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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

84                            Egyptian Art
even outside specialist circles. Yet for nearly a century the art
of the ancient inhabitants of the Nile valley has constantly
been revealing to these specialists—and by this I mean
principally Egyptologists—new and more varied aspects
of itself. But the faculties of Egyptology, still preoccupied with
the perfecting of their philological technique, have hitherto
failed to pay sufficient attention to the artistic aspect. In conse-
quence Egyptian art has still to receive its due place in the
general history of art; universities, even those of the leading
countries, are inclined to sacrifice the achievements of Egyptian
art to the handicrafts of savage races or the products of the
Far East.
Certain branches of archaeology, whose existence was barely
suspected at first, have been slowly formulated by an accumula-
tion of fresh data, every addition to which makes clearer
some aspect of the whole scene. Egyptian art has had
a very different fate. Since the Renaissance, and, above all,
since the time of Napoleon's Egyptian campaign, European
scholars have claimed the right to pronounce judgement on it
as a whole, to assess its achievements and define its limitations
with reference to general standards of art. Europe's first con-
tact with the art of the Pharaohs, it might perhaps be said, was
made en Hoc. In such circumstances, the most striking im-
pression was bound to be that of continuity. In most of the
works of Egyptian art permanent characteristics, it was thought,
could be recognized, and these characteristics soon came to be
regarded as an essential feature of this art. When they were
found to be absent there was a tendency to speak of'exceptions',
of failure to conform to the rules.
Many years were needed before we first became accustomed
to the extreme antiquity of these objects, and to the idea that
centuries separated the periods of the most striking master-
pieces. When we go back in thought over the history of western