Pagina-afbeeldingen
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must have acted strongly on the imagination of a people like the Greeks. Perhaps we should not be in the wrong in saying that we find in this impression produced by Egypt, the germ of that ideal grandeur which was the character of Greek art, and the combination of which with imitative truth constitutes all the secret, all the wonder of this divine art. If this conjecture is allowed, which there are neither facts nor monuments to impugn; if it is acknowledged that the Greeks

l learned from the Egyptians to produce grandeur by the simplicity of lines and elevation of style, by absence of details, I think the influence exercised by Egypt in Greece will be reduced to its just estimate, and that in terms the most honour. able for the character of the two nations, and the most conformable to their genius. Let us now enter into a few details, and let us apply those general considerations to the monuments of Egyptian art.

All the statues we possess of the Egyptians, in whatever material, and of whatever dimension they may be, are erect, or seated, or on their knees, and all, in whatever position they are found, with their back to a pillar, or at least so rarely detached from some support, that this exception confirms rather than weakens the general rule. With regard to the erect figures, whether they represent a man or a woman, they have their arms hanging down close to their sides, or crossed symmetrically on their breasts. Sometimes one of the arms is detached from its vertical position, and brought forwards, while the other remains, stretched down the length of the body ; but whatever position they occupy, they are always immoveably fixed, and as if nailed in that position. One cannot but consider that they bear a stronger resemblance to a block than to a human figure. Both arms are rarely brought forward, and in this case, they are but little removed from a parallel line. The feet are almost always parallel, but not on the same plane; one is always placed before the other, and as the one behind, being thrown farther back, would appear somewhat shorter, for this reason it is generally a little longer-a sort of compensation which seems to have been also practised by the Greeks: at least there is an example of it in the feet of the Apollo Belvedere. As to the seated figures, they have uniformly their feet on the same line, and their hands placed parallel on their knees. Figures on their knees have generally a kind of chest before them, figured like a sanctuary, and inclosing some idols. Both one and the other are, moreover, devoid of all kind of

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motion. Erect figures walk no more than those which are seated, or on their knees; nothing moves in them, nothing presents the image or appearance of action or of life. They are in being without existing, or if they do exist, it is by their immobility alone. They rest, they weigh on the earth: they neither breathe nor live. With regard to their costume, the statues of women are always dressed, but generally with a very slight vesture, which forms no fold, and fits so close to the figure, that frequently one cannot distinguish the drapery from the body which it enfolds from the head to the feet, did one not remark exactly at the neck and at the legs a little rim, which indicates each extremity of the drapery; this garment fits close on the bosom, although this part is generally very prominent; and as it was conformable to the nature of things that the drapery should form more folds in this place than in any other, the artists contented themselves, in place of an indication of folds, which would have been a beginning of truth—that is to say, a beginning of alteration-with tracing on the bosom itself a circle with rings. This was on their part a manifest sign that they knew how to observe nature, and at the same time a tacit avowal, that without the trammels which had been imposed on them, they could have acquired the talent to represent it, since they were not deprived of the power of seeing it. What I have just said explains, moreover, and justifies the contempt shown by Herodotus on the subject of the twenty colossal statues in wood which he saw at Sais, and which represented so many women. The veracious historian says that they were naked, which was not the case ; but they were dressed in the manner I have mentioned, that is to say, with the drapery so exactly fitted to the limbs, that it formed a texture almost incorporate with the figure itself. I have nothing to say with regard to the statues of men, except that they are naked, with the exception of a kind of apron falling from the hips to the knees. Lastly, when we speak of nudity, what has been already said must be called to mind, that there is never in Egyptian statues the least detail of muscular development, and consequently no real nudity. The nude with them is never anything more than the outward fold of the human body, rather than the body itself. Every Egyptian statue is, in fact, in its scabbard, in its sheath, like a

mummy under the folds of the linen which enwrapt it, and in the case. which enclosed it.

THIRD LECTURE.

Continuation of the same subjectObjection derived from the Figures of

Animals—Answer to this objection-Style of the second and third periods of Egyptian Art-Application of these general considerations to the Egyptian Figures with the Heads of Animals—What was the true nature of these Figures—Why the body was always neglected in them—Why they are generally attached to a pilaster-Figures with human head—Style of these Figures equally devoid of imitation—Sacred type borrowed from Mummies—Proofs and development of this idea—Conclusion-Parallel of an Egyptian, and of an analogous group treated by modern artists.

I THINK I have proved that Egyptian artists of the first period were unacquainted with anatomy; that they had neither the power nor the permission to represent the nude; to vary the costume, to express motion and life. Now if they were thus limited in the science of drawing, and in the practice of the art, how could they have been acquainted with beauty and expression, these two essential properties of art, without which we cannot conceive it? Grace, that other property of art, which is, so to speak, its soul and essence, was thus as completely unknown to them as were unknown to the Egyptians themselves, according to the testimony of Herodotus, the three goddesses who bear this name in the smiling mythology of Greece. It is in the same sense we must understand the testimony of Strabo, who remarked, with regard to the edifices of Egypt, that their edifices presented nothing graceful or picturesque, which is strictly exact, but which bas been generally so ill understood, that the most learned interpreter of Strabo renders these words of his author by the words, “Nothing painted,” which expresses exactly the contrary of the truth. Every one knows at the present day that everything is painted in ancient Egypt, temples as well as statues ; and this presents us with another opportunity for remarking, how much the inspection alone of monuments serves to rectify false ideas, and to correct ill understood facts. I must take notice here of an objection which I have already indicated, and which must be allowed to have some weight. There may be opposed to the general manner in which I have considered Egyptian art, the anatomical science, the skilful expression of the muscles and of the bones, added to much delicacy and truth of details, which those same artists have displayed, in a great number of figures of animals, especially in the two lions at Rome, at the foot of the Capitol, in those of the fountains of the Aqua Felice, in the Sphinx of the Villa Borghese, and in a number of other figures of animals which adorn the Egyptian museums of London, Turin, and Paris. But far from seeking to weaken this objection by observations which might, moreover, be destitute of foundation, on the later age of these figures of animals, it seems to me that the very contrast which is to be remarked between human statues, devoid of all anatomical science, of all detail of imitation, and those figures of animals where this double quality is sometimes to be found, carried to a rather high degree, serve rather to more fully prove the solidity of the principles I have established on the nature of Egyptian art: that this art, in all that concerns human representation, was subservient to fixed laws, which it was not permitted to infringe, to consecrated types which it was never possible for it to modify, and further, that it was forbidden to pursue any anatomical studies, while, on the other hand, on the figures of animals which were but of secondary importance, they could freely study their model, represented with all the truth of which they were capable; and in consequence of the dissection of animals, which were frequently embalmed like human beings, but from which, indeed, this operation did not entail the same inconveniences on the part of the family of the dead, they could produce in these representations all the anatomical science they had acquired, and which is to be admired in them. It results from thence, by an inevitable consequence, that the Egyptians were not, perhaps, less gifted than the Greeks with an imitative genius, since, where they were allowed to display it, they did so with great success, and that at a time when this genius, repressed among them by a stern theocracy, circumscribed in narrow limits, and reduced to figures of animals, had too confined a field, and too humble a sphere, to exercise itself in a manner worthy of itself: a consequence which certainly suggests some serious philosophical observations in relation to the history of art, and especially in relation to that sway so absolute, so universal, which during so long a series of ages religion could exercise over the human mind, amidst a people otherwise endowed with so many excellent qualities, by

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enthralling the productions of its intellect, by fashioning the work of its hands, by bestowing and taking away at one and the same time, liberty, and making man alternately an artist and a machine-in a word, leaving him nothing of his liberty and his intellect, but exactly as much as he would require to make a lion, a dog, or a jackall, without being ever able to use it to make a man like himself. It now remains for me, in order to give a complete idea of Egyptian art, to speak of the style peculiar to the second and third periods of this art, as well as monuments which belong to it. But the little interest which is attached to productions in which the merit of originality is lost without being replaced by any other, does not allow me to extend my remarks further than some observations strictly necessary.

There is no need of a great display of erudition to prove that the Greeks, having become masters of Egypt, must have sought to introduce there, with their elegant and polished manners, the arts, which were the principal ornament of their civilisation. But those arts of Greece, which at a later period vanquished the Romans, the conquerors of the world, found in the conquest of Egypt an almost insurmountable resistance. In that country, a people fashioned by ancient laws, by inveterate habits, were obstinately bent on refusing to admit any foreign impression. Besides, in that country the Ptolemies, founders of this new empire, were not doubtless sorry to find a nation so docile under the yoke, so resigned to obedience, for whom it was nothing to change their masters, but with whom it would have been perhaps dangerous to change their mode of existence. To emancipate the Egyptians in any manner whatever in the practice of an art so closely connected with religion and policy; to compel them, for example, to make statues otherwise than they always did, would be almost to hazard the risk of making men of the Egyptians themselves. Art emancipated might become a step towards liberty; artists who would cease to work like machines might eventually become citizens, and doubtless it was better suited to the policy of the Ptolemies that they should remain slaves, as in the past. In this, indeed, the sovereign seemed to conform to the established customs and laws; it was in some way an homage which power paid to public opinion, in leaving all things in the same state ; that is to say, the mind enthralled, and the hand fettered, and it is a well-known fact that nations never obey

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