90 Egyptian Art
draughtsmanship, the preliminary stages of an evolution cul-
minating in a perfect work of art, any more than one would
expect spelling mistakes to reveal the origin of a correct version.
If, then, we fix our attention on the most perfect examples of
Egyptian draughtsmanship, in the form which was already
established by the period of the earliest dynasties, we are bound
to recognize in them a rigid and deliberate system which is not
susceptible of any improvement. One of the greatest experts
on the draughtsmanship of Dynastic Egypt formulated, some
years ago, this golden rule: to appreciate Egyptian drawing, one
must begin by unlearning one's knowledge of present-day tech-
nique. It is because they have failed to adopt this attitude that
critics, without exception, have been convinced of the inferior-
ity of Egyptian draughtsmanship, and they have extended
this unfavourable judgement to all other forms of Pharaonic
Before leaving this subject, one must draw attention to the
marvels of hieroglyphic calligraphy, even under the earliest
dynasties. The form of the symbols, which include reproduc-
tions of animal figures, is masterly in its synthesis of the basic
characteristics of each type, expressed with a perfection which
has rarely been surpassed. All the descriptive technique of
Egyptian drawing is here—the combination of planes revealing
different parts of the figure, the insertion of details which it is
desired to stress—in a word, the complete artistic convention.
No one, however, would dare to claim that hieroglyphic script
was the origin of this technique. It is more reasonable to suppose
that writing, when it was invented, was merely a new applica-
tion of the art of drawing.
Enough has been said to enable the reader to approach
from the right angle the manifestations of Ancient Egyptian
art, and we shall now pass on to consider its great achievements
in different fields.