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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

Egyptian Art                            101
cision, the idea that the mind, confronted with such a miracu-
lous achievement, ceases to find any norm by the light of which
it can either criticize or suggest improvement. Egyptian reliefs
of other periods, it is true, earn our reasoned admiration; but
in the second hypostyled chamber at Abydos, above all, one
ceases to feel the need for reasoning. These gods and goddesses,
this king who yields them adoration or service, these genii kneel-
ing to offer their tribute—all seem inhabitants of an ideal world,
in which elegance, refinement, and mastery of design and tech-
nique correspond to the conception of absolute ideas in the
domain of thought. Here criticism resumes its sway only after
the first impulse of admiration has been satisfied. And in
general, after we have overcome our surprise at a method of
representation so different from our own, there is nothing left
to say of these reliefs, save to repeat, as in the case of the Middle
Kingdom jewels, that all is perfect. What verdict shall we pass
on a civilization which, not in one sphere only, produces on
us the impression that perfection is the norm ?
§ sii. Thelan Painting
Situated in an obscure corner of the burial-place at Thebes,
a tomb (No. 51) may be found which at first sight differs hardly
at all from its neighbours. The entrance door, at the foot of
a hollow place preserved from the encroaching sand by its
rubble walls, leads to a room of small proportions cut out of the
soft limestone of the hill-side. A rough coating of beaten earth,
covered with a layer of plaster, has lent to the surface some
semblance of regularity. Coming from the outside, and still
blinded by the sun's brightness, the visitor has the impression
of entering a cavern. It is only after some minutes that his
eyes, accustoming themselves to the semi-obscurity, begin to
pick out the scenes depicted on the surface of the chamber.
Along one side is seen (Fig. 10) one of the most charming
subjects in the whole burial-ground, rich and varied though it