Skip to main content

Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

See other formats

Egyptian Art                             87
attempt to interpret an artistic development on the basis of the
statues in stone which have actually come down to us. The
tombs of the Fourth and Fifth Dynasties frequently furnish
reliefs which might be taken as archaic, had not the wooden
panels of Hesi (Third Dynasty) already revealed to us a fully
developed art—an art, one may even say, classical in its superb
So we should always keep in mind the thousands of works of
art which have been destroyed, whenever we are tempted to
generalize from the study of stray examples which have come
down to us in circumstances which are almost abnormal. We
must, in other words, base our theories of Egyptian art on
general phenomena rather than on exceptional cases. I can
anticipate the question which must rise to the lips of many of
my readers. How, they ask, is it possible to base one's conclusions
on documents which have disappeared ? The answer is that for
this purpose one must carefully analyse all the known data. We
shall then discover a certain homogeneity in the productions of
the various periods, and we shall thus realize that some of the
limitations which we have imposed on the ancients are, to a large
extent, the result of preconceived theories. If the general
scheme of the art of any given period is enlarged sufficiently to
include, besides what are known as the major arts, the infinitely
varied products of the craftsman, there is more likelihood of
reaching a true conception of the part played by the arts in
the Pharaonic civilization as a whole. One may recall, in this
connexion, the general surprise caused by the opening of Tut-
ankhamen's tomb. It was, of course, the first time that the
splendour of the kings of the Eighteenth Dynasty had revealed
itself so startlingly as to destroy all the commonplace ideas of
the text-books. Nevertheless, it would be easy to show that the
sum total of really new facts contributed by the opening of
Tutankhamen's tomb amounts to very little. Analysis of the
fragments rescued from other royal tombs which had been