A History of Art in Ancient Egypt HTML version

issued, as this was, in parts, and in one place[1] I have ventured to
omit matter which had already been given at some length, but with
that exception I have followed M. Perrot's words as closely as the
difference of idiom would allow. Another kind of repetition, with which,
perhaps, some readers may be inclined to quarrel, forced itself upon
the author as the
lesser of two evils. He was compelled either to sacrifice detail and
precision in attempting to carry on at once the history of all the
Egyptian arts and of their connection with the national religion and
civilization, or to go back upon his footsteps now and again in tracing
each art successively from its birth to its decay. The latter alternative
was chosen as the only one consistent with the final aim of his work.
Stated in a few words, that aim is to trace the course of the great
plastic evolution which culminated in the age of Pericles and came to
an end in that of Marcus Aurelius. That evolution forms a complete
organic whole, with a birthday, a deathday, and an unbroken chain of
cause and effect uniting the two. To objectors who may say that the
art of India, of China, of Japan, should have been included in the
scheme, it may be answered: this is the life, not of two, or three, but
of one. M. Perrot has been careful, therefore, to discriminate between
those characteristics of Egyptian art which may be referred either to
the national beliefs and modes of thought, or to undeveloped material
conditions, such as the want or superstitious disuse of iron, and those
which, being determined by the very nature of the problems which art
has to solve, formed a starting point for the arts of all later
civilizations. By means of well-chosen examples he shows that the art
of the Egyptians went through the same process of development as
those of other and later nationalities, and that the real distinguishing
characteristic of the sculptures and paintings of the Nile Valley was a
continual tendency to simplification and generalization, arising partly
from the habit of mind and hand created by the hieroglyphic writing,
partly from the stubborn nature of the chief materials employed.
To this characteristic he might, perhaps, have added another, which is
sufficiently remarkable in an art which had at least three thousand
years of vitality, namely, its freedom from individual expression. The
realism of the Egyptians was a broad realism. There is in it no sign of