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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

Egyptian Art                             109
esparto-grass and in a shape which perhaps dates back to the
earliest dynasties. He is robed in a great mantle with scalloped
edges which is reminiscent of the Greek himation. Behind him
the artist has placed a sheaf of papyrus stems, and in front there
is another sheaf, combining two varieties of the plant, to which
birds have been tethered by the wings, carrying lotus-buds in
their beaks. This delicate decorative framework is crowned by
a heron, preening itself and bearing in its beak a blue lotus-
flower. The dead man, reclining at his ease, is listening to girl
singers accompanied by a harpist and a maiden who plays the
tambourine. • The head of the old musician is more detailed than
the rest of the picture; his portrait is as accurate as that of the
priest of the cGreen Head' mentioned above. The women are
clad in long robes, and the shoulders of the tambourine-player
are draped in a shawl with rounded ends; its folds have been
carefully reproduced.
One is tempted to see in this group the influence of classical
Greek forms and technique, and it would be rash to deny such
a possibility. At all events Egyptian art has given us, in these
all too rare neo-Memphite reliefs, an exquisite flowering of its
last days.
§ xx. The Island of Philae
Must one recall this scene, unrivalled in the world, this spot
so enchanting in the days before the economic wants of modern
Egypt had made necessary the construction of the Aswan Dam ?
The little island, enclosed in an amphitheatre formed by the
rocks of the First Cataract, with its vesture of palm-trees and
its buildings whose stones had taken on, in the course of ages, a
patina of gold—all this now lies hidden beneath the waters.
Yet in striking a true balance of the merits of Egyptian art one
has no right to omit this example, on the ground that the
moderns have ruined its ancient beauty. It was there that
the great goddess Isis was still receiving the devotion of her