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other fabulous animals, as well as the early Medusa's head, with a protruding tongue, of the oldest Greek pottery and sculptures, and the ibex, leopard, and, above all, the (Nile) "goose and sun," on the vases, show them to be connected with, and frequently directly borrowed from, Egyptian fancy. It was, as it still is, the custom of people to borrow from those who have attained to a greater degree of refinement and civilization than themselves; the nation most advanced in art led the taste; and though some had sufficient invention to alter what they adopted, and to render it their own, the original idea may still be traced whenever it has been derived from a foreign source. Egypt was long the dominant nation, and the intercourse established at a very remote period with other countries, through commerce or war, carried abroad the taste of this the most advanced people of the time; and so general seems to have been the fashion of their ornaments, that even the Nineveh marbles present the winged globe, and other well-known Egyptian emblems, as established elements of Assyrian decorative art. This fact would suffice to disprove the early date of the marbles hitherto discovered, which are, in fact, of a period comparatively modern in the history of Egypt; and recent discoveries have fully justified the opinion I ventured to express, when they were first brought to this country: 10, that they are not of archaic style, and that original Assyrian art is still to be looked for; 20, that they give evidences of the decadence, not the rise, of art; and, 30, that they have borrowed much from Egypt, long the dominant country in power and art, and will be found to date within 1000 B.C. This, however, is far from lessening their importance; for the periods they chiefly illustratethose of Shalmaneser and Sennacherib, so closely connected with Hebrew history—give an interest to them, which the oldest monuments of Assyria would fail to possess.

While Greece was still in its infancy, Egypt had long been the leading nation of the world; she was noted for her magnificence, her wealth, and power, and all acknowledged her preeminence in wisdom and civilization. It is not, therefore, surprising that the Greeks should have admitted into their early art some of the forms then most in vogue; and though the won

derful taste of that gifted people speedily raised them to a point of excellence, never attained by the Egyptians or any others, the rise and first germs of art and architecture must be sought in the valley of the Nile. In the oldest monuments of Greece, the sloping or pyramidal line constantly predominates; the columns in the oldest Greek order are almost purely Egyptian, in the proportions of the shaft, and in the form of its shallow flutes without fillets; and it is a remarkable fact, that the oldest Egyptian columns are those which bear the closest resemblance to the Greek Doric.

Though great variety was permitted in objects of luxury, as furniture, vases, and other things depending on caprice, the Egyptians were forbidden to introduce any material innovations into the human figure, such as would alter its general character; and all subjects connected with religion retained to the last the same conventional type. A god in the latest temple was of the same form as when represented on monuments of the earliest date; and King Menes would have recognized Amun, or Osiris, in a Ptolemaic or a Roman sanctuary. In sacred subjects the law was inflexible; and religion, which has frequently done so much for the development and direction of taste in sculpture, had the effect of fettering the genius of Egyptian artists. No improvements, resulting from experience and observation, were admitted in the mode of drawing the human figure; to copy nature was not allowed; it was therefore useless to study it, and no attempt was made to give the proper action to the limbs. Certain rules, certain models had been established by the priesthood; and the faulty conceptions of ignorant times were copied and perpetuated by every successive artist. For, as Plato and Synesius say, the Egyptian sculptors were not suffered to attempt anything contrary to the regulations laid down regarding the figures of the gods; they were forbidden to introduce any change, or to invent new subjects and habits; and thus the art, and the rules which bound it, always remained the same.

Egyptian bas-relief appears to have been, in its origin, a mere copy of painting, its predecessor. The first attempt to represent the figures of gods, sacred emblems, and other subjects consisted

in drawing, or painting, simple outlines of them on a flat surface, the details being afterwards put in with colour; but in process of time these forms were traced on stone with a tool, and the intermediate space between the various figures being afterwards cut away, the once level surface assumed the appearance of a bas-relief. It was, in fact, a pictorial representation on stone, which is evidently the character of all the basreliefs on Egyptian monuments, and which readily accounts for the imperfect arrangement of their figures.

Deficient in conception, and, above all, in a proper knowledge of grouping, they were unable to form those combinations which give true expression; every picture was made up of isolated parts, put together according to some general notions, but without harmony or preconceived effect. The human face, the whole body, and everything they introduced, were composed in the same manner, of separate members placed together one by one, according to their relative situations: the eye, the nose, and other features composed a face; but the expression of feelings and passions was entirely wanting; and the countenance of the king, whether charging an enemy's phalanx in the heat of battle, or peaceably offering incense in a sombre temple, presented the same outline and the same inanimate look. The peculiarity of the front view of an eye, introduced in a profile, is thus accounted for it was the ordinary representation of that feature added to a profile, and no allowance was made for any change in the position of the head.

It was the same with drapery: the figure was first drawn, and the drapery then added, not as a part of the whole, but as an accessory; they had no general conception, no previous idea of the effect required to distinguish the warrior or the priest, beyond the impressions received from costume, or from the subject of which they formed a part; and the same figure was dressed according to the character it was intended to perform. Every portion of a picture was conceived by itself, and inserted as it was wanted to complete the scene; and when the walls of the building, where a subject was to be drawn, had been accurately ruled with squares, the figures were introduced, and fitted

[blocks in formation]

to this mechanical arrangement. The members were appended to the body, and these squares regulated their form and distribution, in whatever posture they might be placed.

As long as this conventional system continued, no great change could take place, beyond a slight variation in the proportions, which at one period became more elongated, particularly in the reign of the second Remeses; but still the general form and character of the figures continued the same, which led to the remark of Plato, "that the pictures and statues made ten thousand years ago, are in no one particular better or worse than what they now make." And taken in this limited sense-that no nearer approach to the beau ideal of the human figure, or its real character, was made at one period than another-his remark is true, since they were always bound by the same regulations, which prohibited any change in these matters, even to the latest times, as is evident from the sculptures of the monuments erected after Egypt had long been a Roman province. All was still Egyptian, though of bad style; and if they then attempted to finish the details with more precision, it was only substituting ornament for simplicity; and the endeavour to bring the proportions of the human figure nearer to nature, with the retention of its conventional type, only made its deformity greater, and showed how incompatible the Egyptian was with any other style.

The proportions of the human figure did not, as I have just said, continue always the same. During the 4th and other early dynasties, it differed from that of the Augustan age of the 18th and 19th; and another change took place under the Ptolemies. The chief alteration was in the height of the knee from the ground, which was higher during the 18th and 19th than in the ancient and later periods. The whole height of the figure in basreliefs and paintings was then divided into nineteen parts; and the wall having been ruled in squares, according to its intended size, all the parts of it were put in according to their established positions, the knee, for instance, falling on the sixth line. But the length of the foot was not, as in Greece, the standard from which they reckoned; for, being equal to 3 spaces, it could not be taken as the base of 19, though the height of the foot being 1 might



Mode of drawing human figures on a wall, previous to its being sculptured or painted; showing the proportions during the 18th and 19th dynasties.


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