A H I S TO RY O F AR T I N
AN C I E N T E G Y P T.
A HISTORY OF ART IN ANCIENT EGYPT
FROM THE FRENCH OF GEORGES PERROT, PROFESSOR IN
THE FACULTY OF LETTERS, PARIS; MEMBER OF THE
INSTITUTE AND CHARLES CHIPIEZ.
ILLUSTRATED WITH FIVE HUNDRED AND NINETY-EIGHT ENGRAVINGS IN
THE TEXT, AND FOURTEEN STEEL AND COLOURED PLATES.
IN TWO VOLUMES.—VOL. I.
TRANSLATED AND EDITED BY WALTER ARMSTRONG, B. A.,
Oxon., AUTHOR OF "ALFRED STEVENS," ETC.
London: CHAPMAN AND HALL, Limited. New York: A. C. ARMSTRONG
AND SON. 1883.
London: R. Clay, Sons, and Taylor, BREAD STREET HILL.
M. Perrot's name as a classical scholar and archæologist, and M.
Chipiez's as a penetrating critic of architecture, stand so high that any
work from their pens is sure of a warm welcome from all students of
the material remains of antiquity. These volumes are the first
instalment of an undertaking which has for its aim the history and
critical analysis of that great organic growth which, beginning with the
Pharaohs and ending with the Roman Emperors, forms what is called
Antique Art. The reception accorded to this instalment in its original
form is sufficient proof that the eulogium prefixed to the German
translation by an eminent living Egyptologist, Professor Georg Ebers,
is well deserved; "The first section," he says, "of this work, is broad
and comprehensive in conception, and delicate in execution; it treats
Egyptian art in a fashion which has never previously been
approached." In clothing it in a language which will, I hope, enable it
to reach a still wider public, my one endeavour has been that it
should lose as little as possible, either in substance or form.
A certain amount of repetition is inevitable in a work of this kind when
issued, as this was, in parts, and in one place 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
that research into detail which distinguishes most imitative art and is
to be found even in that
of their immediate successors; and yet, during all those long
centuries of alternate renascence and decay, we find no vestige of an
attempt to raise art above imitation. No suspicion of its expressive
power seems to have dawned on the Egyptian mind, which, so far as
the plastic arts were concerned, never produced anything that in the
language of modern criticism could be called a creation. In this
particular Egypt is more closely allied to those nations of the far east
whose art does not come within the scope of M. Perrot's inquiry, than
to the great civilizations which formed its own posterity.
Before the late troubles intervened to draw attention of a different
kind to the Nile Valley, the finding of a pit full of royal mummies and
sepulchral objects in the western mountain at Thebes had occurred to
give a fresh stimulus to the interest in Egyptian history, and to
encourage those who were doing their best to lead England to take
her proper share in the work of exploration. A short account of this
discovery, which took place after M. Perrot's book was complete, and
of some of the numerous art objects with which it has enriched the
Boulak Museum, will be found in an Appendix to the second volume.
My acknowledgments for generous assistance are due to Dr. Birch,
Mr. Reginald Stuart Poole, and Miss A. B. Edwards.
THE GENERAL CHARACTER OF EGYPTIAN CIVILIZATION.
PRINCIPLES AND GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF EGYPTIAN
§ 4. Dressed Construction
§ 5. Compact Construction
§ 7. Decoration
THE SACRED ARCHITECTURE OF EGYPT.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
To face page
10. The White Crown
11. The Red Crown
12. The Pschent
23. Cattle Drovers
25. Women at a loom
26. Netting birds
28. Winnowing corn
31. Water Tournament
32. Mariette's House
34. Amen (or Ammon)
37. The goddess Bast
41. A Sphinx
50. The Lady Naï
58. Square building
71, 72. Elements of the portico