Manual Of Egyptian Archaeology And Guide To The Study Of Antiquities In Egypt
by Gaston Camille Charles Maspero
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Most museums are poor in statues of the Memphite school; France and Egypt possess, however, some twenty specimens which suffice to ensure it an honourable place in the history of art. At the Louvre we have the "Cross- legged Scribe,"[44] and the statues of Skemka and Pahurnefer; at Gizeh there are the "Sheikh el Beled"[45] and his wife, Khafra[46], Ranefer, the Prince and General Rahotep, and his wife, Nefert, a "Kneeling Scribe," and a "Cross-legged Scribe." The original of the "Cross-legged Scribe" of the Louvre was not a handsome man (fig. 185), but the vigour and fidelity of his portrait amply compensate for the absence of ideal beauty. His legs are crossed and laid flat to the ground in one of those attitudes common among Orientals, yet all but impossible to Europeans. The bust is upright, and well balanced upon the hips. The head is uplifted. The right hand holds the reed pen, which pauses in its place on the open papyrus scroll. Thus, for six thousand years he has waited for his master to go on with the long- interrupted dictation. The face is square-cut, and the strongly-marked features indicate a man in the prime of life. The mouth, wide and thin- lipped, rises slightly towards the corners, which are lost in the projecting muscles by which it is framed in. The cheeks are bony and lank; the ears are thick and heavy, and stand out well from the head; the thick, coarse hair is cut close above the brow. The eyes, which are large and well open, owe their lifelike vivacity to an ingenious contrivance of the ancient artist. The orbit has been cut out from the stone, the hollow being filled with an eye composed of enamel, white and black. The edges of the eyelids are of bronze, and a small silver nail inserted behind the iris receives and reflects the light in such wise as to imitate the light of life. The contours of the flesh are somewhat full and wanting in firmness, as would be the case in middle life, if the man's occupation debarred him from active exercise. The forms of the arm and back are in good relief; the hands are hard and bony, with fingers of somewhat unusual length; and the knees are sculptured with a minute attention to anatomical details. The whole body is, as it were, informed by the expression of the face, and is dominated by the attentive suspense which breathes in every feature. The muscles of the arm, of the bust, and of the shoulder are caught in half repose, and are ready to return at once to work. This careful observance of the professional attitude, or the characteristic gesture, is equally marked in the Gizeh Cross-legged Scribe, and in all the Ancient Empire statues which I have had an opportunity of studying.

The Cross-legged Scribe of Gizeh (fig. 186) was discovered by M. de Morgan at Sakkarah in the beginning of 1893. This statue exhibits a no less surprising vigour and certainty of intention and execution on the part of the sculptor than does its fellow of the Louvre, while representing a younger man of full, firm, and supple figure.

Khafra is a king (fig. 187). He sits squarely upon his chair of state, his hands upon his knees, his chest thrown forward, his head erect, his gaze confident. Had the emblems of his rank been destroyed, and the inscription effaced which tells his name, his bearing alone would have revealed the Pharaoh. Every trait is characteristic of the man who from childhood upwards has known himself to be invested with sovereign authority. Ranefer belonged to one of the great feudal families of his time. He stands upright, his arms down, his left leg forward, in the attitude of a prince inspecting a march-past of his vassals. The countenance is haughty, the attitude bold; but Ranefer does not impress us with the almost superhuman calm and decision of Khafra.

General Rahotep[47] (fig. 189), despite his title and his high military rank, looks as if he were of inferior birth. Stalwart and square-cut, he has somewhat of the rustic in his physiognomy. Nefert, on the contrary (fig. 190), was a princess of the blood royal; and her whole person is, as it were, informed with a certain air of resolution and command, which the sculptor has expressed very happily. She wears a close-fitting garment, opening to a point in front. The shoulders, bosom, and bodily contours are modelled under the drapery with a grace and reserve which it is impossible to praise too highly. Her face, round and plump, is framed in masses of fine black hair, confined by a richly-ornamented bandeau. This wedded pair are in limestone, painted; the husband being coloured of a reddish brown hue, and the wife of a tawny buff.

Turning to the "Sheikh el Beled" (figs. 188, 191), we descend several degrees in the social scale. Raemka was a "superintendent of works," which probably means that he was an overseer of corvee labour at the time of building the great pyramids. He belonged to the middle class; and his whole person expresses vulgar contentment and self-satisfaction. We seem to see him in the act of watching his workmen, his staff of acacia wood in his hand. The feet of the statue had perished, but have been restored. The body is stout and heavy, and the neck thick. The head (fig. 191), despite its vulgarity, does not lack energy. The eyes are inserted, like those of the "Cross-legged Scribe." By a curious coincidence, the statue, which was found at Sakkarah, happened to be strikingly like the local Sheikh el Beled, or head-man, of the village. Always quick to seize upon the amusing side of an incident, the Arab diggers at once called it the "Sheikh el Beled," and it has retained the name ever since. The statue of his wife, interred beside his own, is unfortunately mutilated. It is a mere trunk, without legs or arms (fig. 192); yet enough remains to show that the figure represented a good type of the Egyptian middle-class matron, commonplace in appearance and somewhat acid of temper. The "Kneeling Scribe" of the Gizeh collection (fig. 193) belongs to the lowest middle-class rank, such as it is at the present day. Had he not been dead more than six thousand years, I could protest that I had not long ago met him face to face, in one of the little towns of Upper Egypt. He has just brought a roll of papyrus, or a tablet covered with writing, for his master's approval. Kneeling in the prescribed attitude of an inferior, his hands crossed, his shoulders rounded, his head slightly bent forward, he waits till the great man shall have read it through. Of what is he thinking? A scribe might feel some not unreasonable apprehensions, when summoned thus into the presence of his superior. The stick played a prominent part in official life, and an error of addition, a fault in orthography, or an order misunderstood, would be enough to bring down a shower of blows. The sculptor has, with inimitable skill, seized that expression of resigned uncertainty and passive gentleness which is the result of a whole life of servitude. There is a smile upon his lips, but it is the smile of etiquette, in which there is no gladness. The nose and cheeks are puckered up in harmony with the forced grimace upon the mouth. His large eyes (again in enamel) have the fixed look of one who waits vacantly, without making any effort to concentrate his sight or his thoughts upon a definite object. The face lacks both intelligence and vivacity; but his work, after all, called for no special nimbleness of wit. Khafra is in diorite; Raemka and his wife are carved in wood; the other statues named are of limestone; yet, whatever the material employed, the play of the chisel is alike free, subtle, and delicate. The head of the scribe and the bas-relief portrait of Pharaoh Menkauhor, in the Louvre, the dwarf Nemhotep (fig. 195), and the slaves who prepare food- offerings at Gizeh, are in no wise inferior to the "Cross-legged Scribe" or the "Sheikh el Beled." The baker kneading his dough (fig. 194) is thoroughly in his work. His half-stooping attitude, and the way in which he leans upon the kneading-trough, are admirably natural. The dwarf has a big, elongated head, balanced by two enormous ears (fig. 195). He has a foolish face, an ill-shapen mouth, and narrow slits of eyes, inclining upwards to the temples. The bust is well developed, but the trunk is out of proportion with the rest of his person. The artist has done his best to disguise the lower limbs under a fine white tunic; but one feels that it is too long for the little man's arms and legs.

The thighs could have existed only in a rudimentary form, and Nemhotep, standing as best he can upon his misshapen feet, seems to be off his balance, and ready to fall forward upon his face. It would be difficult to find another work of art in which the characteristics of dwarfdom are more cleverly reproduced.

The sculpture of the first Theban empire is in close connection with that of Memphis. Methods, materials, design, composition, all are borrowed from the elder school; the only new departure being in the proportions assigned to the human figure. From the time of the Eleventh Dynasty, the legs become longer and slighter, the hips smaller, the body and the neck more slender. Works of this period are not to be compared with the best productions of the earlier centuries. The wall-paintings of Siut, of Bersheh, of Beni Hasan, and of Asuan, are not equal to those in the mastabas of Sakkarah and Gizeh; nor are the most carefully-executed contemporary statues worthy to take a place beside the "Sheikh el Beled" or the "Cross-legged Scribe." Portrait statues of private persons, especially those found at Thebes, are, so far as I have seen, decidedly bad, the execution being rude and the expression vulgar. The royal statues of this period, which are nearly all in black or grey granite, have been for the most part usurped by kings of later date. Usertesen III., whose head and feet are in the Louvre, was appropriated by Amenhotep III., as the sphinx of the Louvre and the colossi of Gizeh were appropriated by Rameses II. Many museums possess specimens of supposed Ramesside Pharaohs which, upon more careful inspection, we are compelled to ascribe to the Thirteenth or Fourteenth Dynasty. Those of undisputed identity, such as the Sebekhotep III. of the Louvre, the Mermashiu of Tanis, the Sebekemsaf of Gizeh, and the colossi of the Isle of Argo, though very skilfully executed, are wanting in originality and vigour. One would say, indeed, that the sculptors had purposely endeavoured to turn them all out after the one smiling and commonplace pattern. Great is the contrast when we turn from these giant dolls to the black granite sphinxes discovered by Mariette at Tanis in 1861, and by him ascribed to the Hyksos period. Here energy, at all events, is not lacking. Wiry and compact, the lion body is shorter than in sphinxes of the usual type. The head, instead of wearing the customary "klaft," or head-gear of folded linen, is clothed with an ample mane, which also surrounds the face. The eyes are small; the nose is aquiline and depressed at the tip; the cheekbones are prominent; the lower lip slightly protrudes. The general effect of the face is, in short, so unlike the types we are accustomed to find in Egypt, that it has been accepted in proof of an Asiatic origin (fig. 196). These sphinxes are unquestionably anterior to the Eighteenth Dynasty, because one of the kings of Avaris, named Apepi, has cut his name upon the shoulder of each. Arguing from this fact, it was, however, too hastily concluded that they are works of the time of that prince. On a closer examination, we see that they had already been dedicated to some Pharaoh of a yet earlier period, and that Apepi had merely usurped them; and M. Golenischeff has shown that they were made for Amenemhat III., of the Twelfth Dynasty, and with his features. Those so-called Hyksos monuments may be the products of a local school, the origin of which may have been independent, and its traditions quite different from the traditions of the Memphite workshops. But except at Abydos, El Kab, Asuan, and some two or three other places, the provincial art of ancient Egypt is so little known to us that I dare not lay too much stress upon this hypothesis. Whatever the origin of the Tanite School, it continued to exist long after the expulsion of the Hyksos invaders, since one of its best examples, a group representing the Nile of the North and the Nile of the South, bearing trays laden with flowers and fish, was consecrated by Pisebkhanu of the Twenty-first Dynasty.

The first three dynasties of the New Empire[48] have bequeathed us more monuments than all the others put together. Painted bas-reliefs, statues of kings and private persons, colossi, sphinxes, may be counted by hundreds between the mouths of the Nile and the fourth cataract. The old sacerdotal cities, Memphis, Thebes, Abydos, are naturally the richest; but so great was the impetus given to art, that even remote provincial towns, such as Abu Simbel, Redesiyeh, and Mesheikh, have their chefs-d'oeuvre, like the great cities. The official portraits of Amenhotep I. at Turin, of Thothmes I. and Thothmes III. at the British Museum, at Karnak, at Turin, and at Gizeh, are conceived in the style of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Dynasties, and are deficient in originality; but the bas-reliefs in temples and tombs show a marked advance upon those of the earlier ages. The modelling is finer; the figures are more numerous and better grouped; the relief is higher; the effects of perspective are more carefully worked out. The wall- subjects of Deir el Bahari, the tableaux in the tombs of Hui, of Rekhmara, of Anna, of Khamha, and of twenty more at Thebes, are surprisingly rich, brilliant, and varied. Awakening to a sense of the picturesque, artists introduced into their compositions all those details of architecture, of uneven ground, of foreign plants, and the like, which formerly they neglected, or barely indicated. The taste for the colossal, which had fallen somewhat into abeyance since the time of the Great Sphinx, came once again to the surface, and was developed anew. Amenhotep III. was not content with statues of twenty-five or thirty feet in height, such as were in favour among his ancestors. Those which he erected in advance of his memorial chapel on the left bank of the Nile in Western Thebes, one of which is the Vocal Memnon of the classic writers, sit fifty feet high. Each was carved from a single block of sandstone, and they are as elaborately finished as though they were of ordinary size. The avenues of sphinxes which this Pharaoh marshalled before the temples of Luxor and Karnak do not come to an end at fifty or a hundred yards from the gateway, but are prolonged for great distances. In one avenue, they have the human head upon the lion's body; in another, they are fashioned in the semblance of kneeling rams. Khuenaten, the revolutionary successor of Amenhotep III., far from discouraging this movement, did what he could to promote it. Never, perhaps, were Egyptian sculptors more unrestricted than by him at Tell el Amarna. Military reviews, chariot-driving, popular festivals, state receptions, the distribution of honours and rewards by the king in person, representations of palaces, villas, and gardens, were among the subjects which they were permitted to treat; and these subjects differed in so many respects from traditional routine that they could give free play to their fancy and to their natural genius. The spirit and gusto with which they took advantage of their opportunities would scarcely be believed by one who had not seen their works at Tell el Amarna. Some of their bas-reliefs are designed in almost correct perspective; and in all, the life and stir of large crowds are rendered with irreproachable truth. The political and religious reaction which followed this reign arrested the evolution of art, and condemned sculptors and painters to return to the observance of traditional rules. Their personal influence and their teaching continued, however, to make themselves felt under Horemheb, under Seti I., and even under Rameses II. If, during more than a century, Egyptian art remained free, graceful, and refined, that improvement was due to the school of Tell el Amarna. In no instance perhaps did it produce work more perfect than the bas-reliefs of the temple of Abydos, or those of the tomb of Seti I. The head of the conqueror (fig. 197), always studied con amore, is a marvel of reserved and sensitive grace. Rameses II. charging the enemy at Abu Simbel is as fine as the portraits of Seti I., though in another style. The action of the arm which brandishes the lance is somewhat angular, but the expression of strength and triumph which animates the whole person of the warrior king, and the despairing resignation of the vanquished, compensate for this one defect. The group of Horemheb and the god Amen (fig. 198), in the Museum of Turin, is a little dry in treatment. The faces of both god and king lack expression, and their bodies are heavy and ill-balanced. The fine colossi in red granite which Horemheb placed against the uprights of the inner door of his first pylon at Karnak, the bas-reliefs on the walls of his speos at Silsilis, his own portrait and that of one of the ladies of his family now in the museum of Gizeh, are, so to say, spotless and faultless. The queen's face (fig. 199) is animated and intelligent; the eyes are large and prominent; the mouth is wide, but well shaped. This head is carved in hard limestone of a creamy tint which seems to soften the somewhat satirical expression of her eyes and smile. The king (fig. 200) is in black granite; and the sombre hue of the stone at once produces a mournful impression upon the spectator. His youthful face is pervaded by an air of melancholy, such as we rarely see depicted in portraits of Pharaohs of the great period. The nose is straight and delicate, the eyes are long, the lips are large, full, somewhat contracted at the corners, and strongly defined at the edges. The chin is overweighted by the traditional false beard. Every detail is treated with as much skill as if the sculptor were dealing with a soft stone instead of with a material which resisted the chisel. Such, indeed, is the mastery of the execution, that one forgets the difficulties of the task in the excellence of the results.

It is unfortunate that Egyptian artists never signed their works; for the sculptor of this portrait of Horemheb deserves to be remembered. Like the Eighteenth Dynasty, the Nineteenth Dynasty delighted in colossi. Those of Rameses II. at Luxor measured from eighteen to twenty feet in height (fig. 201); the colossal Rameses of the Ramesseum sat sixty feet high; and that of Tanis about seventy.[49] The colossi of Abu Simbel, without being of quite such formidable proportions, face the river in imposing array. To say that the decline of Egyptian art began with Rameses II. is a commonplace of contemporary criticism; yet nothing is less true than an axiom of this kind. Many statues and bas-reliefs executed during his reign are no doubt inconceivably rude and ugly; but these are chiefly found in provincial towns where the schools were indifferent, and where the artists had no fine examples before them. At Thebes, at Memphis, at Abydos, at Tanis, in those towns of the Delta where the court habitually resided, and even at Abu Simbel and Beit el Wally, the sculptors of Rameses II. yield nothing in point of excellence to those of Seti I. and Horemheb. The decadence did not begin till after the reign of Merenptah. When civil war and foreign invasion brought Egypt to the brink of destruction, the arts, like all else, suffered and rapidly declined. It is sad to follow their downward progress under the later Ramessides, whether in the wall-subjects of the royal tombs, or in the bas-reliefs of the temple of Khonsu, or on the columns of the hypostyle hall at Karnak. Wood carving maintained its level during a somewhat longer period. The admirable statuettes of priests and children at Turin date from the Twentieth Dynasty. The advent of Sheshonk and the internecine strife of the provinces at length completed the ruin of Thebes, and the school which had produced so many masterpieces perished miserably.

The Renaissance did not dawn till near the end of the Ethiopian Dynasty, some three hundred years later. The over-praised statue of Queen Ameniritis[50] (fig. 202) already manifests some noteworthy qualities. The limbs, somewhat long and fragile, are delicately treated; but the head is heavy, being over-weighted by the wig peculiar to goddesses. Psammetichus I., when his victories had established him upon the throne, busied himself in the restoration of the temples. Under his auspices, the valley of the Nile became one vast studio of painting and sculpture. The art of engraving hieroglyphs attained a high degree of excellence, fine statues and bas- reliefs were everywhere multiplied, and a new school arose. A marvellous command of material, a profound knowledge of detail, and a certain elegance tempered by severity, are the leading characteristics of this new school. The Memphites preferred limestone; the Thebans selected red or grey granite; but the Saites especially attacked basalt, breccia, and serpentine, and with these fine-grained and almost homogeneous substances, they achieved extraordinary results. They seem to have sought difficulties for the mere pleasure of triumphing over them; and we have proof of the way in which artists of real merit bestowed years and years on the chasing of sarcophagus lids and the carving of statues in blocks of the hardest material. The Thueris, and the four monuments from the tomb of Psammetichus[51] in the Gizeh Museum, are the most remarkable objects hitherto discovered in this class of work. Thueris[52] (fig. 203) was the especial protectress of maternity, and presided over childbirth. Her portrait was discovered by some native sebakh diggers[53] in the midst of the mounds of the ancient city of Thebes. She was found standing upright in a little chapel of white limestone which had been dedicated to her by one Pibesa, a priest, in the name of Queen Nitocris, daughter of Psammetichus I. This charming hippopotamus, whose figure is perhaps more plump than graceful, is a fine example of difficulties overcome; but I do not know that she has any other merit. The group belonging to Psammetichus has at all events some artistic value. It consists of four pieces of green basalt; namely, a table of offerings, a statue of Osiris, a statue of Nephthys, and a Hathor-cow supporting a statuette of the deceased (fig. 204). All four are somewhat flaccid, somewhat artificial; but the faces of the divinities and the deceased are not wanting in sweetness; the action of the cow is good; and the little figure under her protection falls naturally into its place. Certain other pieces, less known than these, are however far superior. The Saite style is easy of recognition. It lacks the breadth and learning of the first Memphite school; it also lacks the grand, and sometimes rude, manner of the great Theban school. The proportions of the human body are reduced and elongated, and the limbs lose in vigour what they gain in elegance. A noteworthy change in the choice of attitudes will also be remarked. Orientals find repose in postures which would be inexpressibly fatiguing to ourselves. For hours together they will kneel; or sit tailor-wise, with the legs crossed and laid down flat to the ground; or squat, sitting upon their heels, with no other support than is afforded by that part of the sole of the foot which rests upon the ground; or they will sit upon the floor with their legs close together, and their arms crossed upon their knees. These four attitudes were customary among the people from the time of the ancient empire.

This we know from the bas-reliefs. But the Memphite sculptors, deeming the two last ungraceful, excluded them from the domain of art, and rarely, if ever, reproduced them. The "Cross-legged Scribe" of the Louvre and the "Kneeling Scribe" of Gizeh show with what success they could employ the two first. The third was neglected (doubtless for the same reason) by the Theban sculptors. The fourth began to be currently adopted about the time of the Eighteenth Dynasty.

It may be that this position was not in fashion among the moneyed classes, which alone could afford to order statues; or it may be that the artists themselves objected to an attitude which caused their sitters to look like square parcels with a human head on the top. The sculptors of the Saite period did not inherit that repugnance. They have at all events combined the action of the limbs in such wise as may least offend the eye, and the position almost ceases to be ungraceful. The heads also are modelled to such perfection that they make up for many shortcomings. That of Pedishashi (fig. 205) has an expression of youth and intelligent gentleness such as we seldom meet with from an Egyptian hand. Other heads, on the contrary, are remarkable for their almost brutal frankness of treatment. In the small head of a scribe (fig. 206), lately purchased for the Louvre, and in another belonging to Prince Ibrahim at Cairo, the wrinkled brow, the crow's-feet at the corners of the eyes, the hard lines about the mouth, and the knobs upon the skull, are brought out with scrupulous fidelity. The Saite school was, in fact, divided into two parties. One sought inspiration in the past, and, by a return to the methods of the old Memphite school, endeavoured to put fresh life into the effeminate style of the day. This it accomplished, and so successfully, that its works are sometimes mistaken for the best productions of the Fourth and Fifth Dynasties. The other, without too openly departing from established tradition, preferred to study from the life, and thus drew nearer to nature than in any previous age. This school would, perhaps, have prevailed, had Egyptian art not been directed into a new channel by the Macedonian conquest, and by centuries of intercourse with the Greeks.

The new departure was of slow development. Sculptors began by clothing the successors of Alexander in Egyptian garb and transforming them into Pharaohs, just as they had in olden time transformed the Hyksos and the Persians. Works dating from the reigns of the first Ptolemies scarcely differ from those of the best Saite period, and it is only here and there that we detect traces of Greek influence. Thus, the colossus of Alexander II., at Gizeh (fig. 207), wears a flowing head-dress, from beneath which his crisp curls have found their way. Soon, however, the sight of Greek masterpieces led the Egyptians of Alexandria, of Memphis, and of the cities of the Delta to modify their artistic methods. Then arose a mixed school, which combined certain elements of the national art with certain other elements borrowed from Hellenic art. The Alexandrian Isis of the Gizeh Museum is clad as the Isis of Pharaonic times; but she has lost the old slender shape and straitened bearing. A mutilated effigy of a Prince of Siut, also at Gizeh, would almost pass for an indifferent Greek statue.

The most forcible work of this hybrid class which has come down to us is the portrait-statue of one Hor (fig. 208), discovered in 1881 at the foot of Kom ed Damas, the site of the tomb of Alexander. The head is good, though in a somewhat dry style. The long, pinched nose, the close-set eyes, the small mouth with drawn-in corners, the square chin,—every feature, in short, contributes to give a hard and obstinate character to the face. The hair is closely cropped, yet not so closely as to prevent it from dividing naturally into thick, short curls. The body, clothed in the chlamys, is awkwardly shapen, and too narrow for the head. One arm hangs pendent; the other is brought round to the front; the feet are lost. All these monuments are the results of few excavations; and I do not doubt that the soil of Alexandria would yield many such, if it could be methodically explored. The school which produced them continued to draw nearer and nearer to the schools of Greece, and the stiff manner, which it never wholly lost, was scarcely regarded as a defect at an epoch when certain sculptors in the service of Rome especially affected the archaic style. I should not be surprised if those statues of priests and priestesses wearing divine insignia, with which Hadrian adorned the Egyptian rooms of his villa at Tibur, might not be attributed to the artists of this hybrid school. In those parts which were remote from the Delta, native art, being left to its own resources, languished, and slowly perished. Nor was this because Greek models, or even Greek artists, were lacking. In the Thebaid, in the Fayum, at Syene, I have both discovered and purchased statuettes and statues of Hellenic style, and of correct and careful execution. One of these, from Coptos, is apparently a miniature replica of a Venus analogous to the Venus of Milo. But the provincial sculptors were too dull, or too ignorant, to take such advantage of these models as was taken by their Alexandrian brethren. When they sought to render the Greek suppleness of figure and fulness of limb, they only succeeded in missing the rigid but learned precision of their former masters. In place of the fine, delicate, low relief of the old school, they adopted a relief which, though very prominent, was soft, round, and feebly modelled. The eyes of their personages have a foolish leer; the nostrils slant upwards; the corners of the mouth, the chin, and indeed all the features, are drawn up as if converging towards a central point, which is stationed in the middle of the ear. Two schools, each independent of the other, have bequeathed their works to us. The least known flourished in Ethiopia, at the court of the half-civilised kings who resided at Meroe. A group brought from Naga in 1882, and now in the Gizeh collection, shows the work of this school during the first century of our era (fig. 209). A god and a queen, standing side by side, are roughly cut in a block of grey granite. The work is coarse and heavy, but not without energy. Isolated and lost in the midst of savage tribes, the school which produced it sank rapidly into barbarism, and expired towards the end of the age of the Antonines. The Egyptian school, sheltered by the power of Rome, survived a little longer. As sagacious as the Ptolemies, the Caesars knew that by flattering the religious prejudices of their Egyptian subjects they consolidated their own rule in the valley of the Nile. At an enormous cost, they restored and rebuilt the temples of the national gods, working after the old plans and in the old spirit of Pharaonic times. The great earthquake of B.C. 22 had destroyed Thebes, which now became a mere place of pilgrimage, whither devotees repaired to listen to the voice of Memnon at the rising of Aurora. But at Denderah and Ombos, Tiberius and Claudius finished the decoration of the great temples. Caligula worked at Coptos, and the Antonines enriched Esneh and Philae. The gangs of workmen employed in their names were still competent to cut thousands of bas-reliefs according to the rules of the olden time. Their work was feeble, ungraceful, absurd, inspired solely by routine; yet it was founded on antique tradition—tradition enfeebled and degenerate, but still alive. The troubles which convulsed the third century of our era, the incursions of barbarians, the progress and triumph of Christianity, caused the suspension of the latest works and the dispersion of the last craftsmen. With them died all that yet survived of the national art.[54]

[42] The classic Syene, from all time the southernmost portion of Egypt proper. The Sixth Dynasty is called the Elephantine, from the island immediately facing Syene which was the traditional seat of the Dynasty, and on which the temples stood. The tombs of Elephantine were discovered by General Sir F. Grenfell, K.C.B., in 1885, in the neighbouring cliffs of the Libyan Desert: see foot-note p. 149.— A.B.E.

[43] For an explanation of the nature of the Double, see Chapter III., pp. 111-112, 121 et seq.

[44] Known as the "Scribe accroupi," literally the "Squatting Scribe"; but in English, squatting, as applied to Egyptian art, is taken to mean the attitude of sitting with the knees nearly touching the chin. —A.B.E.

[45] "The Sheikh of the Village." This statue was best known in England as the "Wooden Man of Bulak."—A.B.E.

[46] The Greek Chephren.

[47] I venture to think that the heads of Rahotep and Nefert, engraved from a brilliant photograph in A Thousand Miles up the Nile, give a truer and more spirited idea of the originals than the present illustrations,—A.B.E.

[48] That is, the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twentieth Dynasties. —A.B.E.

[49] According to the measurements given by Mr. Petrie, who discovered the remains of the Tanite colossus, it must have stood ninety feet high without, and one hundred and twenty feet high with, its pedestal. See Tanis, Part I., by W.M.F. Petrie, published by the Egypt Exploration Fund, 1885.—A.B.E.

[50] Ameniritis, daughter of an Ethiopian king named Kashta, was the sister and successor of her brother Shabaka, and wife of Piankhi II., Twenty- fifth Dynasty. The statue is in alabaster.—A.B.E.

[51] A Memphite scribe of the Thirtieth Dynasty.—A.B.E.

[52] In Egyptian Ta-urt, or "the Great;" also called Apet. This goddess is always represented as a hippopotamus walking. She carries in each hand the emblem of protection, called "Sa." The statuette of the illustration is in green serpentine.—A.B.E.

[53] Sebakh, signifying "salt," or "saltpetre," is the general term for that saline dust which accumulates wherever there are mounds of brick or limestone ruins. This dust is much valued as a manure, or "top-dressing," and is so constantly dug out and carried away by the natives, that the mounds of ancient towns and villages are rapidly undergoing destruction in all parts of Egypt.—A.B.E.

[54] For an example of Graeco-Egyptian portrait painting, tempo Hadrian, see p. 291.



I have treated briefly of the Noble Arts; it remains to say something of the Industrial Arts. All classes of society in Egypt were, from an early period, imbued with the love of luxury, and with a taste for the beautiful. Living or dead, the Egyptian desired to have jewels and costly amulets upon his person, and to be surrounded by choice furniture and elegant utensils. The objects of his daily use must be distinguished, if not by richness of material, at least by grace of form; and in order to satisfy his requirements, the clay, the stone, the metals, the woods, and other products of distant lands were laid under contribution.


It is impossible to pass through a gallery of Egyptian antiquities without being surprised by the prodigious number of small objects in pietra dura which have survived till the present time. As yet we have found neither the diamond, the ruby, nor the sapphire; but with these exceptions, the domain of the lapidary was almost as extensive as at the present day. That domain included the amethyst, the emerald, the garnet, the aquamarine, the chrysoprase, the innumerable varieties of agate and jasper, lapis lazuli, felspar, obsidian; also various rocks, such as granite, serpentine, and porphyry; certain fossils, as yellow amber and some kinds of turquoise; organic remains, as coral, mother-of-pearl, and pearls; metallic ores and carbonates, such as hematite and malachite, and the calaite, or Oriental turquoise. These substances were for the most part cut in the shape of round, square, oval, spindle-shaped, pear-shaped, or lozenge-shaped beads. Strung and arranged row above row, these beads were made into necklaces, and are picked up by myriads in the sands of the great cemeteries at Memphis, Erment, Ekhmim, and Abydos. The perfection with which many are cut, the deftness with which they are pierced, and the beauty of the polish, do honour to the craftsmen who made them. But their skill did not end here. With the point, saw, drill, and grindstone, they fashioned these materials into an infinity of shapes—hearts, human fingers, serpents, animals, images of divinities. All these were amulets; and they were probably less valued for the charm of the workmanship than for the supernatural virtues which they were supposed to possess. The girdle-buckle in carnelian (fig. 210) symbolised the blood of Isis, and washed away the sins of the wearer. The frog (fig. 211) was emblematic of renewed birth. The little lotus-flower column in green felspar (fig. 212) typified the divine gift of eternal youth. The "Uat," or sacred eye (fig. 213), tied to the wrist or the arm by a slender string, protected against the evil eye, against words spoken in envy or anger, and against the bites of serpents. Commerce dispersed these objects throughout all parts of the ancient world, and many of them, especially those which represented the sacred beetle, were imitated abroad by the Phoenicians and Syrians, and by the craftsmen of Greece, Asia Minor, Etruria, and Sardinia. This insect was called kheper in Egyptian, and its name was supposed to be derived from the root khepra, "to become." By an obvious play upon words, the beetle was made the emblem of terrestrial life, and of the successive "becomings" or developments of man in the life to come. The scarabaeus amulet (fig. 214) is therefore a symbol of duration, present or future; and to wear one was to provide against annihilation. A thousand mystic meanings were evolved from this first idea, each in some subtle sense connected with one or other of the daily acts or usages of life, so that scarabaei were multiplied ad infinitum. They are found in all materials and sizes; some having hawks' heads, some with rams' heads, some with heads of men or bulls. Some are wrought or inscribed on the underside; others are left flat and plain underneath; and others again but vaguely recall the form of the insect, and are called scarabaeoids. These amulets are pierced longwise, the hole being large enough to admit the passage of a fine wire of bronze or silver, or of a thread, for suspension. The larger sort were regarded as images of the heart. These, having outspread wings attached, were fastened to the breast of the mummy, and are inscribed on the underside with a prayer adjuring the heart not to bear witness against the deceased at the day of judgment. In order to be still more efficacious, some scenes of adoration were occasionally added to the formula: e.g., the disc of the moon adorned by two apes upon the shoulder; two squatting figures of Amen upon the wing- sheaths; on the flat reverse, a representation of the boat of the Sun; and below the boat, Osiris mummified, squatting between Isis and Nephthys, who overshadow him with their wings. The small scarabs, having begun as phylacteries, ended by becoming mere ornaments without any kind of religious meaning, just as crosses are now worn without thought of significance by the women of our own day. They were set as rings, as necklace pendants, as earrings, and as bracelets. The underside is often plain, but is more commonly ornamented with incised designs which involve no kind of modelling. Relief-cutting, properly so called (as in cameo- cutting), was unknown to Egyptian lapidaries before the Greek period. Scarabaei and the subjects engraved on them have not as yet been fully classified and catalogued.[55] The subjects consist of simple combinations of lines; of scrolls; of interlacings without any precise signification; of symbols to which the owner attached a mysterious meaning, unknown to everyone but himself; of the names and titles of individuals; of royal ovals, which are historically interesting; of good wishes; of pious ejaculations; and of magic formulae. The earliest examples known date from the Fourth Dynasty, and are small and fine. Sometimes Sixth Dynasty scarabs are of obsidian and crystal, and early Middle Kingdom scarabs of amethyst, emerald, and even garnet. From the time of the Eighteenth Dynasty scarabs may be counted by millions, and the execution is more or less fine according to the hardness of the stone. This holds good for amulets of all kinds. The hippopotamus-heads, the hearts, the Ba birds (p. 111), which one picks up at Taud, to the south of Thebes, are barely roughed out, the amethyst and green felspar of which they are made having presented an almost unconquerable resistance to the point, saw, drill, and wheel. The belt-buckles, angles, and head-rests in red jasper, carnelian, and hematite, are, on the contrary, finished to the minutest details, notwithstanding that carnelian and red jasper are even harder than green felspar. Lapis lazuli is insufficiently homogeneous, almost as hard as felspar, and seems as if it were incapable of being finely worked. Yet the Egyptians have used it for images of certain goddesses—Isis, Nephthys, Neith, Sekhet,—which are marvels of delicate cutting. The modelling of the forms is carried out as boldly as if the material were more trustworthy, and the features lose none of their excellence if examined under a magnifying glass. For the most part, however, a different treatment was adopted. Instead of lavishing high finish upon the relief, it was obtained in a more summary way, the details of individual parts being sacrificed to the general effect. Those features of the face which project, and those which retire, are strongly accentuated. The thickness of the neck, the swell of the breast and shoulder, the slenderness of the waist, the fulness of the hips, are all exaggerated. The feet and hands are also slightly enlarged. This treatment is based upon a system, the results being boldly and yet judiciously calculated. When the object has to be sculptured in miniature, a mathematical reduction of the model is not so happy in its effect as might be supposed. The head loses character; the neck looks too weak; the bust is reduced to a cylinder with a slightly uneven surface; the feet do not look strong enough to support the weight of the body; the principal lines are not sufficiently distinct from the secondary lines. By suppressing most of the accessory forms and developing those most essential to the expression, the Egyptians steered clear of the danger of producing insignificant statuettes. The eye instinctively tones down whatever is too forcible, and supplies what is lacking. Thanks to these subtle devices of the ancient craftsman, a tiny statuette of this or that divinity measuring scarcely an inch and a quarter in height, has almost the breadth and dignity of a colossus.

The earthly goods of the gods and of the dead were mostly in solid stone. I have elsewhere described the little funerary obelisks, the altar bases, the statues, and the tables of offerings found in tombs of the ancient empire. These tables were made of alabaster and limestone during the Pyramid period, of granite or red sandstone under the Theban kings, and of basalt or serpentine from the time of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty. But the fashions were not canonical, all stones being found at all periods. Some offering- tables are mere flat discs, or discs very slightly hollowed. Others are rectangular, and are sculptured in relief with a service of loaves, vases, fruits, and quarters of beef and gazelle. In one instance—the offering- table of Situ—the libations, instead of running off, fell into a square basin which is marked off in divisions, showing the height of the Nile at the different seasons of the year in the reservoirs of Memphis; namely, twenty-five cubits in summer during the inundation, twenty-three in autumn and early winter, and twenty-two at the close of winter and in spring-time. In these various patterns there was little beauty; yet one offering-table, found at Sakkarah, is a real work of art. It is of alabaster. Two lions, standing side by side, support a sloping, rectangular tablet, whence the libation ran off by a small channel into a vase placed between the tails of the lions. The alabaster geese found at Lisht are not without artistic merit. They are cut length-wise down the middle, and hollowed out, in the fashion of a box. Those which I have seen elsewhere, and, generally speaking, all simulacra of offerings, as loaves, cakes, heads of oxen or gazelles, bunches of black grapes, and the like, in carved and painted limestone, are of doubtful taste and clumsy execution. They are not very common, and I have met with them only in tombs of the Fifth and Twelfth Dynasties. "Canopic" vases, on the contrary, were always carefully wrought. They were generally made in two kinds of stone, limestone and alabaster; but the heads which surmounted them were often of painted wood. The canopic vases of Pepi I. are of alabaster; and those of a king buried in the southernmost pyramid at Lisht are also of alabaster, as are the human heads upon the lids. One, indeed, is of such fine execution that I can only compare it with that of the statue of Khafra. The most ancient funerary statuettes yet found—those, namely, of the Eleventh Dynasty—are of alabaster, like the canopic vases; but from the time of the Thirteenth Dynasty, they were cut in compact limestone. The workmanship is very unequal in quality. Some are real chefs-d'oeuvre, and reproduce the physiognomy of the deceased as faithfully as a portrait statue. Lastly, there are the perfume vases, which complete the list of objects found in temples and tombs. The names of these vases are far from being satisfactorily established, and most of the special designations furnished in the texts remain as yet without equivalents in our language. The greater number were of alabaster, turned and polished. Some are heavy, and ugly (fig. 215), while others are distinguished by an elegance and diversity of form which do honour to the inventive talent of the craftsmen. Many are spindle-shaped and pointed at the end (fig. 216), or round in the body, narrow in the neck, and flat at the bottom (fig. 217).

They are unornamented, except perhaps by two lotus-bud handles, or two lions' heads, or perhaps a little female head just at the rise of the neck (fig. 218). The smallest of these vases were not intended for liquids, but for pomades, medicinal ointments, and salves made with honey. Some of the more important series comprise large-bodied flasks, with an upright cylindrical neck and a flat cover (fig. 219). In these, the Egyptians kept the antimony powder with which they darkened their eyes and eyebrows. The Kohl-pot was a universal toilet requisite; perhaps the only one commonly used by all classes of society. When designing it, the craftsman gave free play to his fancy, borrowing forms of men, plants, and animals for its adornment. Now it appears in the guise of a full-blown lotus; now it is a hedgehog; a hawk; a monkey clasping a column to his breast, or climbing up the side of a jar; a grotesque figure of the god Bes; a kneeling woman, whose scooped-out body contained the powder; a young girl carrying a wine- jar. Once started upon this path, the imagination of the artists knew no limits. As for materials, everything was made to serve in turn—granite, diorite, breccia, red jade, alabaster, and soft limestone, which lent itself more readily to caprices of form; finally, a still more plastic and facile substance—clay, painted and glazed.

[Ilustration: Fig. 218.—Perfume vase, alabaster.]

It was not for want of material that the art of modelling and baking clays failed to be as fully developed in Egypt as in Greece, The valley of the Nile is rich in a fine and ductile potter's clay, with which the happiest results might have been achieved, had the native craftsman taken the trouble to prepare it with due care. Metals and hard stone were, however, always preferred for objects of luxury; the potter was fain, therefore, to be content with supplying only the commonest needs of household and daily life. He was wont to take whatever clay happened to be nearest to the place where he was working, and this clay was habitually badly washed, badly kneaded, and fashioned with the finger upon a primitive wheel worked by the hand. The firing was equally careless. Some pieces were barely heated at all, and melted it they came into contact with water, while others were as hard as tiles. All tombs of the ancient empire contain vases of a red or yellow ware, often mixed, like the clay of bricks, with finely-chopped straw or weeds. These are mostly large solid jars with oval bodies, short necks, and wide mouths, but having neither foot nor handles. With them are also found pipkins and pots, in which to store the dead man's provisions; bowls more or less shallow; and flat plates, such as are still used by the fellahin. The poorer folk sometimes buried miniature table and kitchen services with their dead, as being less costly than full-sized vessels. The surface is seldom glazed, seldom smooth and lustrous; but is ordinarily covered with a coat of whitish, unbaked paint, which scales off at a touch. Upon this surface there is neither incised design, nor ornament in relief, nor any kind of inscription, but merely some four or five parallel lines in red, black, or yellow, round the neck.

The pottery of the earliest Theban dynasties which I have collected at El Khozam and Gebeleyn is more carefully wrought than the pottery of the Memphite period. It may be classified under two heads. The first comprises plain, smooth-bodied vases, black below and dark red above. On examining this ware where broken, we see that the colour was mixed with the clay during the kneading, and that the two zones were separately prepared, roughly joined, and then uniformly glazed. The second class comprises vases of various and sometimes eccentric forms, moulded of red or tawny clay. Some are large cylinders closed at one end; others are flat; others oblong and boat-shaped; others, like cruets, joined together two and two, yet with no channel of communication[56] (fig. 220). The ornamentation is carried over the whole surface, and generally consists of straight parallel lines, cross lines, zigzags, dotted lines, or small crosses and lines in geometrical combination; all these patterns being in white when the ground is red, or in reddish brown when the ground is yellow or whitish. Now and then we find figures of men and animals interspersed among the geometrical combinations. The drawing is rude, almost childish; and it is difficult to tell whether the subjects represent herds of antelopes or scenes of gazelle-hunting. The craftsmen who produced these rude attempts were nevertheless contemporary with the artists who decorated the rock-cut tombs at Beni Hasan. As regards the period of Egypt's great military conquests, the Theban tombs of that age have supplied objects enough to stock a museum of pottery; but unfortunately the types are very uninteresting. To begin with, we find hand-made sepulchral statuettes modelled in summary fashion from an oblong lump of clay. A pinch of the craftsman's fingers brought out the nose; two tiny knobs and two little stumps, separately modelled and stuck on, represented the eyes and arms. The better sort of figures were pressed in moulds of baked clay, of which several specimens have been found. They were generally moulded in one piece; then lightly touched up; then baked; and lastly, on coming out of the oven, were painted red, yellow, or white, and inscribed with the pen. Some are of very good style, and almost equal those made in limestone. The ushabtiu of the scribe Hori, and those of the priest Horuta (Saite) found at Hawara, show what the Egyptians could have achieved in this branch of the art if they had cared to cultivate it. Funerary cones were objects purely devotional, and the most consummate art could have done nothing to make them elegant. A funerary cone consists of a long, conical mass of clay, stamped at the larger end with a few rows of hieroglyphs stating the name, parentage, and titles of the deceased, the whole surface being coated with a whitish wash. These are simulacra of votive cakes intended for the eternal nourishment of the Double. Many of the vases buried in tombs of this period are painted to imitate alabaster, granite, basalt, bronze, and even gold; and were cheap substitutes for those vases made in precious materials which wealthy mourners were wont to lavish on their dead. Among those especially intended to contain water or flowers, some are covered with designs drawn in red and black (fig. 221), such as concentric lines and circles (fig. 222), meanders, religious emblems (fig. 223), cross-lines resembling network, festoons of flowers and buds, and long leafy stems carried downward from the neck to the body of the vase, and upward from the body of the vase to the neck. Those in the tomb of Sennetmu were decorated on one side with a large necklace, or collar, like the collars found upon mummies, painted in very bright colours to simulate natural flowers or enamels. Canopic vases in baked clay, though rarely met with under the Eighteenth Dynasty, became more and more common as the prosperity of Thebes declined. The heads upon the lids are for the most part prettily turned, especially the human heads.[57] Modelled with the hand, scooped out to diminish the weight, and then slowly baked, each was finally painted with the colours especially pertaining to the genius whose head was represented. Towards the time of the Twentieth Dynasty, it became customary to enclose the bodies of sacred animals in vases of this type. Those found near Ekhmim contain jackals and hawks; those of Sakkarah are devoted to serpents, eggs, and mummified rats; those of Abydos hold the sacred ibis. These last are by far the finest. On the body of the vase, the protecting goddess Khuit is depicted with outspread wings, while Horus and Thoth are seen presenting the bandage and the unguent vase; the whole subject being painted in blue and red upon a white ground. From the time of the Greek domination, the national poverty being always on the increase, baked clay was much used for coffins as well as for canopic vases. In the Isthmus of Suez, at Ahnas el Medineh, in the Fayum, at Asuan, and in Nubia, we find whole cemeteries in which the sarcophagi are made of baked clay. Some are like oblong boxes rounded at each end, with a saddle-back lid. Some are in human form, but barbarous in style, the heads being surmounted by a pudding-shaped imitation of the ancient Egyptian head-dress, and the features indicated by two or three strokes of the modelling tool or the thumb. Two little lumps of clay stuck awkwardly upon the breast indicate the coffin of a woman. Even in these last days of Egyptian civilisation, it was only the coarsest objects which were left of the natural hue of the baked clay. As of old, the surfaces were, as a rule, overlaid with a coat of colour, or with a richly gilded glaze.

Glass was known to the Egyptians from the remotest period, and glass- blowing is represented in tombs which date from some thousands of years before our era (fig. 224). The craftsman, seated before the furnace, takes up a small quantity of the fused substance upon the end of his cane and blows it circumspectly, taking care to keep it in contact with the flame, so that it may not harden during the operation. Chemical analysis shows the constituent parts of Egyptian glass to have been nearly identical with our own; but it contains, besides silex, lime, alumina, and soda, a relatively large proportion of extraneous substances, as copper, oxide of iron, and oxide of manganese, which they apparently knew not how to eliminate. Hence Egyptian glass is scarcely ever colourless, but inclines to an uncertain shade of yellow or green. Some ill-made pieces are so utterly decomposed that they flake away, or fall to iridescent dust, at the lightest touch. Others have suffered little from time or damp, but are streaky and full of bubbles. A few are, however, perfectly homogenous and limpid. Colourless glass was not esteemed by the Egyptians as it is by ourselves; whether opaque or transparent, they preferred it coloured. The dyes were obtained by mixing metallic oxides with the ordinary ingredients; that is to say, copper and cobalt for the blues, copperas for the greens, manganese for the violets and browns, iron for the yellows, and lead or tin for the whites. One variety of red contains 30 per cent of bronze, and becomes coated with verdegris if exposed to damp. All this chemistry was empirical, and acquired by instinct. Finding the necessary elements at hand, or being supplied with them from a distance, they made use of them at hazard, and without being too certain of obtaining the effects they sought. Many of their most harmonious combinations were due to accident, and they could not reproduce them at will. The masses which they obtained by these unscientific means were nevertheless of very considerable dimensions. The classic authors tell of stelae, sarcophagi, and columns made in one piece. Ordinarily, however, glass was used only for small objects, and, above all, for counterfeiting precious stones. However cheaply they may have been sold in the Egyptian market, these small objects were not accessible to all the world. The glass-workers imitated the emerald, jasper, lapis lazuli, and carnelian to such perfection that even now we are sometimes embarrassed to distinguish the real stones from the false. The glass was pressed into moulds made of stone or limestone cut to the forms required, as beads, discs, rings, pendants, rods, and plaques covered with figures of men and animals, gods and goddesses. Eyes and eyebrows for the faces of statues in stone or bronze were likewise made of glass, as also bracelets. Glass was inserted into the hollows of incised hieroglyphs, and hieroglyphs were also cut out in glass. In this manner, whole inscriptions were composed, and let into wood, stone, or metal. The two mummy-cases which enclosed the body of Netemt, mother of the Pharaoh Herhor Seamen, are decorated in this style. Except the headdress of the effigy and some minor details, these cases are gilded all over; the texts and the principal part of the ornamentation being formed of glass enamels, which stand out in brilliant contrast with the dead gold ground. Many Fayum mummies were coated with plaster or stucco, the texts and religious designs, which are generally painted, being formed of glass enamels incrusted upon the surface of the plaster. Some of the largest subjects are made of pieces of glass joined together and retouched with the chisel, in imitation of bas-relief. Thus the face, hands, and feet of the goddess Ma are done in turquoise blue, her headdress in dark blue, her feather in alternate stripes of blue and yellow, and her raiment in deep red. Upon a wooden shrine recently discovered in the neighbourhood of Daphnae,[58] and upon a fragment of mummy-case in the Museum of Turin, the hieroglyphic forms of many-coloured glass are inlaid upon the sombre ground of the wood, the general effect being inconceivably rich and brilliant. Glass filigrees, engraved glass, cut glass, soldered glass, glass imitations of wood, of straw, and of string, were all known to the Egyptians of old. I have under my hand at this present moment a square rod formed of innumerable threads of coloured glass fused into one solid body, which gives the royal oval of one of the Amenemhats at the part where it is cut through. The design is carried through the whole length of the rod, and wherever that rod may be cut, the royal oval reappears.[59] One glass case in the Gizeh Museum is entirely stocked with small objects in coloured glass. Here we see an ape on all fours, smelling some large fruit which lies upon the ground; yonder, a woman's head, front face, upon a white or green ground surrounded by a red border. Most of the plaques represent only rosettes, stars, and single flowers or posies. One of the smallest represents a black-and-white Apis walking, the work being so delicate that it loses none of its effect under the magnifying glass. The greater number of these objects date from, and after, the first Saite dynasty; but excavations in Thebes and Tell el Amarna have proved that the manufacture of coloured glass prevailed in Egypt earlier than the tenth century before our era. At Kurnet Murraee and Sheikh Abd el Gurneh, there have been found, not only amulets for the use of the dead, such as colonnettes, hearts, mystic eyes, hippopotami walking erect, and ducks in pairs, done in parti-coloured pastes, blue, red, and yellow, but also vases of a type which we have been accustomed to regard as of Phoenician and Cypriote manufacture.[60] Here, for example, is a little aenochoe, of a light blue semi-opaque glass (fig. 225); the inscription in the name of Thothmes III., the ovals on the neck, and the palm-fronds on the body of the vase being in yellow. Here again is a lenticular phial, three and a quarter inches in height (fig. 226), the ground colour of a deep ocean blue, admirably pure and intense, upon which a fern-leaf pattern in yellow stands out both boldly and delicately. A yellow thread runs round the rim, and two little handles of light green are attached to the neck. A miniature amphora of the same height (fig. 227) is of a dark, semi-transparent olive green. A zone of blue and yellow zigzags, bounded above and below by yellow bands, encircles the body of the vase at the part of its largest circumference. The handles are pale green, and the thread round the lip is pale blue. Princess Nesikhonsu had beside her, in the vault at Deir el Bahari, some glass goblets of similar work. Seven were in whole colours, light green and blue; four were of black glass spotted with white; one only was decorated with many-coloured fronds arranged in two rows (fig. 228). The national glass works were therefore in full operation during the time of the great Theban dynasties. Huge piles of scoriae mixed with slag yet mark the spot where their furnaces were stationed at Tell el Amarna, the Ramesseum, at El Kab, and at the Tell of Eshmuneyn.

The Egyptians also enamelled stone. One half at least of the scarabaei, cylinders, and amulets contained in our museums are of limestone or schist, covered with a coloured glaze. Doubtless the common clay seemed to them inappropriate to this kind of decoration, for they substituted in its place various sorts of earth—some white and sandy; another sort brown and fine, which they obtained by the pulverisation of a particular kind of limestone found in the neighbourhood of Keneh, Luxor, and Asuan; and a third sort, reddish in tone, and mixed with powdered sandstone and brick-dust. These various substances are known by the equally inexact names of Egyptian porcelain and Egyptian faience. The oldest specimens, which are hardly glazed at all, are coated with an excessively thin slip. This vitreous matter has, however, generally settled into the hollows of the hieroglyphs or figures, where its lustre stands out in strong contrast with the dead surface of the surrounding parts. The colour most frequently in use under the ancient dynasties was green; but yellow, red, brown, violet, and blue were not disdained.[61] Blue predominated in the Theban factories from the earliest beginning of the Middle Empire. This blue was brilliant, yet tender, in imitation of turquoise or lapis lazuli. The Gizeh Museum formerly contained three hippopotamuses of this shade, discovered in the tomb of an Entef[62] at Drah Abu'l Neggeh[63] One was lying down, the two others were standing in the marshes, their bodies being covered by the potter with pen-and-ink sketches of reeds and lotus plants, amid which hover birds and butterflies (fig. 229). This was his naive way of depicting the animal amid his natural surroundings. The blue is splendid, and we must overleap twenty centuries before we again find so pure a colour among the funerary statuettes of Deir el Bahari. Green reappears under the Saite dynasties, but paler than that of more ancient times, and it prevailed in the north of Egypt, at Memphis, Bubastis, and Sais, without entirely banishing the blue. The other colours before mentioned were in current use for not more than four or five centuries; that is to say, from the time of Ahmes I. to the time of the Ramessides. It was then, and only then, that ushabtiu of white or red glaze, rosettes and lotus flowers in yellow, red, and violet, and parti-coloured kohl-pots abounded. The potters of the time of Amenhotep III. affected greys and violets. The olive-shaped amulets which are inscribed with the names of this Pharaoh and the princesses of his family are decorated with pale blue hieroglyphs upon a delicate mauve ground. The vase of Queen Tii in the Gizeh collection is of grey and blue, with ornaments in two colours round the neck. The fabrication of many- coloured enamels seems to have attained its greatest development under Khuenaten; at all events, it was at Tell el Amarna that I found the brightest and most delicately fashioned specimens, such as yellow, green, and violet rings, blue and white fleurettes, fish, lutes, figs, and bunches of grapes.[64] One little statuette of Horus has a red face and a blue body; a ring bezel bears the name of a king in violet upon a ground of light blue. However restricted the space, the various colours are laid in with so sure a hand that they never run one into the other, but stand out separately and vividly. A vase to contain antimony powder, chased and mounted on a pierced stand, is glazed with reddish brown (fig. 230). Another, in the shape of a mitred hawk, is blue picked out with black spots. It belonged of old to Ahmes I. A third, hollowed out of the body of an energetic little hedgehog, is of a changeable green (fig. 231). A Pharaoh's head in dead blue wears a klaft[65] with dark-blue stripes.

Fine as these pieces are, the chef-d'oeuvre of the series is a statuette of one Ptahmes, first Prophet of Amen, now in the Gizeh Museum. The hieroglyphic inscriptions as well as the details of the mummy bandages are chased in relief upon a white ground of admirable smoothness afterwards filled in with enamel. The face and hands are of turquoise blue; the head- dress is yellow, with violet stripes; the hieroglyphic characters of the inscription, and the vulture with outspread wings upon the breast of the figure, are also violet. The whole is delicate, brilliant, and harmonious; not a flaw mars the purity of the contours or the clearness of the lines.

Glazed pottery was common from the earliest times. Cups with a foot (fig. 232), blue bowls, rounded at the bottom and decorated in black ink with mystic eyes, lotus flowers, fishes (fig. 233), and palm-leaves, date, as a rule, from the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, or Twentieth Dynasties. Lenticular ampullae coated with a greenish glaze, flanked by two crouching monkeys for handles, decorated along the edge with pearl or egg-shaped ornaments, and round the body with elaborate collars (fig. 234), belong almost without exception to the reigns of Apries and Amasis.[66] Sistrum handles, saucers, drinking-cups in the form of a half-blown lotus, plates, dishes—in short, all vessels in common use—were required to be not only easy to keep clean, but pleasant to look upon. Did they carry their taste for enamelled ware so far as to cover the walls of their houses with glazed tiles? Upon this point we can pronounce neither affirmatively nor negatively; the few examples of this kind of decoration which we possess being all from royal buildings. Upon a yellow brick, we have the family name and Ka name of Pepi I.; upon a green brick, the name of Rameses III.; upon certain red and white fragments, the names of Seti I. and Sheshonk.

Up to the beginning of the present century, one of the chambers in the step pyramid at Sakkarah yet retained its mural decoration of glazed ware (fig. 235). For three-fourths of the wall-surface it was covered with green tiles, oblong in shape, flat at the back, and slightly convex on the face (fig. 236). A square tenon, pierced through with a hole large enough to receive a wooden rod, served to fix them together in horizontal pyramid of rows.[67] The three rows which frame in the doorway are inscribed with the titles of an unclassed Pharaoh belonging to one of the first Memphite dynasties. The hieroglyphs are relieved in blue, red, green, and yellow, upon a tawny ground. Twenty centuries later, Rameses III. originated a new style at Tell el Yahudeh. This time the question of ornamentation concerned, not a single chamber, but a whole temple. The mass of the building was of limestone and alabaster; but the pictorial subjects, instead of being sculptured according to custom, were of a kind of mosaic made with almost equal parts of stone tesserae and glazed ware.

The most frequent item in the scheme of decoration was a roundel moulded of a sandy frit coated with blue or grey slip, upon which is a cream-coloured rosette (fig. 237). Some of these rosettes are framed in geometrical designs (fig. 238) or spider-web patterns; some represent open flowers. The central boss is in relief; the petals and tracery are encrusted in the mass. These roundels, which are of various diameters ranging from three- eighths of an inch to four inches, were fixed to the walls by means of a very fine cement. They were used to form many different designs, as scrolls, foliage, and parallel fillets, such as may be seen on the foot of an altar and the base of a column preserved in the Gizeh Museum. The royal ovals were mostly in one piece; so also were the figures. The details, either incised or modelled upon the clay before firing, were afterwards painted with such colours as might be suitable. The lotus flowers and leaves which were carried along the bottom of the walls or the length of the cornices, were, on the contrary, made up of independent pieces; each colour being a separate morsel cut to fit exactly into the pieces by which it was surrounded (fig. 239). This temple was rifled at the beginning of the present century, and some figures of prisoners brought thence have been in the Louvre collection ever since the time of Champollion. All that remained of the building and its decoration was demolished a few years ago by certain dealers in antiquities, and the debris are now dispersed in all directions. Mariette, though with great difficulty, recovered some of the more important fragments, such as the name of Rameses III., which dates the building; some borderings of lotus flowers and birds with human hands (fig. 240); and some heads of Asiatics and negro prisoners (fig. 241).[68] The destruction of this monument is the more grievous because the Egyptians cannot have constructed many after the same type. Glazed bricks, painted tiles, and enamelled mosaics are readily injured; and in the judgment of a people enamoured of stability and eternity, that would be the gravest of radical defects.

[55] Works on scarabaei are the Palin collection, published in 1828; Mr. Loftie's charming Essay of Scarabs, which is in fact a catalogue of his own specimens, admirably illustrated from drawings by Mr. W.M.F. Petrie; and Mr. Petrie's Historical Scarabs, published 1889.—A.B.E.

[56] These twin vases are still made at Asuan. I bought a small specimen there in 1874.—A.B.E.

[57] The sepulchral vases commonly called "canopic" were four in number, and contained the embalmed viscera of the mummy. The lids of these vases were fashioned to represent the heads of the four genii of Amenti, Hapi, Tuatmutf, Kebhsennef, and Amset; i.e. the Ape-head, the Jackal-head, the Hawk-head, and the human head.—A.B.E.

[58] The remains of this shrine, together with many hundreds of beautiful glass hieroglyphs, figures, emblems, etc., for inlaying, besides moulds and other items of the glassworker's stock, were discovered by Mr. F. Ll. Griffith at Tell Gemayemi, about equidistant from the mounds of Tanis and Daphnae (San and Defenneh) in March 1886. For a fuller account see Mr. Griffith's report, "The Antiquities of Tell el Yahudiyeh," in Seventh Memoir of the Egypt Exploration Fund. —A.B.E.

[59] Some of these beautiful rods were also found at Tell Gemayemi by Mr. F. Ll. Griffith, and in such sound condition that it was possible to cut them in thin slices, for distribution among various museums.— A.B.E.

[60] That is, of the kind known as the "false murrhine."—A.B.E.

[61] The yellows and browns are frequently altered greens.—A.B.E.

[62] One of the Eleventh Dynasty kings.

[63] There is a fine specimen at the Louvre, and another in the museum at Leydeu.—A.B.E.

[64] For an account of every stage and detail in the glass and glaze manufactures of Tell el Amarna, see W.M.F. Petrie's Tell el Amarna.

[65] Klaft, i.e., a headdress of folded linen. The beautiful little head here referred to is in the Gizeh Museum, and is a portrait of the Pharaoh Necho.—A.B.E.

[66] Apries, in Egyptian "Uahabra," the biblical "Hophra;" Amasis, Ahmes II.; both of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty.—A.B.E.

[67] Some specimens of these tiles may be seen in the Egyptian department at the British Museum.—A.B.E.


Objects in ivory, bone, and horn are among the rarities of our museums; but we must not for this reason conclude that the Egyptians did not make ample use of those substances. Horn is perishable, and is eagerly devoured by certain insects, which rapidly destroy it. Bone and ivory soon deteriorate and become friable. The elephant was known to the Egyptians from the remotest period. They may, perhaps, have found it inhabiting the Thebaid when first they established themselves in that part of the Nile Valley, for as early as the Fifth Dynasty we find the pictured form of the elephant in use as the hieroglyphic name of the island of Elephantine. Ivory in tusks and half tusks was imported into Egypt from the regions of the Upper Nile. It was sometimes dyed green or red, but was more generally left of its natural colour. It was largely employed by cabinet makers for inlaying furniture, as chairs, bedsteads, and coffers. Combs, dice, hair-pins, toilette ornaments, delicately wrought spoons (fig. 242), Kohl bottles hollowed out of a miniature column surmounted by a capital, incense-burners in the shape of a hand supporting a bronze cup in which the perfumes were burned, and boomerangs engraved with figures of gods and fantastic animals, were also made of ivory. Some of these objects are works of fine art; as for instance at Gizeh, a poignard-handle in the form of a lion; the plaques in bas-relief which adorn the draught-box of one Tuai, who lived towards the end of the Seventeenth Dynasty; a Fifth Dynasty figure, unfortunately mutilated, which yet retains traces of rose colour; and a miniature statue of Abi, who died at the time of the Thirteenth Dynasty. This little personage, perched on the top of a lotus-flower column, looks straight before him with a majestic air which contrasts somewhat comically with the size and prominence of his ears. The modelling of the figure is broad and spirited, and will bear comparison with good Italian ivories of the Renaissance period.

Egypt produces few trees, and of these few the greater number are useless to the sculptor. The two which most abound—namely, the date palm and the dom palm—are of too coarse a fibre for carving, and are too unequal in texture. Some varieties of the sycamore and acacia are the only trees of which the grain is sufficiently fine and manageable to be wrought with the chisel. Wood was, nevertheless, a favourite material for cheap and rapid work. It was even employed at times for subjects of importance, such as Ka statues; and the Wooden Man of Gizeh shows with what boldness and amplitude of style it could be treated. But the blocks and beams which the Egyptians had at command were seldom large enough for a statue. The Wooden Man himself, though but half life-size, consists of a number of pieces held together by square pegs. Hence, wood-carvers were wont to treat their subjects upon such a scale as admitted of their being cut in one block, and the statues of olden time became statuettes under the Theban dynasties. Art lost nothing by the reduction, and more than one of these little figures is comparable to the finest works of the ancient empire. The best, perhaps, is at the Turin Museum, and dates from the Twentieth Dynasty. It represents a young girl whose only garment is a slender girdle. She is of that indefinite age when the undeveloped form is almost as much like that of a boy as of a girl. The expression of the head is gentle, yet saucy. It is, in fact, across thirty centuries of time, a portrait of one of those graceful little maidens of Elephantine, who, without immodesty or embarrassment, walk unclothed in sight of strangers. Three little wooden men in the Gizeh Museum are probably contemporaries of the Turin figure. They wear full dress, as, indeed, they should, for one was a king's favourite named Hori, and surnamed Ra. They are walking with calm and measured tread, the bust thrown forward, and the head high. The expression upon their faces is knowing, and somewhat sly. An officer who has retired on half-pay at the Louvre (fig. 243) wears an undress uniform of the time of Amenhotep III.; that is to say, a small wig, a close-fitting vest with short sleeves, and a kilt drawn tightly over the hips, reaching scarcely half-way down the thigh, and trimmed in front with a piece of puffing plaited longwise. His companion is a priest (fig. 244), who wears his hair in rows of little curls one above the other, and is clad in a long petticoat falling below the calf of the leg and spreading out in front in a kind of plaited apron. He holds a sacred standard consisting of a stout staff surmounted by a ram's head crowned with the solar disc. Both officer and priest are painted red brown, with the exception of the hair, which is black; the cornea of the eyes, which is white; and the standard, which is yellow. Curiously enough, the little lady Nai, who inhabits the same glass case, is also painted reddish brown, instead of buff, which was the canonical colour for women (fig. 245). She is taken in a close-fitting garment trimmed down the front with a band of white embroidery. Round her neck she wears a necklace consisting of a triple row of gold pendants. Two golden bracelets adorn her wrists, and on her head she carries a wig with long curls. The right arm hangs by her side, the hand holding some object now lost, which was probably a mirror. The left arm is raised, and with the left hand she presses a lotus lily to her breast. The body is easy and well formed, the figure indicates youth, the face is open, smiling, pleasant, and somewhat plebeian. To modify the unwieldy mass of the headdress was beyond the skill of the artist, but the bust is delicately and elegantly modelled, the clinging garment gives discreet emphasis to the shape, and the action of the hand which holds the flower is rendered with grace and naturalness. All these are portraits, and as the sitters were not persons of august rank, we may conclude that they did not employ the most fashionable artists. They, doubtless, had recourse to more unpretending craftsmen; but that such craftsmen were thus highly trained in knowledge of form and accuracy of execution, shows how strongly even the artisan was influenced by the great school of sculpture which then flourished at Thebes.

This influence becomes even more apparent when we study the knick-knacks of the toilet table, and such small objects as, properly speaking, come under the head of furniture. To pass in review the hundred and one little articles of female ornament or luxury to which the fancy of the designer gave all kinds of ingenious and novel forms, would be no light task. The handles of mirrors, for instance, generally represented a stem of lotus or papyrus surmounted by a full-blown flower, from the midst of which rose a disk of polished metal. For this design is sometimes substituted the figure of a young girl, either nude, or clad in a close-fitting garment, who holds the mirror on her head. The tops of hair-pins were carved in the semblance of a coiled serpent, or of the head of a jackal, a dog, or a hawk. The pin- cushion in which they are placed is a hedgehog or a tortoise, with holes pierced in a formal pattern upon the back. The head-rests, which served for pillows, were decorated with bas-reliefs of subjects derived from the myths of Bes and Sekhet, the grimacing features of the former deity being carved on the ends or on the base. But it is in the carving of perfume-spoons and kohl-bottles that the inventive skill of the craftsman is most brilliantly displayed.

Not to soil their fingers the Egyptians made use of spoons for essences, pomades, and the variously-coloured preparations with which both men and women stained their cheeks, lips, eyelids, nails, and palms. The designer generally borrowed his subjects from the fauna or flora of the Nile valley. A little case at Gizeh is carved in the shape of a couchant calf, the body being hollowed out, and the head and back forming a removable lid. A spoon in the same collection represents a dog running away with an enormous fish in his mouth (fig. 246), the body of the fish forming the bowl of the spoon. Another shows a cartouche springing from a full-blown lotus; another, a lotus fruit laid upon a bouquet of flowers (fig. 247); and here is a simple triangular bowl, the handle decorated with a stem and two buds (fig. 248). The most elaborate specimens combine these subjects with the human figure. A young girl, clad in a mere girdle, is represented in the act of swimming (fig. 249). Her head is well lifted above the water, and her outstretched arms support a duck, the body of which is hollowed out, while the wings, being movable, serve as a cover. We have also a young girl in the Louvre collection, but she stands in a maze of lotus plants (fig. 250), and is in the act of gathering a bud. A bunch of stems, from which emerge two full-blown blossoms, unites the handle to the bowl of the spoon, which is in reverse position, the larger end being turned outwards and the point inwards. Elsewhere, a young girl (fig. 251) playing upon a long- necked lute as she trips along, is framed in by two flowering stems. Sometimes the fair musician is standing upright in a tiny skiff (fig. 252); and sometimes a girl bearing offerings is substituted for the lute player. Another example represents a slave toiling under the weight of an enormous sack. The age and physiognomy of each of these personages is clearly indicated. The lotus gatherer is of good birth, as may be seen by her carefully plaited hair and tunic. The Theban ladies wore long robes; but this damsel has gathered up her skirts that she may thread her way among the reeds without wetting her garments. The two musicians and the swimming girl belong, on the contrary, to an inferior, or servile, class. Two of them wear only a girdle, and the third has a short garment negligently fastened. The bearer of offerings (fig. 253) wears the long pendent tresses distinctive of childhood, and is one of those slender, growing girls of the fellahin class whom one sees in such numbers on the banks of the Nile. Her lack of clothing is, however, no evidence of want of birth, for not even the children of nobility were wont to put on the garments of their sex before the period of adolescence. Lastly, the slave (fig. 254), with his thick lips, his high shoulders, his flat nose, his heavy, animal jaw, his low brow, and his bare, conical head, is evidently a caricature of some foreign prisoner. The dogged sullenness with which he trudges under his burden is admirably caught, while the angularities of the body, the type of the head, and the general arrangement of the parts, remind one of the terra-cotta grotesques of Asia Minor. In these subjects, all the minor details, the fruits, the flowers, the various kinds of birds, are rendered with much truth and cleverness. Of the three ducks which are tied by the feet and slung over the arms of the girl bearing offerings, two are resigned to their fate, and hang swinging with open eyes and outstretched necks; but the third flaps her wings and lifts her head protestingly. The two small water-fowl perched upon the lotus flowers listen placidly to the lute-player's music, their beaks resting on their crops. They have learned by experience not to put themselves out of the way for a song, and they know that there is nothing to fear from a young girl, unless she is armed. They are put to flight in the bas-reliefs by the mere sight of a bow and arrows, just as a company of rooks is put to flight nowadays by the sight of a gun. The Egyptians were especially familiar with the ways of animals and birds, and reproduced them with marvellous exactness. The habit of minutely observing minor facts became instinctive, and it informed their most trifling works with that air of reality which strikes us so forcibly at the present day.

Household furniture was no more abundant in ancient Egypt than it is in the Egypt of to-day. In the time of the Twelfth Dynasty an ordinary house contained no bedsteads, but low frameworks like the Nubian angareb; or mats rolled up by day on which the owners lay down at night in their clothes, pillowing their heads on earthenware, stone, or wooden head-rests. There were also two or three simple stone seats, some wooden chairs or stools with carved legs, chests and boxes of various sizes for clothes and tools, and a few common vessels of pottery or bronze. For making fire there were fire-sticks, and the bow-drill for using them (figs. 255 and 181); children's toys were even then found in great variety though of somewhat quaint construction. There were dolls with wigs and movable limbs, made in stone, pottery, and wood (fig. 256); figures of men, and animals, and terra-cotta boats, balls of wood and stuffed leather, whip-tops, and tip- cats (fig. 257).

The art of the cabinet-maker was nevertheless carried to a high degree of perfection, from the time of the ancient dynasties. Planks were dressed down with the adze, mortised, glued, joined together by means of pegs cut in hard wood, or acacia thorns (never by metal nails), polished, and finally covered with paintings. Chests generally stand upon four straight legs, and are occasionally thus raised to some height from the ground. The lid is flat, or rounded according to a special curvature (fig. 258) much in favour among the Egyptians of all periods. Sometimes, though rarely, it is gable-shaped, like our house-roofs (fig. 259). Generally speaking, the lid lifts off bodily; but it often turns upon a peg inserted in one of the uprights. Sometimes, also, it turns upon wooden pivots (fig. 260). The panels, which are large and admirably suited for decorative art, are enriched with paintings, or inlaid with ivory, silver, precious woods, or enamelled plaques. It may be that we are scarcely in a position justly to appraise the skill of Egyptian cabinet-makers, or the variety of designs produced at various periods. Nearly all the furniture which has come down to our day has been found in tombs, and, being destined for burial in the sepulchre, may either be of a character exclusively destined for the use of the mummy, or possibly a cheap imitation of a more precious class of goods.

The mummy was, in fact, the cabinet-maker's best customer. In other lands, man took but a few objects with him into the next world; but the defunct Egyptian required nothing short of a complete outfit. The mummy-case alone was an actual monument, in the construction of which a whole squad of workmen was employed (fig. 261). The styles of mummy-cases varied from period to period. Under the Memphite and first Theban empires, we find only rectangular chests in sycamore wood, flat at top and bottom, and made of many pieces joined together by wooden pins. The pattern is not elegant, but the decoration is very curious. The lid has no cornice. Outside, it is inscribed down the middle with a long column of hieroglyphs, sometimes merely written in ink, sometimes laid on in colour, sometimes carved in hollowed-out signs filled in with some kind of bluish paste. The inscription records only the name and titles of the deceased, accompanied now and then by a short form of prayer in his favour. The inside is covered with a thick coat of stucco or whitewash.

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