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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

n8                        Egyptian Art
temples, and, still more strongly, perhaps, by Egyptian archi-
tecture. 'Even though one loves Greece to distraction', writes
M. Edouard Herriot, 'it is no longer possible to deny that the
purest classicism flourished in this country on the banks of the
Nile, some thousand years before the fifth century B.C. which
witnessed the glory of Athens/ What won him over to this view
in the temple of Deir el-Bahari was the order, the purity of
line, the sense of proportion which gives full satisfaction to the
mind. Thus he does not fall into the mistake of seeking to deter-
mine the relative position of Egyptian and Greek works of art
in a chronological series, in which perfection would be marked
only by the time which had elapsed. 'Between the ideal repre-
sented by this conception [the Egyptian] and the Hellenic ideal
there is no contrast; there is rather a close relationship.' It is
clear that this can hardly be explained on the principle of
genealogical descent; it is comprehensible only by assuming a
'close relationship' in the realm of the noblest and purest crea-
tions of the human spirit.
Thus the problem presented by Egyptian art takes on at once
an entirely different aspect. At a period when the rest of the
world, with the possible exception of Mesopotamia, was plunged
in barbarism, Egypt had already developed a complete civiliza-
tion. At least as early as the beginning of the Third Dynasty,
the kings of Egypt were raising monuments as magnificent and
as elegant as the temples of Zoser at Saqqara. Even at this time
the art of drawing had reached a level which has hardly been
surpassed, although its system of notation was different from
that which the West adopted thousands of years later. In the
sphere of applied art, the wealth of the country found expression
not only in the working of precious materials but in the richness
of the designs, and in a taste for ornament which found new
utterance in each generation. Revolution, on several occasions,
shook the foundations of this empire of the Pharaohs, but it did
not shatter the artistic traditions, nor the religious beliefs and