« VorigeDoorgaan »
of men and animals of which the catacombs of Egypt seem to afford an inexhaustible supply, and which proves that all the population of ancient Egypt was preserved in tombs. Indeed, the object and necessity of this practice as a measure of health are established by the existence of the same common custom among other nations ancient and modern, which are placed under a similar climate, and under like conditions and especially by the observation that the Greeks, Romans, and even the Christians, continued also to embalm their dead in Egypt. Several Greek mummies are known at the present day, one of the most curious of which is now in the Cabinet du Roi, brought by M. Cailliaud. This laid down, it is evident that from the custom of thus preserving bodies in a state of solidity, so as to be able to resist any touch, that they became as if of brass, to avail myself of an expression of St. Augustine, now-a-days justified by monuments, must have resulted the idea which prevailed, of considering these bodies thus rendered indestructible, as kinds of statues. We have one of the most remarkable testimonies in every respect of the degree of preservation and indestructibility of which a mummy is capable, in the narrative which Herodotus gives us of the powerless outrages which Cambyses made the body of Amasis undergo, when finding his inability to cut it up with the knife, he resolved on destroying it by fire. We find, therefore, that after his death, an Egyptian thus become of stone or of brass by this very method, found himself transformed into a kind of work of art, fashioned as an idol, and for this reason an object of veneration and worship, in consequence of those religious ideas which the theocracy attached to this salutary practice. The extreme care, after having thus placed the bodies beyond the power of corruption by embalming, in protecting them from all injury, by enclosing them in several cases of an incorruptible wood, by enveloping them in many thousands of linen bands, by stuffing them, if I may so express myself, with amulets of every kind-with little idols of every material-sorts of preservatives against evil genii, which have not, however, checked the modern Typhons, this prodigious care of giving to the dead all the attire, and even the dress of the living, proves more and more that the ancient Egyptians entertained the idea of making man, after his decease, almost a god, and at the very least, an idol. But with this intention, which does not admit of a doubt, was there then also connected the idea of
preserving the image of the dead at the same time with the dead body itself-in other words, to add the portrait to the body? I do not think so: at least none of the masks placed on the mummy, enveloped with linen, or sculptured in the case of wood which encloses it-masks, a great number of which are to be found in every cabinet-present, most certainly, any imitation of definite features and of individual forms: it is always a general type which these masks present, and yet nothing would have been easier than to mould the figure of the dead, and to have thus made his real image serve as an indica tion of his tomb. This intention has been solely made good in the Greek mummies, on which genuine portraits have been found. Several of this kind are to be found in the Museum of Charles X., which seem to be painted in encaustic. But the Greeks proceeded in the arts according to principles different from the Egyptians, though they still followed their method of embalming bodies; and this very fact, that Greek mummies were frequently accompanied with their portraits, while the Egyptians never present any more than a general mask, fully proves, that at no period whatever, nor under any consideration, the Egyptians ever entertained the idea of making the imita tion of nature an object of study, or of applying it to any use. Let any one now examine the general form of mummies, such as we are acquainted with, from innumerable examples; it will be seen, that here is to be found the primitive type of the statues of ancient Egypt: in other words, that it is the dead Egyptian, rendered incorruptible, and become an idol, and not the living moving Egyptian, which served as a model to the art of this country. A body fashioned less like a real body, than as the covering of another body, and terminating in a case-like form, the arms hanging down the sides, the feet joined parallel, in order that it may stand erect; this body, destitute of detail, of correct forms, of muscles and of articu lation, surmounted by a head in which the general conformation of the human countenance is modified by no expression of individual features and of particular physiognomy, with an appendage to represent a beard, sole distinction between the two sexes-these are, with too few exceptions that these exceptions could invalidate the general principle-these are what the coffins of mummies and Egyptian statues present, and which authorises us to conclude, from this striking analogy, that the former served as types and models to the latter.
Should we require another proof elsewhere than among the Egyptians, we should find it in the primitive form given to the ancient statue of Diana of Ephesus, which is absolutely similar to that of a mummy, so that it is impossible to doubt, that it is, in fact, derived from this type; and as all the accessories, all the symbols with which this statue is covered, manifestly argue an Egyptian origin, it seems to me proved that the very form of this statue had neither a different origin or intention. The general form of the Hermes, those statues with a square pedestal with a human bust, and feet joined parallel, which issue from the extremity of this pedestal, statues of which Grecian art, at every period, made such frequent use, particu larly (which is deserving of remark) for the effigies of illustrious men, furnishes still further a new and decided application of the same principle. It may be therefore admitted, as an established fact, that the Egyptians, by securing to the dead the soundness and the incorruptibility of the human form, were naturally led to make use of this form as an universal type for statues, and that it is from this dead nature that Egyptian art borrowed the principal characteristics which distinguish it: that rigidity of posture, that absence of motion, that absence of details-in a word, that uniformity and that immobility, symbols of eternity, of which the mummies, as well as the Egyptian idols, were destined to give an idea, and to offer an image.
Let us terminate those general reflections on Egyptian art, by drawing a parallel, which, if I do not mistake, is of a nature to strike every mind. One of the subjects which seem to have been treated with the utmost care and complacence by Egyptian artists, without doubt, because it was the dearest to the nation and the most essential to the religious worship, is that group of Isis nursing Horus, which is so frequently reproduced on every material, and in every proportion. A group almost similar in regard to the number, disposition, age, sex, and intention of the personages, is that of the Virgin with the Infant Jesus, or as the Italians say, the Madonna col Bambino, a subject which painting is no more wearied in producing in Italy, than public piety in contemplating it under every form, and at every period of art.
Now, laying out of consideration, all moral ideas, and religious intentions, which do not allow us under any consideration to compare the object of the worship of ancient Egypt and that of the Christian faith; considering this group only in regard to
its execution, what do we see in one and the other? The Egyptian group, always equally symmetrical, rectilinear, immoveable, never presents either the features of a mother or those of a child, never the least trace of affection, of a smile, or of a caress, never the least indication of tenderness or emotion; never, in a word, the least expression of any kind. Everything is always calm, impassive, imperturbable, in this goddess-mother nursing a god, her son; or rather we behold neither a deity nor a mother, nor a son, nor a god: this group is never anything more than the outward sign of an idea, and of an idea which shows neither affection or passion. It is not the true representation of a real action, still less, the just expression of a natural sentiment. But in the Christian group, from the primitive type handed down by Byzantine tradition, to the perfect model created by the genius of Raphael, what infinite abundance, what prodigious variety of features, of physiognomy, of characters, has not art been able to derive from so simple a subject, so restricted in appearance? Under how many different forms, the unbounded tenderness of a mother, the ineffable purity of a virgin, that inexpressible blending of human affection and of celestial virtue, of physical perfections and supernatural charms, have been produced and reproduced by thousands of artists, and several times by the same artist, without art, working at once from nature, and from a sentiment inexhaustible as itself, never having had occasion to repeat the same features to produce the same attitudes. There was, therefore, between modern art and that of ancient Egypt, a radical and essential difference, or rather there were principles of art among the moderns as among the Greeks, because they possessed the power of imitation, because it was their aim, not only to represent forms, but to express sentiments, to speak to the soul through the senses, to elevate, to purify our affections through the means of the objects which excite them, and by the representation of physical beauty presented to our eyes, to produce within ourselves the image of that moral beauty, without which there is no art, or nothing, at least, which deserves
General glance on Etruscan Art-Its connection with Greek Art, proved by the choice of subjects represented on Etruscan Monuments-Historical facts which support this observation-Political System of Ancient Etruria favourable to the development of the Arts-Influence of the religious institutions of this people relatively to the same subject-General Characteristics of Etrurian Art-Examination of its principal MonumentsArchitecture-Plastic Art-Description of a Sepulchral Urn recently found at Chiusi, and which ought to be considered as the most ancient monument of Etruscan Statuary.
WE are now going to turn our attention to art among the Etruscans. This subject might, doubtless, give rise to numerous developments; but as my sole object is to present some general views on art, to consider it in its aggregate and its genius, I shall confine myself to a few concise and exact observations, in corroboration of which, I shall take care to point out the monuments most fitted to give you an exact, as well as a just idea of Etruscan art.
The art of the Etrurians comes immediately after that of the Egyptians in the order of time, it also follows very close in regard to the peculiarities and the characteristics of style. We have on this point a positive testimony, and one of high authority that of Strabo, who has remarked, that Egyptian figures bear a complete resemblance to the most ancient Etruscan statues, as well as to the primitive statues of the Greek style.
There was, therefore, at a certain period, a conformity, if not real, at least apparent and visible to a superficial observer, between the works of primitive Egyptian art and that of Etruria, and of that of Greece. Etruscan art is thus connected, by its origin, if not by its principles with Egyptian art. In another respect, and at another period of its history, it is connected in a similar manner with Grecian art by the influence which the latter exercised on the perfecting of the Etrurian style. It is under this twofold consideration, so deserving of interest, that I propose to survey the series of Etruscan monuments which have come down to us. I shall not bewilder