At Beni Hasan and Thebes, these steps are either destroyed or buried in sand; but recent excavations have brought to light a well-preserved example leading up to a tomb at Asuan.[32]

The funeral procession, having slowly scaled the cliff-side, halted for a moment at the entrance to the chapel. The plan was not necessarily uniform throughout any one group of tombs. Several of the Beni Hasan tombs have porticoes, the pillars, bases, and entablatures being all cut in the rock; those of Ameni and Khnumhotep have porticoes supported on two polygonal columns (fig. 151). At Asuan (fig. 152), the doorway forms a high and narrow recess cut in the rock wall, but is divided, at about one-third of its height, by a rectangular lintel, thus making a smaller doorway in the doorway itself. At Siut, the tomb of Hapizefa was entered by a true porch about twenty-four feet in height, with a "vaulted" roof elegantly sculptured and painted. More frequently the side of the mountain was merely cut away, and the stone dressed over a more or less extent of surface, according to the intended dimensions of the tomb. This method ensured the twofold advantage of clearing a little platform closed in on three sides in front of the tomb, and also of forming an upright facade which could be decorated or left plain, according to the taste of the proprietor. The door, sunk in the middle of this facade, has sometimes no framework; sometimes, however, it has two jambs and a lintel, all slightly projecting. The inscriptions, when any occur, are very simple, consisting of one or two horizontal lines above, and one or two vertical lines down each side, with the addition perhaps of a sitting or standing figure. These inscriptions contain a prayer, as well as the name, titles, and parentage of the deceased. The chapel generally consists of a single chamber, either square or oblong, with a flat or a slightly vaulted ceiling. Light is admitted only through the doorway. Sometimes a few pillars, left standing in the rock at the time of excavation, give this chamber the aspect of a little hypostyle hall. Four such pillars decorate the chapels of Ameni and Khnumhotep at Beni Hasan (fig. 153). Other chapels there contain six or eight, and are very irregular in plan. One tomb, unfinished, was in the first instance a simple oblong hall, with a barrel roof and six columns. Later on, it was enlarged on the right side, the new part forming a kind of flat-roofed portico supported on four columns (fig. 154).

To form a serdab in the solid rock was almost impossible; while on the other hand, movable statues, if left in a room accessible to all comers, would be exposed to theft or mutilation. The serdab, therefore, was transformed, and combined with the stela of the ancient mastabas. The false door of the olden time became a niche cut in the end wall, almost always facing the entrance. Statues of the deceased and his wife, carved in the solid rock, were there enthroned. The walls were decorated with scenes of offerings, and the entire decoration of the tomb converged towards the niche, as that of the mastaba converged towards the stela. The series of tableaux is, on the whole, much the same as of old, though with certain noteworthy additions. The funeral procession, and the scene where the deceased enters into possession of his tomb, both merely indicated in the mastaba, are displayed in full upon the walls of the Theban sepulchre. The mournful cortege is there, with the hired mourners, the troops of friends, the bearers of offerings, the boats for crossing the river, and the catafalque drawn by oxen. It arrives at the door of the tomb. The mummy, placed upright upon his feet, receives the farewell of his family; and the last ceremonies, which are to initiate him into the life beyond the grave, are duly represented (fig. 155). The sacrifices, with all the preliminary processes, as tillage, seed-growing, harvesting, stock- breeding, and the practice of various kinds of handicraft, are either sculptured or painted, as before. Many details, however, which are absent from tombs of the earlier dynasties are here given, while others which are invariably met with in the neighbourhood of the pyramids are lacking. Twenty centuries work many changes in the usages of daily life, even in conservative Egypt. We look almost in vain for herds of gazelles upon the walls of the Theban tombs, for the reason that these animals, in Ramesside times, had ceased to be bred in a state of domestication. The horse, on the other hand, had been imported into the valley of the Nile, and is depicted pawing the ground where formerly the gazelle was seen cropping the pasturage. The trades are also more numerous and complicated; the workmen's tools are more elaborate; the actions of the deceased are more varied and personal. In former times, when first the rules of tomb decoration were formulated, the notion of future retribution either did not exist, or was but dimly conceived. The deeds which he had done here on earth in no wise influenced the fate which awaited the man after death. Whether good or bad, from the moment when the funeral rites were performed and the necessary prayers recited, he was rich and happy. In order to establish his identity, it was enough to record his name, his title, and his parentage; his past was taken for granted. But when once a belief in rewards and punishments to come had taken possession of men's minds, they bethought them of the advisability of giving to each dead man the benefit of his individual merits. To the official register of his social status, they now therefore added a brief biographical notice. At first, this consisted of only a few words; but towards the time of the Sixth Dynasty (as where Una recounts his public services under four kings), these few words developed into pages of contemporary history. With the beginning of the New Empire, tableaux and inscriptions combine to immortalise the deeds of the owner of the tomb. Khnumhotep of Beni Hasan records in full the origin and greatness of his ancestors. Kheti displays upon his walls all the incidents of a military life—parades, war-dances, sieges, and sanguinary battle scenes. In this respect, as in all others, the Eighteenth Dynasty perpetuated the tradition of preceding ages. Ai, in his fine tomb at Tell el Amarna, recounts the episode of his marriage with the daughter of Khuenaten. Neferhotep of Thebes, having received from Horemheb the decoration of the Golden Collar, complacently reproduces every little incident of his investiture, the words spoken by the king, as also the year and the day when this crowning reward was conferred upon him. Another, having conducted a survey, is seen attended by his subordinates with their measuring chains; elsewhere he superintends a census of the population, just as Ti formerly superintended the numbering of his cattle. The stela partakes of these new characteristics in wall-decoration. In addition to the usual prayers, it now proclaims the praises of the deceased, and gives a summary of his life. This is too seldom followed by a list of his honours with their dates.

When space permitted, the vault was excavated immediately below the chapel. The shaft was sometimes sunk in a corner of one of the chambers, and sometimes outside, in front of the door of the tomb. In the great cemeteries, as for instance at Thebes and Memphis, the superposition of these three parts—the chapel, the shaft, and the vault—was not always possible. If the shaft were carried to its accustomed depth, there was sometimes the risk of breaking into tombs excavated at a lower level. This danger was met either by driving a long passage into the rock, and then sinking the shaft at the farther end, or by substituting a slightly sloping or horizontal disposition of the parts for the old vertical arrangement of the mastaba model. The passage in this case opens from the centre of the end wall, its average length being from 20 to 130 feet. The sepulchral vault is always small and plain, as well as the passage. Under the Theban dynasties, as under the Memphite kings, the Soul dispensed with decorations; but whenever the walls of the vault are decorated, the figures and inscriptions are found to relate chiefly to the life of the Soul, and very slightly to the life of the Double. In the tomb of Horhotep, which is of the time of the Usertesens, and in similar rock-cut sepulchres, the walls (except on the side of the door) are divided into two registers. The upper row belongs to the Double, and contains, besides the table of offerings, pictured representations of the same objects which are seen in certain mastabas of the Sixth Dynasty; namely, stuffs, jewels, arms, and perfumes, all needful to Horhotep for the purpose of imparting eternal youth to his limbs. The lower register belonged to both the Soul and the Double, and is inscribed with extracts from a variety of liturgical writings, such as The Book of the Dead, the Ritual of Embalmment, and the Funeral Ritual, all of which were possessed of magic properties which protected the Soul and supported the Double. The stone sarcophagus, and even the coffin, are also covered with closely-written inscriptions. Precisely as the stela epitomised the whole chapel, so did the sarcophagus and coffin epitomise the sepulchral chamber, thus forming, as it were, a vault within a vault. Texts, tableaux, all thereon depicted, treat of the life of the Soul, and of its salvation in the world to come.

At Thebes, as at Memphis, the royal tombs are those which it is most necessary to study, in order to estimate the high degree of perfection to which the decoration of passages and sepulchral chambers was now carried. The most ancient were situated either in the plain or on the southern slopes of the western mountain; and of these, no remains are extant. The mummies of Amenhotep I., and Thothmes III., of Sekenenra, and Aahhotep have survived the dwellings of solid stone designed for their protection. Towards the middle of the Eighteenth Dynasty, however, all the best places were taken up, and some unoccupied site in which to establish a new royal cemetery had to be sought. At first they went to a considerable distance, namely, to the end of the valley (known as the Western Valley), which opens from near Drah Abu'l Neggeh. Amenhotep III., Ai, and perhaps others, were there buried. Somewhat later, they preferred to draw nearer to the city of the living. Behind the cliff which forms the northern boundary of the plain of Thebes, there lay a kind of rocky hollow closed in on every side, and accessible from the outer world by only a few perilous paths. It divides into two branches, which cross almost at right angles. One branch turns to the south-east, while the other, which again divides into secondary branches, turns to the south-west. Westward rises a mountain which recalls upon a gigantic scale the outline of the great step-pyramid of Sakkarah (fig. 137). The Egyptian engineers of the time observed that this hollow was separated from the ravine of Amenhotep III. by a mere barrier some 500 cubits in thickness. In this there was nothing to dismay such practised miners. They therefore cut a trench some fifty or sixty cubits deep through the solid rock, at the end of which a narrow passage opens like a gateway into the hidden valley beyond. Was it in the time of Horemheb, or during the reign of Rameses I., that this gigantic work was accomplished? Rameses I. is, at all events, the earliest king whose tomb has as yet been found in this spot. His son, Seti I., then his grandson, Rameses II., came hither to rest beside him. The Ramesside Pharaohs followed one after the other. Herhor may perhaps have been the last of the series. These crowded catacombs caused the place to be called "The Valley of the Tombs of the Kings,"—a name which it retains to this day.

These tombs are not complete. Each had its chapel; but those chapels stood far away in the plain, at Gurneh, at the Ramesseum, at Medinet Habu; and they have already been described. The Theban rock, like the Memphite pyramid, contained only the passages and the sepulchral chamber. During the daytime, the pure Soul was in no serious danger; but in the evening, when the eternal waters which flow along the vaulted heavens fall in vast cascades adown the west and are engulfed in the bowels of the earth, the Soul follows the bark of the Sun and its escort of luminary gods into a lower world bristling with ambuscades and perils. For twelve hours, the divine squadron defiles through long and gloomy corridors, where numerous genii, some hostile, some friendly, now struggle to bar the way, and now aid it in surmounting the difficulties of the journey. Great doors, each guarded by a gigantic serpent, were stationed at intervals, and led to an immense hall full of flame and fire, peopled by hideous monsters and executioners whose office it was to torture the damned. Then came more dark and narrow passages, more blind gropings in the gloom, more strife with malevolent genii, and again the joyful welcoming of the propitious gods. At midnight began the upward journey towards the eastern regions of the world; and in the morning, having reached the confines of the Land of Darkness, the sun emerged from the east to light another day. The tombs of the kings were constructed upon the model of the world of night. They had their passages, their doors, their vaulted halls, which plunged down into the depths of the mountain. Their positions in the valley were determined by no consideration of dynasty or succession.

Each king attacked the rock at any point where he might hope to find a suitable bed of stone; and this was done with so little regard for his predecessors, that the workmen were sometimes obliged to change the direction of the excavation in order not to invade a neighbouring catacomb. The designer's plan was a mere sketch, to be modified when necessary, and which was by no means intended to be strictly carried out. Hence the plan and measurement of the actual tomb of Rameses IV. (fig. 156) differ in the outline of the sides and in the general arrangement from the plan of that same tomb which is preserved on a papyrus in the Turin Museum (fig. 153). Nothing, however, could be more simple than the ordinary distribution of the parts. A square door, very sparingly ornamented, opened upon a passage leading to a chamber of more or less extent. From the further end of this chamber opened a second passage leading to a second chamber, and thence sometimes to more chambers, the last of which contained the sarcophagus. In some tombs, the whole excavation is carried down a gently inclined plane, broken perhaps by only one or two low steps between the entrance and the end. In others, the various parts follow each other at lower and lower levels. In the catacomb of Seti I. (fig. 158) a long and narrow flight of stairs and a sloping corridor (A) lead to a little antechamber and two halls (B) supported on pillars. A second staircase (C) leads through a second antechamber to another pillared hall (D), which was the hiding-place of the sarcophagus. The tomb did not end here. A third staircase (E) opening from the end of the principal hall was in progress, and would no doubt have led to more halls and chambers, had not the work been stopped by the death of the king.[33] If we go from catacomb to catacomb, we do not find many variations from this plan. The entrance passage in the tomb of Rameses III. is flanked by eight small lateral chambers. In almost every other instance, the lesser or greater length of the passages, and the degree of finish given to the wall paintings, constitute the only differences between one tomb and another. The smallest of these catacombs comes to an end at fifty-three feet from the entrance; that of Seti I., which is the longest, descends to a distance of 470 feet, and there remains unfinished. The same devices to which the pyramid builders had recourse, in order to mislead the spoiler, were adopted by the engineers of the Theban catacombs. False shafts were sunk which led to nothing, and walls sculptured and painted were built across the passages. When the burial was over, the entrance was filled up with blocks of rock, and the natural slope of the mountain side was restored as skilfully as might be.

The most complete type of this class of catacomb is that left to us by Seti I.; figures and hieroglyphs alike are models of pure design and elegant execution. The tomb of Rameses III. already points to decadence. It is for the most part roughly painted. Yellow is freely laid on, and the raw tones of the reds and blues are suggestive of the early daubs of our childhood. Mediocrity ere long reigned supreme, the outlines becoming more feeble, the colour more and more glaring, till the latest tombs are but caricatures of those of Seti I. and Rameses III. The decoration is always the same, and is based on the same principles as the decoration of the pyramids. At Thebes as at Memphis, the intention was to secure to the Double the free enjoyment of his new abode, and to usher the Soul into the company of the gods of the solar cycle and the Osirian cycle, as well as to guide it through the labyrinth of the infernal regions. But the Theban priests exercised their ingenuity to bring before the eyes of the deceased all that which the Memphites consigned to his memory by means of writing, thus enabling him to see what he had formerly been obliged to read upon the walls of his tomb. Where the texts of the pyramid of Unas relate how Unas, being identified with the sun, navigates the celestial waters or enters the Fields of Aalu, the pictured walls of the tomb of Seti I. show Seti sailing in the solar bark, while a side chamber in the tomb of Rameses III. shows Rameses III. in the Fields of Aalu (fig. 159). Where the walls of the pyramid of Unas give the prayers recited over the mummy to open his mouth, to restore the use of his limbs, to clothe, to perfume, to feed him, the walls of Seti's catacomb contain representations of the actual mummy, of the Ka statues which are the supports of his Double, and of the priests who open their mouths, who clothe them, perfume them, and offer them the various meats and drinks of the funeral feast. The ceilings of the pyramid chambers were sprinkled over with stars to resemble the face of the heavens; but there was nothing to instruct the Soul as to the names of those heavenly bodies. On the ceilings of some of the Theban catacombs, we not only find the constellations depicted, each with its personified image, but astronomical tables giving the aspect of the heavens fortnight by fortnight throughout the months of the Egyptian year, so that the Soul had but to lift its eyes and see in what part of the firmament its course lay night after night. Taken as a series, these tableaux form an illustrated narrative of the travels of the sun and the Soul throughout the twenty-four hours of the day and night. Each hour is represented, as also the domain of each hour with its circumscribed boundary, the door of which is guarded by a huge serpent. These serpents have their various names, as "Fire-Face," "Flaming Eye," "Evil Eye," etc. The fate of Souls was decided in the third hour of the day. They were weighed by the god Thoth, who consigned them to their future abode according to the verdict of the scales. The sinful Soul was handed over to the cynocephalous-ape assessors of the infernal tribunal, who hunted and scourged it, after first changing it into a sow, or some other impure animal. The righteous Soul, on the contrary, passed in the fifth hour into the company of his fellows, whose task it was to cultivate the Fields of Aalu and reap the corn of the celestial harvest, after which they took their pleasure under the guardianship of the good genii. After the fifth hour, the heavenly ocean became a vast battlefield. The gods of light pursued, captured, and bound the serpent Apapi, and at the twelfth hour they strangled him. But this triumph was not of long duration. Scarcely had the sun achieved this victory when his bark was borne by the tide into the realm of the night hours, and from that moment he was assailed, like Virgil and Dante at the Gates of Hell, by frightful sounds and clamourings. Each circle had its voice, not to be confounded with the voices of other circles. Here the sound was as an immense humming of wasps; yonder it was as the lamentations of women for their husbands, and the howling of she-beasts for their mates; elsewhere it was as the rolling of the thunder. The sarcophagus, as well as the walls, was covered with these scenes of joyous or sinister import. It was generally of red or black granite. As it was put in hand last of all, it frequently happened that the sculptors had not time to finish it. When finished, however, the scenes and texts with which it was covered contained an epitome of the whole catacomb.[34] Thus, lying in his sarcophagus, the dead man found his future destinies depicted thereon, and learned to understand the blessedness of the gods. The tombs of private persons were not often so elaborately decorated. Two tombs of the period of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty—that of Petamenoph at Thebes and that of Bakenrenf at Memphis—compete in this respect, however, with the royal catacombs. Their walls are not only sculptured with the text (more or less complete) of The Book of the Dead, but also with long extracts from The Book of the Opening of the Mouth and the religious formulae found in the pyramids.

As every part of the tomb had its special decoration, so also it had its special furniture. Of the chapel furniture few traces have been preserved. The table of offerings, which was of stone, is generally all that remains. The objects placed in the serdab, in the passages, and in the sepulchral chamber, have suffered less from the ravages of time and the hand of man. During the Ancient Empire, the funerary portrait statues were always immured in the serdab. The sepulchral vault contained, besides the sarcophagus, head-rests of limestone or alabaster; geese carved in stone; sometimes (though rarely) a scribe's palette; generally some terra-cotta vases of various shapes: and lastly a store of food-cereals, and the bones of the victims sacrificed on the day of burial. Under the Theban Dynasties, the household goods of the dead were richer and more numerous. The Ka statues of his servants and family, which in former times were placed in the serdab with those of the master, were now consigned to the vault, and made on a smaller scale. On the other hand, many objects which used to be merely depicted on the walls were now represented by models, or by actual specimens. Thus we find miniature funeral boats, with crew, mummy, mourners, and friends complete; imitation bread-offerings of baked clay, erroneously called "funerary cones," stamped with the name of the deceased; bunches of grapes in glazed ware; and limestone moulds wherewith the deceased was supposed to make pottery models of oxen, birds, and fish, which should answer the purpose of fish, flesh, and fowl. Toilet and kitchen utensils, arms, and instruments of music abound. These are mostly broken—piously slain, in order that their souls should go hence to wait upon the soul of the dead man in the next world. Little statuettes in stone, wood, and enamel—blue, green, and white—are placed by hundreds, and even by thousands, with these piles of furniture, arms, and provisions. Properly speaking, they are reduced serdab-statues, destined, like their larger predecessors, to serve as bodies for the Double, and (by a later conception) for the Soul. They were at first represented clothed like the individual whose name they bore. As time went on, their importance dwindled, and their duties were limited to merely answering for their master when called by Thoth to the corvee, and acting as his substitutes when he was summoned by the gods to work in the Fields of Aalu. Thenceforth they were called "Respondents" (Ushabtiu), and were represented with agricultural implements in their hands. No longer clothed as the man was clothed when living, they were made in the semblance of a mummified corpse, with only the face and hands unbandaged. The so-called "canopic vases," with lids fashioned like heads of hawks, cynocephali, jackals, and men, were reserved from the time of the Eleventh Dynasty for the viscera, which were extracted from the body by the embalmers. As for the mummy, it continued, as time went on, to be more and more enwrapped in cartonnage, and more liberally provided with papyri and amulets; each amulet forming an essential part of its magic armour, and serving to protect its limbs and soul from destruction.

Theoretically, every Egyptian was entitled to an eternal dwelling constructed after the plan which I have here described with its successive modifications; but the poorer folk were fain to do without those things which were the necessities of the wealthier dead. They were buried wherever it was cheapest—in old tombs which had been ransacked and abandoned; in the natural clefts of the rock; or in common pits. At Thebes, in the time of the Ramessides, great trenches dug in the sand awaited their remains. The funeral rites once performed, the grave-diggers cast a thin covering of sand over the day's mummies, sometimes in lots of two or three, and sometimes in piles which they did not even take the trouble to lay in regular layers. Some were protected only by their bandages; others were wrapped about with palm-branches, lashed in the fashion of a game-basket. Those most cared for lie in boxes of rough-hewn wood, neither painted nor inscribed. Many are huddled into old coffins which have not even been altered to suit the size of the new occupant, or into a composite contrivance made of the fragments of three or four broken mummy-cases. As to funerary furniture, it was out of the question for such poor souls as these. A pair of sandals of painted cardboard or plaited reeds; a staff for walking along the heavenly highways; a ring of enamelled ware; a bracelet or necklace of little blue beads; a tiny image of Ptah, of Osiris, of Anubis, of Hathor, or of Bast; a few mystic eyes or scarabs; and, above all, a twist or two of cord round the arm, the neck, the leg, or the body, intended to preserve the corpse from magical influences,—are the only possessions of the pauper dead.

[31] For a full account of the Twelfth Dynasty tombs at Beni Hasan and El Bersheh see the first memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of the Egypt Exploration Fund.

[32] The steps are shown in fig. 150. They were discovered by General Sir F. Grenfell in 1885. Noting the remains of two parallel walls running up from the water's edge to a part of the cliff which had evidently been escarped and presented a vertical face, General Grenfell caused the sand to be cleared, thus disclosing the entrances to several rock- cut tombs dating from the Sixth and Twelfth Dynasties, as well as two flights of steps on either side of an inclined plane leading from the Nile bank to the door of one of the tombs. The distance between the two walls is ten feet. The steps are eighteen inches deep, and 250 in number. The steps were for the haulers, the mummies and sarcophagi being dragged up the inclined plane. (See p. 209.)—A.B.E.

[33] M. Lefebure has lately produced a superb and elaborate volume on this tomb, with the whole of the texts and the wall decorations faithfully reproduced: Memoires publies par les Membres de la Mission du Caire, Vol. II., fasc. I.—A.B.E.

[34] We have in this country two very fine specimens of inscribed sarcophagi; namely, that of Seti I., of beautiful alabaster, in the Soane collection (xixth Dyn.), and that of Queen Ankhnesraneferab (xxvith Dyn.) in the British Museum.—A.B.E.



The statues and bas-reliefs which decorated the temples and tombs of Ancient Egypt were for the most part painted. Coloured stones, such as granite, basalt, diorite, serpentine, and alabaster, sometimes escaped this law of polychrome; but in the case of sandstone, limestone, or wood it was rigorously enforced. If sometimes we meet with uncoloured monuments in these materials, we may be sure that the paint has been accidentally rubbed off, or that the work is unfinished. The sculptor and the painter were therefore inseparably allied. The first had no sooner finished his share of the task than the other took it up; and the same artist was often as skilful a master of the brush as of the chisel.


Of the system upon which drawing was taught by the Egyptian masters, we know nothing. They had learned from experience to determine the general proportions of the body, and the invariable relations of the various parts one with another; but they never troubled themselves to tabulate those proportions, or to reduce them to a system. Nothing in what remains to us of their works justifies the belief that they ever possessed a canon based upon the length of the human finger or foot. Theirs was a teaching of routine, and not of theory. Models executed by the master were copied over and over again by his pupils, till they could reproduce them with absolute exactness. That they also studied from the life is shown by the facility with which they seized a likeness, or rendered the characteristics and movements of different kinds of animals. They made their first attempts upon slabs of limestone, on drawing boards covered with a coat of red or white stucco, or on the backs of old manuscripts of no value. New papyrus was too dear to be spoiled by the scrawls of tyros. Having neither pencil nor stylus, they made use of the reed, the end of which, when steeped in water, opened out into small fibres, and made a more or less fine brush according to the size of the stem. The palette was of thin wood, in shape a rectangular oblong, with a groove in which to lay the brush at the lower end. At the upper end were two or more cup-like hollows, each fitted with a cake of ink; black and red being the colours most in use. A tiny pestle and mortar for colour-grinding (fig. 160), and a cup of water in which to clip and wash the brush, completed the apparatus of the student. Palette in hand, he squatted cross-legged before his copy, and, without any kind of support for his wrist, endeavoured to reproduce the outline in black. The master looked over his work when done, and corrected the errors in red ink.

The few designs which have come down to us are drawn on pieces of limestone, and are for the most part in sufficiently bad preservation. The British Museum possesses two or three subjects in red outline, which may perhaps have been used as copies by the decorators of some Theban tomb about the time of the Twentieth Dynasty. A fragment in the Museum of Gizeh contains studies of ducks or geese in black ink; and at Turin may be seen a sketch of a half-nude female figure bending backwards, as about to turn a somersault. The lines are flowing, the movement is graceful, the modelling delicate. The draughtsman was not hampered then as now, by the rigidity of the instrument between his fingers. The reed brush attacked the surface perpendicularly; broadened, diminished, or prolonged the line at will; and stopped or turned with the utmost readiness. So supple a medium was admirably adapted to the rapid rendering of the humorous or ludicrous episodes of daily life. The Egyptians, naturally laughter-loving and satirical, were caricaturists from an early period. One of the Turin papyri chronicles the courtship of a shaven priest and a songstress of Amen in a series of spirited vignettes; while on the back of the same sheet are sketched various serio-comic scenes, in which animals parody the pursuits of civilised man. An ass, a lion, a crocodile, and an ape are represented in the act of giving a vocal and instrumental concert; a lion and a gazelle play at draughts; the Pharaoh of all the rats, in a chariot drawn by dogs, gallops to the assault of a fortress garrisoned by cats; a cat of fashion, with a flower on her head, has come to blows with a goose, and the hapless fowl, powerless in so unequal a contest, topples over with terror. Cats, by the way, were the favourite animals of Egyptian caricaturists. An ostrakon in the New York Museum depicts a cat of rank en grande toilette, seated in an easy chair, and a miserable Tom, with piteous mien and tail between his legs, serving her with refreshments (fig. 161). Our catalogue of comic sketches is brief; but the abundance of pen-drawings with which certain religious works were illustrated compensates for our poverty in secular subjects. These works are The Book of the Dead and The Book of Knowing That which is in Hades, which were reproduced by hundreds, according to standard copies preserved in the temples, or handed down through families whose hereditary profession it was to conduct the services for the dead. When making these illustrations, the artist had no occasion to draw upon his imagination. He had but to imitate the copy as skilfully as he could. Of The Book of Knowing That which is in Hades we have no examples earlier than the time of the Twentieth Dynasty, and these are poor enough in point of workmanship, the figures being little better than dot-and-line forms, badly proportioned and hastily scrawled. The extant specimens of The Book of the Dead are so numerous that a history of the art of miniature painting in ancient Egypt might be compiled from this source alone. The earliest date from the Eighteenth Dynasty, the more recent being contemporary with the first Caesars. The oldest copies are for the most part remarkably fine in execution. Each chapter has its vignette representing a god in human or animal form, a sacred emblem, or the deceased in adoration before a divinity. These little subjects are sometimes ranged horizontally at the top of the text, which is written in vertical columns (fig. 162); sometimes, like the illuminated capitals in our mediaeval manuscripts, they are scattered throughout the pages. At certain points, large subjects fill the space from top to bottom of the papyrus. The burial scene comes at the beginning; the judgment of the soul about the middle; and the arrival of the deceased in the Fields of Aalu at the end of the work. In these, the artist seized the opportunity to display his skill, and show what he could do. We here see the mummy of Hunefer placed upright before his stela and his tomb (fig. 163). The women of his family bewail him; the men and the priest present offerings. The papyri of the princes and princesses of the family of Pinotem in the Museum of Gizeh show that the best traditions of the art were yet in force at Thebes in the time of the Twenty-first Dynasty. Under the succeeding dynasties, that art fell into rapid decadence, and during some centuries the drawings continue to be coarse and valueless. The collapse of the Persian rule produced a period of Renaissance. Tombs of the Greek time have yielded papyri with vignettes carefully executed in a dry and minute style which offers a singular contrast to the breadth and boldness of the Pharaonic ages. The broad-tipped reed-pen was thrown aside for the pen with a fine point, and the scribes vied with each other as to which should trace the most attenuated lines. The details with which they overloaded their figures, the elaboration of the beard and the hair, and the folds of the garments, are sometimes so minute that it is scarcely possible to distinguish them without a magnifying glass. Precious as these documents are, they give a very insufficient idea of the ability and technical methods of the artists of ancient Egypt. It is to the walls of their temples and tombs that we must turn, if we desire to study their principles of composition.

Their conventional system differed materially from our own. Man or beast, the subject was never anything but a profile relieved against a flat background. Their object, therefore, was to select forms which presented a characteristic outline capable of being reproduced in pure line upon a plane surface. As regarded animal life, the problem was in no wise complicated. The profile of the back and body, the head and neck, carried in undulating lines parallel with the ground, were outlined at one sweep of the pencil. The legs also are well detached from the body. The animals themselves are lifelike, each with the gait and action and flexion of the limbs peculiar to its species. The slow and measured tread of the ox; the short step, the meditative ear, the ironical mouth of the ass; the abrupt little trot of the goat, the spring of the hunting greyhound, are all rendered with invariable success of outline and expression. Turning from domestic animals to wild beasts, the perfection of treatment is the same. The calm strength of the lion in repose, the stealthy and sleepy tread of the leopard, the grimace of the ape, the slender grace of the gazelle and the antelope, have never been better expressed than in Egypt. But it was not so easy to project man—the whole man—upon a plane surface without some departure from nature. A man cannot be satisfactorily reproduced by means of mere lines, and a profile outline necessarily excludes too much of his person. The form of the forehead and the nose, the curvature of the lips, the cut of the ear, disappear when the head is drawn full face; but, on the other hand, it is necessary that the bust should be presented full face, in order to give the full development of the shoulders, and that the two arms may be visible to right and left of the body. The contours of the trunk are best modelled in a three-quarters view, whereas the legs show to most advantage when seen sidewise. The Egyptians did not hesitate to combine these contradictory points of view in one single figure. The head is almost always given in profile, but is provided with a full-face eye and placed upon a full-face bust. The full-face bust adorns a trunk seen from a three-quarters point of view, and this trunk is supported upon legs depicted in profile. Very seldom do we meet with figures treated according to our own rules of perspective. Most of the minor personages represented in the tomb of Khnumhotep seem, however, to have made an effort to emancipate themselves from the law of malformation. Their bodies are given in profile, as well as their heads and legs; but they thrust forward first one shoulder and then the other, in order to show both arms (fig. 164), and the effect is not happy. Yet, if we examine the treatment of the farm servant who is cramming a goose, and, above all, the figure of the standing man who throws his weight upon the neck of a gazelle to make it kneel down (fig. 165), we shall see that the action of the arms and hips is correctly rendered, that the form of the back is quite right, and that the prominence of the chest—thrown forward in proportion as the shoulders and arms are thrown back—is drawn without any exaggeration. The wrestlers of the Beni Hasan tombs, the dancers and servants of the Theban catacombs, attack, struggle, posture, and go about their work with perfect naturalness and ease (fig. 166). These, however, are exceptions. Tradition, as a rule, was stronger than nature, and to the end of the chapter, the Egyptian masters continued to deform the human figure. Their men and women are actual monsters from the point of view of the anatomist; and yet, after all, they are neither so ugly nor so ridiculous as might be supposed by those who have seen only the wretched copies so often made by our modern artists. The wrong parts are joined to the right parts with so much skill that they seem to have grown there. The natural lines and the fictitious lines follow and complement each other so ingeniously, that the former appear to give rise of necessity to the latter. The conventionalities of Egyptian art once accepted, we cannot sufficiently admire the technical skill displayed by the draughtsman. His line was pure, firm, boldly begun, and as boldly prolonged. Ten or twelve strokes of the brush sufficed to outline a figure the size of life. The whole head, from the nape of the neck to the rise of the throat above the collar-bone, was executed at one sweep. Two long undulating lines gave the external contour of the body from the armpits to the ends of the feet. Two more determined the outlines of the legs, and two the arms. The details of costume and ornaments, at first but summarily indicated, were afterwards taken up one by one, and minutely finished. We may almost count the locks of the hair, the plaits of the linen, the inlayings of the girdles and bracelets. This mixture of artless science and intentional awkwardness, of rapid execution and patient finish, excludes neither elegance of form, nor grace of attitude, nor truth of movement. These personages are of strange aspect, but they live; and to those who will take the trouble to look at them without prejudice, their very strangeness has a charm about it which is often lacking to works more recent in date and more strictly true to nature.

We admit, then, that the Egyptians could draw. Were they, as it has been ofttimes asserted, ignorant of the art of composition? We will take a scene at hazard from a Theban tomb—that scene which represents the funerary repast offered to Prince Horemheb by the members of his family (fig. 167). The subject is half ideal, half real. The dead man, and those belonging to him who are no longer of this world, are depicted in the society of the living. They are present, yet aloof. They assist at the banquet, but they do not actually take part in it. Horemheb sits on a folding stool to the left of the spectator. He dandles on his knee a little princess, daughter of Amenhotep III., whose foster-father he was, and who died before him. His mother, Suit, sits at his right hand a little way behind, enthroned in a large chair. She holds his arm with her left hand, and with the right she offers him a lotus blossom and bud. A tiny gazelle which was probably buried with her, like the pet gazelle discovered beside Queen Isiemkheb in the hiding-place at Deir el Bahari, is tied to one of the legs of the chair. This ghostly group is of heroic size, the rule being that gods are bigger than men, kings bigger than their subjects, and the dead bigger than the living. Horemheb, his mother, and the women standing before them, occupy the front level, or foreground. The relations and friends are ranged in line facing their deceased ancestors, and appear to be talking one with another. The feast has begun. The jars of wine and beer, placed in rows upon wooden stands, are already unsealed. Two young slaves rub the hands and necks of the living guests with perfumes taken from an alabaster vase. Two women dressed in robes of ceremony present offerings to the group of dead, consisting of vases filled with flowers, perfumes, and grain. These they place in turn upon a square table. Three others dance, sing, and play upon the lute, by way of accompaniment to those acts of homage. In the picture, as in fact, the tomb is the place of entertainment. There is no other background to the scene than the wall covered with hieroglyphs, along which the guests were seated during the ceremony. Elsewhere, the scene of action, if in the open country, is distinctly indicated by trees and tufts of grass; by red sand, if in the desert; and by a maze of reeds and lotus plants, if in the marshes. A lady of quality comes in from a walk (fig. 168). One of her daughters, being athirst, takes a long draught from a "gullah"; two little naked children with shaven heads, a boy and a girl, who ran to meet their mother at the gate, are made happy with toys brought home and handed to them by a servant. A trellised enclosure covered with vines, and trees laden with fruit, are shown above; yonder, therefore, is the garden, but the lady and her daughters have passed through it without stopping, and are now indoors. The front of the house is half put in and half left out, so that we may observe what is going on inside. We accordingly see three attendants hastening to serve their mistresses with refreshments. The picture is not badly composed, and it would need but little alteration if transferred to a modern canvas. The same old awkwardness, or rather the same old obstinate custom, which compelled the Egyptian artist to put a profile head upon a full-face bust, has, however, prevented him from placing his middle distance and background behind his foreground. He has, therefore, been reduced to adopt certain more or less ingenious contrivances, in order to make up for an almost complete absence of perspective.

Again, when a number of persons engaged in the simultaneous performance of any given act were represented on the same level, they were isolated as much as possible, so that each man's profile might not cover that of his neighbour. When this was not done, they were arranged to overlap each other, and this, despite the fact that all stood on the one level; so that they have actually but two dimensions and no thickness. A herdsman walking in the midst of his oxen plants his feet upon precisely the same ground- line as the beast which interposes between his body and the spectator. The most distant soldier of a company which advances in good marching order to the sound of the trumpet, has his head and feet on exactly the same level; as the head and feet of the foremost among his comrades (fig. 169). When a squadron of chariots defiles before Pharaoh, one would declare that their wheels all ran in the self-same ruts, were it not that the body of the first chariot partly hides the horse by which the second chariot is drawn (fig. 170). In these examples the people and objects are, either accidentally or naturally, placed so near together, that the anomaly does not strike one as too glaring. In taking these liberties, the Egyptian artist but anticipated a contrivance adopted by the Greek sculptor of a later age. Elsewhere, the Egyptian has occasionally approached nearer to truth of treatment. The archers of Rameses III. at Medinet Habu make an effort, which is almost successful, to present themselves in perspective. The row of helmets slopes downwards, and the row of bows slopes upwards, with praiseworthy regularity; but the men's feet are all on the same level, and do not, therefore, follow the direction of the other lines (fig. 171). This mode of representation is not uncommon during the Theban period. It was generally adopted when men or animals, ranged in line, had to be shown in the act of doing the same thing; but it was subject to the grave drawback (or what was in Egyptian eyes the grave drawback) of showing the body of the first man only, and of almost entirely hiding the rest of the figures. When, therefore, it was found impossible to range all upon the same level without hiding some of their number, the artist frequently broke his masses up into groups, and placed one above the other on the same vertical plane. Their height in no wise depends on the place they occupy in the perspective of the tableau, but only upon the number of rows required by the artist to carry out his idea. If two rows of figures are sufficient, he divides his space horizontally into equal parts; if he requires three rows, he divides it into three parts; and so on. When, however, it is a question of mere accessories, they are made out upon a smaller scale. Secondary scenes are generally separated by a horizontal line, but this line is not indispensable. When masses of figures formed in regular order had to be shown, the vertical planes lapped over, so to speak, according to the caprice of the limner. At the battle of Kadesh, the files of Egyptian infantry rise man above man, waist high, from top to bottom of the phalanx (fig. 172); while those of the Kheta, or Hittite battalions, show but one head above another (fig. 173).

It was not only in their treatment of men and animals that the Egyptians allowed themselves this latitude. Houses, trees, land and water, were as freely misrepresented. An oblong rectangle placed upright, or on its side, and covered with regular zigzags, represents a canal. Lest one should be in doubt as to its meaning, fishes and crocodiles are put in, to show that it is water, and nothing but water. Boats are seen floating upright upon this edgewise surface; the flocks ford it where it is shallow; and the angler with his line marks the spot where the water ends and the bank begins. Sometimes the rectangle is seen suspended like a framed picture, at about half way of the height of several palm trees (fig. 174); whereby we are given to understand a tank bordered on both sides by trees. Sometimes, again, as in the tomb of Rekhmara, the trees are laid down in rows round the four sides of a square pond, while a profile boat conveying a dead man in his shrine, hauled by slaves also shown in profile, floats on the vertical surface of the water (fig. 175). The Theban catacombs of the Ramesside period supply abundant examples of contrivances of this kind; and, having noted them, we end by not knowing which most to wonder at—the obstinacy of the Egyptians in not seeking to discover the natural laws of perspective, or the inexhaustible wealth of resource which enabled them to invent so many false relations between the various parts of their subjects.

When employed upon a very large scale, their methods of composition shock the eye less than when applied to small subjects. We instinctively feel that even the ablest artist must sometimes have played fast and loose with the laws of perspective, if tasked to cover the enormous surfaces of Egyptian pylons.

Hence the unities of the subject are never strictly observed in these enormous bas-reliefs. The main object being to perpetuate the memory of a victorious Pharaoh, that Pharaoh necessarily plays the leading part; but instead of selecting from among his striking deeds some one leading episode pre-eminently calculated to illustrate his greatness, the Egyptian artist delighted to present the successive incidents of his campaigns at a single coup d'oeil. Thus treated, the pylons of Luxor and the Ramesseum show a Syrian night attack upon the Egyptian camp; a seizure of spies sent by the prince of the Kheta for the express purpose of being caught and giving false intelligence of his movements; the king's household troops surprised and broken by the Khetan chariots; the battle of Kadesh and its various incidents, so furnishing us, as it were, with a series of illustrated despatches of the Syrian campaign undertaken by Rameses II. in the fifth year of his reign. After this fashion precisely did the painters of the earliest Italian schools depict within the one field, and in one uninterrupted sequence, the several episodes of a single narrative. The scenes are irregularly dispersed over the surface of the wall, without any marked lines of separation, and, as with the bas-reliefs upon the column of Trajan, one is often in danger of dividing the groups in the wrong place, and of confusing the characters. This method is reserved almost exclusively for official art. In the interior decoration of temples and tombs, the various parts of the one subject are distributed in rows ranged one above the other, from the ground line to the cornice. Thus another difficulty is added to the number of those which prevent us from understanding the style and intention of Egyptian design. We often imagine that we are looking at a series of isolated scenes, when in fact we have before our eyes the disjecta membra of a single composition. Take, for example, one wall-side of the tomb of Ptahhotep at Sakkarah (fig. 176). If we would discover the link which divides these separate scenes, we shall do well to compare this wall-subject with the mosaic at Palestrina (fig. 177), a monument of Graeco-Roman time which represents almost the same scenes, grouped, however, after a style more familiar to our ways of seeing and thinking. The Nile occupies the immediate foreground of the picture, and extends as far as the foot of the mountains in the distance. Towns rise from the water's edge; and not only towns, but obelisks, farm-houses, and towers of Graeco-Italian style, more like the buildings depicted in Pompeian landscapes than the monuments of the Pharaohs. Of these buildings, only the large temple in the middle distance to the right of the picture, with its pylon gateway and its four Osirian colossi, recalls the general arrangement of Egyptian architecture. To the left, a party of sportsmen in a large boat are seen in the act of harpooning the hippopotamus and crocodile. To the right, a group of legionaries, drawn up in front of a temple and preceded by a priest, salute a passing galley. Towards the middle of the foreground, in the shade of an arched trellis thrown across a small branch of the Nile, some half-clad men and women are singing and carousing. Little papyrus skiffs, each rowed by a single boatman, and other vessels fill the vacant spaces of the composition. Behind the buildings we see the commencement of the desert. The water forms large pools at the base of overhanging hills, and various animals, real or imaginary, are pursued by shaven-headed hunters in the upper part of the picture. Now, precisely after the manner of the Roman mosaicist, the old Egyptian artist placed himself, as it were, on the Nile, and reproduced all that lay between his own standpoint and the horizon. In the wall-painting (fig. 176) the river flows along the line next the floor, boats come and go, and boatmen fall to blows with punting poles and gaffs. In the division next above, we see the river bank and the adjoining flats, where a party of slaves, hidden in the long grasses, trap and catch birds. Higher still, boat-making, rope-making, and fish-curing are going on. Finally, in the highest register of all, next the ceiling, are depicted the barren hills and undulating plains of the desert, where greyhounds chase the gazelle, and hunters trammel big game with the lasso. Each longitudinal section corresponds, in fact, with a plane of the landscape; but the artist, instead of placing his planes in perspective, has treated them separately, and placed them one above the other. We find the same disposition of the parts in all Egyptian tomb paintings. Scenes of inundation and civil life are ranged along the base of the wall, mountain subjects and hunting scenes being invariably placed high up. Sometimes, interposed between these two extremes, the artist has introduced subjects dealing with the pursuits of the herdsman, the field labourer, and the craftsman. Elsewhere, he suppresses these intermediary episodes, and passes abruptly from the watery to the sandy region. Thus, the mosaic of Palestrina and the tomb-paintings of Pharaonic Egypt reproduce the same group of subjects, treated after the conventional styles and methods of two different schools of art. Like the mosaic, the wall scenes of the tomb formed, not a series of independent scenes, but an ordinary composition, the unity of which is readily recognised by such as are skilled to read the art-language of the period.


The preparation of the surface about to be decorated demanded much time and care. Seeing how imperfect were the methods of construction, and how impossible it was for the architect to ensure a perfectly level surface for the facing stones of his temple-walls and pylons, the decorator had perforce to accommodate himself to a surface slightly rounded in some places and slightly hollowed in others. Even the blocks of which it was formed were scarcely homogeneous in texture. The limestone strata in which the Theban catacombs were excavated were almost always interspersed with flint nodules, fossils, and petrified shells. These faults were variously remedied according as the decoration was to be sculptured or painted. If painted, the wall was first roughly levelled, and then overlaid with a coat of black clay and chopped straw, similar to the mixture used for brick- making. If sculptured, then the artist had to arrange his subject so as to avoid the inequalities of the stone as much as possible. When these occurred in the midst of the figure subjects, and if they did not offer too stubborn a resistance to the chisel, they were simply worked over; otherwise the piece was cut out and a new piece fitted in, or the hole was filled up with white cement. This mending process was no trifling matter. We could point to tomb-chambers where every wall is thus inlaid to the extent of one quarter of its surface. The preliminary work being done, the whole was covered with a thin coat of fine plaster mixed with white of egg, which hid the mud-wash or the piecing, and prepared a level and polished surface for the pencil of the artist. In chambers, or parts of chambers, which have been left unfinished, and even in the quarries, we constantly find sketches of intended bas-reliefs, outlined in red or black ink. The copy was generally executed upon a small scale, then squared off, and transferred to the wall by the pupils and assistants of the master. As in certain scenes carefully copied by Prisse from the walls of Theban tombs, the subject is occasionally indicated by only two or three rapid strokes of the reed (fig. 178). Elsewhere, the outline is fully made out, and the figures only await the arrival of the sculptor. Some designers took pains to determine the position of the shoulders, and the centre of gravity of the bodies, by vertical and horizontal lines, upon which, by means of a dot, they noted the height of the knee, the hips, and other parts (fig. 179). Others again, more self-reliant, attacked their subject at once, and drew in the figures without the aid of guiding points. Such were the artists who decorated the catacomb of Seti I., and the southern walls of the temple of Abydos. Their outlines are so firm, and their facility is so surprising, that they have been suspected of stencilling; but no one who has closely examined their figures, or who has taken the trouble to measure them with a compass, can maintain that opinion. The forms of some are slighter than the forms of others; while in some the contours of the chest are more accentuated, and the legs farther apart, than in others. The master had little to correct in the work of these subordinates. Here and there he made a head more erect, accentuated or modified the outline of a knee, or improved some detail of arrangement. In one instance, however, at Kom Ombo, on the ceiling of a Graeco-Roman portico, some of the divinities had been falsely oriented, their feet being placed where their arms should have been. The master consequently outlined them afresh, and on the same squared surface, without effacing the first drawing. Here, at all events, the mistake was discovered in time. At Karnak, on the north wall of the hypostyle hall, and again at Medinet Habu, the faults of the original design were not noticed till the sculptor had finished his part of the work. The figures of Seti I. and Rameses III. were thrown too far back, and threatened to overbalance themselves; so they were smoothed over with cement and cut anew. Now, the cement has flaked off, and the work of the first chisel is exposed to view. Seti I. and Rameses III. have each two profiles, the one very lightly marked, the other boldly cut into the surface of the stone (fig. 180).

The sculptors of ancient Egypt were not so well equipped as those of our own day. A kneeling scribe in limestone at the Gizeh Museum has been carved with the chisel, the grooves left by the tool being visible on his skin. A statue in grey serpentine, in the same collection, bears traces of the use of two different tools, the body being spotted all over with point-marks, and the unfinished head being blocked out splinter by splinter with a small hammer. Similar observations, and the study of the monuments, show that the drill (fig. 181), the toothed-chisel, and the gouge were also employed. There have been endless discussions as to whether these tools were of iron or of bronze. Iron, it is argued, was deemed impure. No one could make use of it, even for the basest needs of daily life, without incurring a taint prejudicial to the soul both in this world and the next. But the impurity of any given object never sufficed to prevent the employment of it when required. Pigs also were impure; yet the Egyptians bred them. They bred them, indeed, so abundantly in certain districts, that our worthy Herodotus tells us how the swine were turned into the fields after seed-sowing, in order that they might tread in the grain. So also iron, like many other things in Egypt, was pure or impure according to circumstances. If some traditions held it up to odium as an evil thing, and stigmatised it as the "bones of Typhon," other traditions equally venerable affirmed that it was the very substance of the canopy of heaven. So authoritative was this view, that iron was currently known as "Ba-en-pet," or the celestial metal.[35] The only fragment of metal found in the great pyramid is a piece of plate- iron;[36] and if ancient iron objects are nowadays of exceptional rarity as compared with ancient bronze objects, it is because iron differs from bronze, inasmuch as it is not protected from destruction by its oxide. Rust speedily devours it, and it needs a rare combination of favourable circumstances to preserve it intact. If, however, it is quite certain that the Egyptians were acquainted with, and made use of, iron, it is no less certain that they were wholly unacquainted with steel. This being the case, one asks how they can possibly have dealt at will upon the hardest rocks, even upon such as we ourselves hesitate to attack, namely, diorite, basalt, and the granite of Syene. The manufacturers of antiquities who sculpture granite for the benefit of tourists, have found a simple solution of this problem. They work with some twenty common iron chisels at hand, which after a very few turns are good for nothing. When one is blunted, they take up another, and so on till the stock is exhausted. Then they go to the forge, and put their tools into working order again. The process is neither so long nor so difficult as might be supposed. In the Gizeh Museum is a life-size head, produced from a block of black and red granite in less than a fortnight by one of the best forgers in Luxor. I have no doubt that the ancient Egyptians worked in precisely the same way, and mastered the hardest stones by the use of iron. Practice soon taught them methods by which their labour might be lightened, and their tools made to yield results as delicate and subtle as those which we achieve with our own. As soon as the learner knew how to manage the point and the mallet, his master set him to copy a series of graduated models representing an animal in various stages of completion, or a part of the human body, or the whole human body, from the first rough sketch to the finished design (fig. 182). Every year, these models are found in sufficient number to establish examples of progressive series. Apart from isolated specimens which are picked up everywhere, the Gizeh collection contains a set of fifteen from Sakkarah, forty-one from Tanis, and a dozen from Thebes and Medinet Habu. They were intended partly for the study of bas-reliefs, partly for the study of sculpture proper; and they reveal the method in use for both.[37]

The Egyptians treated bas-relief in three ways: either as a simple engraving executed by means of incised lines; or by cutting away the surface of the stone round the figure, and so causing it to stand out in relief upon the wall; or by sinking the design below the wall-surface and cutting it in relief at the bottom of the hollow. The first method has the advantage of being expeditious, and the disadvantage of not being sufficiently decorative. Rameses III. made use of it in certain parts of his temple at Medinet Habu; but, as a rule, it was preferred for stelae and small monuments. The last-named method lessened not only the danger of damage to the work, but the labour of the workman. It evaded the dressing down of the background, which was a distinct economy of time, and it left no projecting work on the surface of the walls, the design being thus sheltered from accidental blows. The intermediate process was, however, generally adopted, and appears to have been taught in the schools by preference. The models were little rectangular tablets, squared off in order that the scholar might enlarge or reduce the scale of his subject without departing from the traditional proportions. Some of these models are wrought on both sides; but the greater number are sculptured on one side only. Sometimes the design represents a bull; sometimes the head of a cynocephalous ape, of a ram, of a lion, of a divinity. Occasionally, we find the subject in duplicate, side by side, being roughly blocked out to the left, and highly finished to the right. In no instance does the relief exceed a quarter of an inch, and it is generally even less. Not but that the Egyptians sometimes cut boldly into the stone. At Medinet Habu and Karnak—on the higher parts of these temples, where the work is in granite or sandstone, and exposed to full daylight—the bas-relief decoration projects full 6-3/8 inches above the surface. Had it been lower, the tableaux would have been, as it were, absorbed by the flood of light poured upon them, and to the eye of the spectator would have presented only a confused network of lines. The models designed for the study of the round are even more instructive than the rest. Some which have come down to us are plaster casts of familiar subjects. The head, the arms, the legs, the trunk, each part of the body, in short, was separately cast. If a complete figure were wanted, the disjecta membra were put together, and the result was a statue of a man, or of a woman, kneeling, standing, seated, squatting, the arms extended or falling passively by the sides. This curious collection was discovered at Tanis, and dates probably from Ptolemaic times.[38] Models of the Pharaonic ages are in soft limestone, and nearly all represent portraits of reigning sovereigns. These are best described as cubes measuring about ten inches each way. The work was begun by covering one face of a cube with a network of lines crossing each other at right angles; these regulated the relative position of the features. Then the opposite side was attacked, the distances being taken from the scale on the reverse face. A mere oval was designed on this first block; a projection in the middle and a depression to right and left, vaguely indicating the whereabouts of nose and eyes. The forms become more definite as we pass from cube to cube, and the face emerges by degrees. The limit of the contours is marked off by parallel lines cut vertically from top to bottom. The angles were next cut away and smoothed down, so as to bring out the forms. Gradually the features become disengaged from the block, the eye looks out, the nose gains refinement, the mouth is developed. When the last cube is reached, there remains nothing to finish save the details of the head-dress and the basilisk on the brow. No scholar's model in basalt has yet been found;[39] but the Egyptians, like our monumental masons, always kept a stock of half-finished statues in hard stone, which could be turned out complete in a few hours. The hands, feet, and bust needed only a few last touches; but the heads were merely blocked out, and the clothing left in the rough. Half a day's work then sufficed to transform the face into a portrait of the purchaser, and to give the last new fashion to the kilt. The discovery of some two or three statues of this kind has shown us as much of the process as a series of teacher's models might have done. Volcanic rocks could not be cut with the continuity and regularity of limestone. The point only could make any impression upon these obdurate materials. When, by force of time and patience, the work had thus been finished to the degree required, there would often remain some little irregularities of surface, due, for example, to the presence of nodules and heterogeneous substances, which the sculptor had not ventured to attack, for fear of splintering away part of the surrounding surface. In order to remove these irregularities, another tool was employed; namely, a stone cut in the form of an axe. Applying the sharp edge of this instrument to the projecting nodule, the artist struck it with a round stone in place of a mallet. A succession of carefully calculated blows with these rude tools pulverised the obtrusive knob, which disappeared in dust. All minor defects being corrected, the monument still looked dull and unfinished. It was necessary to polish it, in order to efface the scars of point and mallet. This was a most delicate operation, one slip of the hand, or a moment's forgetfulness, being enough to ruin the labour of many weeks. The dexterity of the Egyptian craftsman was, however, so great that accidents rarely happened. The Sebekemsaf of Gizeh, the colossal Rameses II. of Luxor, challenge the closest examination. The play of light upon the surface may at first prevent the eye from apprehending the fineness of the work; but, seen under favourable circumstances, the details of knee and chest, of shoulder and face, prove to be no less subtly rendered in granite than in limestone. Excess of polish has no more spoiled the statues of Ancient Egypt than it spoiled those of the sculptors of the Italian Renaissance.

A sandstone or limestone statue would have been deemed imperfect if left to show the colour of the stone in which it was cut, and was painted from head to foot. In bas-relief, the background was left untouched and only the figures were coloured. The Egyptians had more pigments at their disposal than is commonly supposed. The more ancient painters' palettes—and we have some which date from the Fifth Dynasty—have compartments for yellow, red, blue, brown, white, black, and green.[40] Others, of the time of the Eighteenth Dynasty, provide for three varieties of yellow, three of brown, two of red, two of blue, and two of green; making in all some fourteen or sixteen different tints.

Black was obtained by calcining the bones of animals. The other substances employed in painting were indigenous to the country. The white is made of gypsum, mixed with albumen or honey; the yellows are ochre, or sulphuret of arsenic, the orpiment of our modern artists; the reds are ochre, cinnabar, or vermilion; the blues are pulverised lapis-lazuli, or silicate of copper. If the substance was rare or costly, a substitute drawn from the products of native industry was found. Lapis-lazuli, for instance, was replaced by blue frit made with an admixture of silicate of copper, and this was reduced to an impalpable powder. The painters kept their colours in tiny bags, and, as required, mixed them with water containing a little gum tragacanth. They laid them on by means of a reed, or a more or less fine hair brush. When well prepared, these pigments are remarkably solid, and have changed but little during the lapse of ages. The reds have darkened, the greens have faded, the blues have turned somewhat green or grey; but this is only on the surface. If that surface is scraped off, the colour underneath is brilliant and unchanged. Before the Theban period, no precautions were taken to protect the painter's work from the action of air and light. About the time of the Twentieth Dynasty, however, it became customary to coat painted surfaces with a transparent varnish which was soluble in water, and which was probably made from the gum of some kind of acacia. It was not always used in the same manner. Some painters varnished the whole surface, while others merely glazed the ornaments and accessories, without touching the flesh-tints or the clothing. This varnish has cracked from the effects of age, or has become so dark as to spoil the work it was intended to preserve. Doubtless, the Egyptians discovered the bad effects produced by it, as we no longer meet with it after the close of the Twentieth Dynasty.

Egyptian painters laid on broad, flat, uniform washes of colour; they did not paint in our sense of the term; they illuminated. Just as in drawing they reduced everything to lines, and almost wholly suppressed the internal modelling, so in adding colour they still further simplified their subject by merging all varieties of tone, and all play of light and shadow, in one uniform tint. Egyptian painting is never quite true, and never quite false. Without pretending to the faithful imitation of nature, it approaches nature as nearly as it may; sometimes understating, sometimes exaggerating, sometimes substituting ideal or conventional renderings for strict realities. Water, for instance, is always represented by a flat tint of blue, or by blue covered with zigzag lines in black. The buff and bluish hues of the vulture are translated into bright red and vivid blue. The flesh-tints of men are of a dark reddish brown, and the flesh-tints of women are pale yellow. The colours conventionally assigned to each animate and inanimate object were taught in the schools, and their use handed on unchanged from generation to generation. Now and then it happened that a painter more daring than his contemporaries ventured to break with tradition. In the Sixth Dynasty tombs at Deir el Gebrawi, there are instances where the flesh tint of the women is that conventionally devoted to the depiction of men. At Sakkarah, under the Fifth Dynasty, and at Abu Simbel, under the Nineteenth Dynasty, we find men with skins as yellow as those of the women; while in the tombs of Thebes and Abydos, about the time of Thothmes IV. and Horemheb, there occur figures with flesh-tints of rose- colour.[41]

It must not, however, be supposed that the effect produced by this artificial system was grating or discordant. Even in works of small size, such as illuminated MSS. of The Book of the Dead, or the decoration of mummy-cases and funerary coffers, there is both sweetness and harmony of colour. The most brilliant hues are boldly placed side by side, yet with full knowledge of the relations subsisting between these hues, and of the phenomena which must necessarily result from such relations. They neither jar together, nor war with each other, nor extinguish each other. On the contrary, each maintains its own value, and all, by mere juxtaposition, give rise to the half-tones which harmonise them.

Turning from small things to large ones, from the page of papyrus, or the panel of sycamore wood, to the walls of tombs and temples, we find the skilful employment of flat tints equally soothing and agreeable to the eye. Each wall is treated as a whole, the harmony of colour being carried out from bottom to top throughout the various superimposed stages into which the surface was divided. Sometimes the colours are distributed according to a scale of rhythm, or symmetry, balancing and counterbalancing each other. Sometimes one special tint predominates, thus determining the general tone and subordinating every other hue. The vividness of the final effect is always calculated according to the quality and quantity of light by which the picture is destined to be seen. In very dark halls the force of colour is carried as far as it will go, because it would not otherwise have been visible by the flickering light of lamps and torches. On outer wall- surfaces and on pylon-fronts, it was as vivid as in the darkest depths of excavated catacombs; and this because, no matter how extreme it might be, the sun would subdue its splendour. But in half-lighted places, such as the porticoes of temples and the ante-chambers of tombs, colour is so dealt with as to be soft and discreet. In a word, painting was in Egypt the mere humble servant of architecture and sculpture. We must not dream of comparing it with our own, or even with that of the Greeks; but if we take it simply for what it is, accepting it in the secondary place assigned to it, we cannot fail to recognise its unusual merits. Egyptian painting excelled in the sense of monumental decoration, and if we ever revert to the fashion of colouring the facades of our houses and our public edifices, we shall lose nothing by studying Egyptian methods or reproducing Egyptian processes.

[35] The late T. Deveria ingeniously conjectured that "Ba-en-pet" (iron of heaven) might mean the ferruginous substance of meteoric stones. See Melanges d'Archeologie Egyptienne et Assyrienne, vol. i.— A.B.E.

[36] The traces of tools upon the masonry show the use of bronze and jewel-points.—A.B.E.

[37] Many such trial-pieces were found by Petrie in the ruins of a sculptor's house at Tell el Amarna.

[38] A similar collection was found by Mr. F. Ll. Griffith at Tell Gemayemi, in 1886, during his excavations for the Egypt Exploration Fund. See Mr. Petrie's Tanis. Part II., Egypt Exploration Fund.—A.B.E.

[39] Mr. Loftie's collection contains, however, an interesting piece of trial-work consisting of the head of a Ptolemaic queen in red granite.—A.B.E.

[40] For pigments used at the beginning of the Fourth Dynasty, see Petrie's Medum.

[41] The rose-coloured, or rather crimson, flesh-tints are also to be seen at El Kab, and in the famous speos at Beit el Wally, both tempo Nineteenth Dynasty.—A.B.E.


To this day, the most ancient statue known is a colossus—namely, the Great Sphinx of Gizeh. It was already in existence in the time of Khufu (Cheops), and perhaps we should not be far wrong if we ventured to ascribe it to the generations before Mena, called in the priestly chronicles "the Servants of Horus." Hewn in the living rock at the extreme verge of the Libyan plateau, it seems, as the representative of Horus, to uprear its head in order to be the first to catch sight of his father, Ra, the rising sun, across the valley (fig. 183). For centuries the sands have buried it to the chin, yet without protecting it from ruin. Its battered body preserves but the general form of a lion's body. The paws and breast, restored by the Ptolemies and the Caesars, retain but a part of the stone facing with which they were then clothed in order to mask the ravages of time. The lower part of the head-dress has fallen, and the diminished neck looks too slender to sustain the enormous weight of the head. The nose and beard have been broken off by fanatics, and the red hue which formerly enlivened the features is almost wholly effaced. And yet, notwithstanding its fallen fortunes, the monster preserves an expression of sovereign strength and greatness. The eyes gaze out afar with a look of intense and profound thoughtfulness; the mouth still wears a smile; the whole countenance is informed with power and repose. The art which conceived and carved this prodigious statue was a finished art; an art which had attained self- mastery, and was sure of its effects. How many centuries had it taken to arrive at this degree of maturity and perfection? In certain pieces belonging to various museums, such as the statues of Sepa and his wife at the Louvre, and the bas-reliefs of the tomb of Khabiusokari at Gizeh, critics have mistakenly recognised the faltering first efforts of an unskilled people. The stiffness of attitude and gesture, the exaggerated squareness of the shoulders, the line of green paint under the eyes,—in a word, all those characteristics which are quoted as signs of extreme antiquity, are found in certain monuments of the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties. The contemporary sculptors of any given period were not all equally skilful. If some were capable of doing good work, the greater number were mere craftsmen; and we must be careful not to ascribe awkward manipulation, or lack of teaching, to the timidity of archaism. The works of the primitive dynasties yet sleep undiscovered beneath seventy feet of sand at the foot of the Sphinx; those of the historic dynasties are daily exhumed from the depths of the neighbouring tombs. These have not yielded Egyptian art as a whole; but they have familiarised us with one of its schools—the school of Memphis. The Delta, Hermopolis, Abydos, the environs of Thebes and Asuan[42], do not appear upon the stage earlier than towards the Sixth Dynasty; and even so, we know them through but a small number of sepulchres long since violated and despoiled. The loss is probably not very great. Memphis was the capital; and thither the presence of the Pharaohs must have attracted all the talent of the vassal principalities. Judging from the results of our excavations in the Memphite necropolis alone, it is possible to determine the characteristics of both sculpture and painting in the time of Seneferu and his successors with as much exactness as if we were already in possession of all the monuments which the valley of the Nile yet holds in reserve for future explorers.

The lesser folk of the art-world excelled in the manipulation of brush and chisel, and that their skill was of a high order is testified by the thousands of tableaux they have left behind them. The relief is low; the colour sober; the composition learned. Architecture, trees, vegetation, irregularities of ground, are summarily indicated, and are introduced only when necessary to the due interpretation of the scene represented. Men and animals, on the other hand, are rendered with a wealth of detail, a truth of character, and sometimes a force of treatment, to which the later schools of Egyptian art rarely attained. Six wooden panels from the tomb of Hesi in the Gizeh Museum represent perhaps the finest known specimens of this branch of art. Mariette ascribed them to the Third Dynasty, and he may perhaps have been right; though for my own part I incline to date them from the Fifth Dynasty. In these panels there is nothing that can be called a "subject." Hesi either sits or stands (fig. 184), and has four or five columns of hieroglyphs above his head; but the firmness of line, the subtlety of modelling, the ease of execution, are unequalled. Never has wood been cut with a more delicate chisel or a firmer hand.

The variety of attitude and gesture which we so much admire in the Egyptian bas-relief is lacking to the statues. A mourner weeping, a woman bruising corn for bread, a baker rolling dough, are subjects as rare in the round as they are common in bas-relief. In sculpture, the figure is generally represented either standing with the feet side by side and quite still, or with one leg advanced in the act of walking; or seated upon a chair or a cube; or kneeling; or, still more frequently, sitting on the ground cross- legged, as the fellahin are wont to sit to this day. This intentional monotony of style would be inexplicable if we were ignorant of the purpose for which such statues were intended. They represent the dead man for whom the tomb was made, his family, his servants, his slaves, and his kinsfolk. The master is always shown sitting or standing, and he could not consistently be seen in any other attitude. The tomb is, in fact, the house in which he rests after the labours of life, as once he used to rest in his earthly home; and the scenes depicted upon the walls represent the work which he was officially credited with performing. Here he superintends the preliminary operations necessary to raise the food by which he is to be nourished in the form of funerary offerings; namely, seed-sowing, harvesting, stock-breeding, fishing, hunting, and the like. In short, "he superintends all the labour which is done for the eternal dwelling." When thus engaged, he is always standing upright, his head uplifted, his hands pendent, or holding the staff and baton of command. Elsewhere, the diverse offerings are brought to him one by one, and then he sits in a chair of state. These are his two attitudes, whether as a bas-relief subject or a statue. Standing, he receives the homage of his vassals; sitting, he partakes of the family repast. The people of his household comport themselves before him as becomes their business and station. His wife either stands beside him, sits on the same chair or on a second chair by his side, or squats beside his feet as during his lifetime. His son, if a child at the time when the statue was ordered, is represented in the garb of infancy; or with the bearing and equipment proper to his position, if a man. The slaves bruise the corn, the cellarers tar the wine jars, the hired mourners weep and tear their hair. His little social world followed the Egyptian to his tomb, the duties of his attendants being prescribed for them after death, just as they had been prescribed for them during life. And the kind of influence which the religious conception of the soul exercised over the art of the sculptor did not end here. From the moment that the statue is regarded as the support of the Double, it becomes a condition of primary importance that the statue shall reproduce, at least in the abstract, the proportions and distinctive peculiarities of the corporeal body; and this in order that the Double shall more easily adapt himself to his new body of stone or wood.[43] The head is therefore always a faithful portrait; but the body, on the contrary, is, as it were, a medium kind of body, representing the original at his highest development, and consequently able to exert the fulness of his physical powers when admitted to the society of the gods. Hence men are always sculptured in the prime of life, and women with the delicate proportions of early womanhood. This conventional idea was never departed from, unless in cases of very marked deformity. The statue of a dwarf reproduced all the ugly peculiarities of the dwarf's own body; and it was important that it should so reproduce them. If a statue of the ordinary type had been placed in the tomb of the dead man, his "Ka," accustomed during life to the deformity of his limbs, would not be able to adapt itself to an upright and shapely figure, and would therefore be deprived of the conditions necessary to his future well-being. The artist was free to vary the details and arrange the accessories according to his fancy; but without missing the point of his work, he could not change the attitude, or depart from the general style of the conventional portrait statue. This persistent monotony of pose and subject produces a depressing effect upon the spectator,—an effect which is augmented by the obtrusive character given to the supports. These statues are mostly backed by a kind of rectangular pediment, which is either squared off just at the base of the skull, or carried up in a point and lost in the head-dress, or rounded at the top and showing above the head of the figure. The arms are seldom separated from the body, but are generally in one piece with the sides and hips. The whole length of the leg which is placed in advance of the other is very often connected with the pediment by a band of stone. It has been conjectured that this course was imposed upon the sculptor by reason of the imperfection of his tools, and the consequent danger of fracturing the statue when cutting away the superfluous material—an explanation which may be correct as regards the earliest schools, but which does not hold good for the time of the Fourth Dynasty. We could point to more than one piece of sculpture of that period, even in granite, in which all the limbs are free, having been cut away by means of either the chisel or the drill. If pediment supports were persisted in to the end, their use must have been due, not to helplessness, but to routine, or to an exaggerated respect for ancient method.

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