Denton Jaques Snider.

Music and the fine arts; a psychology of aesthetic online

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behold what makes them a people. Undoubt-
edly Art comes to have othier purposes and
drops from its prnnal vocation, but that
which originates it is the deepest need of a
nation to commune with what unites it as a
nation, to receive the impress of the Pres-
ence which associates all its members in a
common- faith. The work of Art is origin-
ally a monument of some sort which reveals
the associative God to his folk and so is it-
self associative, holding many human souls
together in a sacred bond. Accordingly Art
is religious in its genesis — and this is alto-
gether the deepest fact of it, the first to be,
held in mind, and the last.



What may be taken as the typical act v
Sculpture? Let us imagine Phidias con
templating in his workshop a block of mar-
ble out of which he is to hew a statue of the
supreme God of his people. There is the
consensus of ages that Phidias was the great-
est of all sculptors, not so much by virtue
of his technical skill (which was probably
surpassed by some later artists) as through
the fullness of his vision of the Divine Idea
and his ability to transform this into a hu-
man shape. Looking at a crude piece of mat-
ter, he seemed to see the creator of it and of
himself, and of his world, too, with the most
intense longing of the artist to inform the
clod with the God. Such is what may be
called the ideal of his Art, the immediate
Divine Presence in every work of his, direct-
ing apparently every stroke of his hand. His
fame through all time rests upon his power
of God-making; of men born on this earth
Phidias is acclaimed chief God-maker.
Most deeply must he have shared in the re-
ligious consciousness of his age and nation;
he saw and communed with the Divine in


this visible way, Lis worship of deity rose
to making the latter 's statue. Moreover,
while thus satisfying his own spirit's deep-
est need, he wrought also for his Greek peo-
ple, revealing the very face and form of
their God Avho made them a Greek people
with their Greek institutional world.

Thus the supreme Olymfjian order was
visibly individualized to Hellas by her artists
in accord with her deepest national faith.
Still the sculptor is not to copy merely some
individual man in form and visage ; his work,
though shaped after the human organism,
is not a portrait, or rather it is the God's
portrait, not the man's. The body he must
have as the vehicle of his Art; but this ve-
hicle is to bear an Immortal down to earth,
not simply to carry a mortal around in some
finite journey. When Sculpture became es-
sentially a portrait-maker, it had lost its
vocation and its end as an Art had come.
In some such forlorn condition we find it in
the Roman Empire.

Sculpture of all the Fine Arts may be
taken as the most open, direct expression of
the Divine, which appears in its own person,
literally, in all the amplitude of Nature's
own body. Its intention is to shun conceal-
ment, even though drapery be sometimes
used; it is honest to the senses, it is not


asliamed of being natural. On account of
this outwardness it lacks inwardness; the
statue seems cold to our subjective play of
emotion, too impassive and fixed for our love
of action. We shall find that Sculpture itself
will come to feel this its limitation and try
to surmount it and enter the more internal
domain of Painting (see for instance the
Laocoon group). So it comes that Sculpture
will only once attain its supreme artistic
bloom in a given religious consciousness, the
Greek. Only once in the sweep of history
will Zeus appear in right form to his people,
being transfigured into a visible human shape
of beauty from his Olympian world through
the genius of the artist. Sculpture is, there-
fore, in its deepest character an historic
Art ; we can bow the knee to Zeus no longer,
and hence Sculpture can never be for us the
Supreme Art. There can not rise now any
importunate natural or world-historical
call for a Phidias to bring down a divine
epiphany in stone before our longing eyes.
If there throbs up to the surface some such
consciousness, we feel it at once to be born
out of its time belated some thousands of
years. And yet Sculpture lives and is active
today in its own new field — whereof some-
thing may be said later.

One reason why Sculpture should be


placed as tlie first of the Fine Arts is that it
gives the descent of the God into his imme-
diate corporeal, sensible form. This may
well be regarded as the primal creative act
not only of Sculpture, but of all Art, its
original divinely genetic starting-point.
Every artistic work worthy of the name to
the end of time will repeat in some shape just
that first sculpturesque act, which brings to
man the Divine, the Supernal, the Universal,
or the Pampsychosis (if you can manage the
word), in sensuous semblance. Such is the
overture to the Fine Arts, whose lofty note
will be heard through to the last — the most
direct and smiting visible realisation of the
highest ruling Power. So we still look with
wonder at the statue. Indeed the first great
artistic outburst of Sculpture, and hence of
Art itself, the first colossal statue of the ages
is vet extant in all its rude elemental mag-
nitude, and can be seen still at the head of
Time's long art procession. Such a place
is held by the Sphinx of the Nile Valley, in
our opinion, as we shall try to show in the
proper connection. It has been already re-
marked that Sculpture is pronouncedly an
historic Art, that it shows, therefore, great
landing-places in its evolution down time.
On the whole we find that History, political
and institutional 2-enerallv falls into three


ultimate stages or periods, Oriental, Euro-
pean and Occidental. The first belongs for
us and especially for Art to tlie past; the
second, though long since begun, is still
active and of the present; the third is yet
young and belongs to the future, but it has
started on a career of its own, with its own
distinctive institutions. These three grand
divisions of the world's territory, and also
of the world's spirit are mirrored in Sculp-
ture and of necessity in all Art, which has
in its last supremacy to reveal through its
varying forms the one world-historical

Accordingly there will be an Oriental
stage of Sculpture, which like the Orient is
incipient, self-infolded, potential, full of all
sorts of possibilities, some of which have
never yet been realized. There are several
centers of Oriental Sculpture, especially in
West Asia; here we can only take account
of Egypt, which is for Art and History the
chief Oriental seed-field. Egyptian Sculp-
ture shows the Body still unfree, hardly yet
evolved to its own organic independence;
hence the God is still held fast in the de-
terminism of Nature. European Sculpture
will attain freedom of the Body in its Greek
period, and thus will elevate the Man and
the God represented by the Body into the


region of free self-activity. But this new
individual though liberated in his organism
is still fettered in his spirit, whence will
spring the European dualism with its mani-
fold conflicts which will be reflected in its
Sculpture and in all its other spiritual prod-
ucts. Egyptian Art tells us for thousands
of vears in varving forms that neither the
individual nor his deities could liberate
themselves from the mere outer domination
of Nature in the Valley of the Nile. On the
other hand European Art tells us for thou-
sands of years and is still telling us of the
struggle of the free individual with his un-
free institutional Avorld, which he is seeking
to transform and even to make transform-
able in response to his spirit. Sculpture
seizing upon the Body will reflect in it the
manifold turns and wrestlings of the Euro-
pean soul in its evolution from the serenity
of Phidias to the contortions of Rodin.

But what about Occidental Sculpture! For
historically a real Occident has arisen, which
is as distinct from Europe (once called the
Occident and still so called by itself), as Eu-
rope is distinct from the Orient. That is, a
third and new, social and institutional order,
the American, is taking its place beside Ihc
other two in the World's History, and is as-
serting itself in various ways, especially in


the political and economic spheres. But
in Art it is as yet almost wholly imi-
tative, copying Europe. Only one truly na-
tional or we might say Occidental product
has America brought forth in the realm of
Art : that is the High Building of Archi-
tecture, which keeps shooting up skywards
even under the curses of American architects
(European-bred of course), evidently in deep
response to the people who behold in it the
architectural image of their aspiration, of
their consciousness. Sculpture in the Occi-
dent can jDoint to no such original and origin-
ating product with such inner power of self-
reproduction over the whole nation. Even
in the Orient and Europe the High Building
is reported to be propagating itself. Still
it cannot be denied that Sculpture in America
has shown some few national streaks of
which it is well to take note, even if it has
hardly yet attained to what may be deemed
a national type.

The tendency of the American institu-
tional world is to become man-made, origin-
ating from the people, who primarily make
their own law. Can Sculpture present such
national consciousness worthily? That is its
problem. On the other hand in the Orient
man's institutions are given him from above,
are God-made, and hence are not to be


changed by him without the overthrow of all
order. So it comes that there is a lasting
fixity and sameness in Egypt, notably as re-
gards its Sculpture. The body seems
clamped into a sculptural mould from which
there is no escape without overturning
Egyptian Godhood itself, which event will
at last happen historically. Europe has
taken up both these tendencies (as already
intimated) whose dualistic struggle winds
through its entire institutional life.

With this brief outlook upon the sweep of
Sculpture through time and place, we shall
start in Egypt, dwelling with special em-
phasis at some length upon its one greatest
sculptured monument, which to our mind
illustrates the Oriental Type of the present
Art better than a multiplicity of lesser
works. A new gigantic semblance of deity
appears to burst up suddenly out of the
Earth in the twilight of the Nile Valley; let
us look at it with w^hat faith and insight we
can summon, for it may be taken as the first
germinal work, as the primordial act of
Sculpture and of all Art.


Oriental Sculpture — The Sphinx.

In the world's gallery of Sculpture reach-
ing from old Egypt down to our own time
and city, we shall, therefore, put the Great
Sphinx first, as the most famous and suggest-
ive of all graven images made by man, and
doubtless the most generative of its own fu-
ture Art. People still go to the land of the
Nile to see the Sphinx and its next neighbors,
the Pyramids, to which it bears close kinship
in a number of respects. So for thousands
of years a stream of visitors has been pour-
ing through this earliest art-museum at
Gizeh, the prototype of many since and of
more still to be. There, better than on any
other spot of our globe, we are brought face
to face with the primal human consciousness
manifesting its mightiest impulse to express
itself in artistic forms. The colossality of
the work shows forth the colossality of the
longing for utterance. This cannot be con-
fined in any walled building; Heaven's dome
is the only symmetrical abode for such vast
creations. Thus we seek to make our start
at the very beginning of time's procession
of the Fine Arts, which opens with the
Sphinx rearing its prodigious head above
the sands not far from the Nile.


Such a statement brings up the question
of chronology. The only ancient document
on this subject alludes to Kafra (Cephren)
as the maker of the Sphinx, an Egyptian
king of the fourth dynasty, who also built
the second Pyramid, and the so-called tem-
ple of Sphinx. These three works seem to
be connected with his name, and makes his
personality a creative one in all Art which
appears to germinate out of him and his
Great Deed. As to the Sphinx some con-
sider it a rude effort of pre-historic man in
Egypt, others place it later than the age or
dynasty of Kafra (Cephren). Dropping
these helpless disputes, we may rest upon
the fact that the Sphinx is contemporary
with the great Pyramids, or probably some-
what before them in time; it is the first su-
preme act of Sculpture, and indeed of all
Art, even antedating Architecture in the
Pyramids. Twelve average men on top of
one another would barely reach its crown,
and the length of its recumbent body is usu-
ally put at 172 feet . The salient fact or mys-
tery of it is that it sets the human head on
the body of a lion. What is the meaning of
that, the beholder must ask of himself. But
just therein lies the enigma, wdiich every
period has to solve in its own way, perchance
every individual. Thus a line of answers


runs down the ages in response to the Sphinx

The huge simulacrum lies in the necropo-
lis of the old Capital of Egypt, Memphis,
which stood on the left bank of the Nile,
where the river still shows its ever-recur-
rent battle with the sands of the desert. Here
in the middle of Nature's primordial strug-
gle the old Egyptian was placed, and beheld
on one side the Preserver and on the other
the Destroyer, apparentl}^ in a fierce wrestle
over just him, the puny mortal. His chief
Mythus, accordingly, shadows forth the des-
perate fight between the two Gods, Osiris
and Typhon (or Set), the positive and the
negative, with the victory of the latter, who
cut up and scattered the corpse of the for-
mer in all directions. But Isis, the wife of
Osiris, gathered the parts, and gave to
them the rite of sepulture with an uncon-
querable conjugal devotion. When the son
of the pair, Horns, had grown up, he re-
newed the conflict with Typhon, and cap-
tured him after a furious and long contin-
ued combat, then handed him over as a pris-
oner to Isis, who let him go again, for which
she is not to blame, since she could not help
herself. So it comes that old Typhon always
returns and has to be put down afresh by
Horus. Osiris after his death was given a


fresh lease of life and power in the under
world, of which he became king and judge.
But he was still regarded as the source of
Nature's renewal and fructification in the
Nile Valley, being re-vivified and re-incar-
nated in his son Horns, as well as in other

Now the Sphinx represents in its primary-
significance this Egyptian divinity Horns
(Hor-em-khu, sometimes spelt differently,
and indeed endowed wdth various titles).
This God is often identified with the Sun,
wiiicli goes through the Osirian process of
brilliance, eclipse, and restoration, every
day and every year, not to speak of vaster
cycles of time. Below on earth the Nile,
Egypt's divine provider, passes through
the same round of rise, fall and return with
the seasons. The mind within could be ob-
served by the early Egyptian rounding a
similar movement which is indeed that of
consciousness itself. And the human body,
yea, every living thing, is not lost, but will
be restored in one form or another after its
round, according to the Egyptian faith.

From this brief account may be felt the
depth and vastness of meaning which the
Osirian Mythus had for the people of Nile
and indeed for all thoughtful men who came
into contact with them. The world without

30 il/r.S'/f AXD THE FINE ARTS.

and the world within, wore strikingly fore-
shadowed in its storied outline ; it suggested
the one supreme process of God, of Nature
and of Man in a divinely enacted history; it
set forth mightil)^, even if to us crudely
and horribly, the clash of the positive and
negative forces of the universe and their
reconciliation. This Osirian Mythus may
well be deemed the most nearly universal
Mythus which man has produced for mirror-
ing the All and its process. Now the Sphinx
as an artistic work sprung of the mythical
soul of the Egyptian people, called up to
every native beholder the Osirian Mythus
as the utterance of what lay deepest in the
national spirit. Such was just its function:
to reflect the folk-soul back to itself, that it
might become self-aware. To be sure, there
were many other Gods in the Egyptian Pan-
theon, many other Trinities, and many other
mythological accounts concerning them ; but
Osiris was the culmination and indeed the
summary of all the different deities who were
in comparison local and communal as belong-
ing specially to some city or district. Her-
odotus tells us that Osiris was still the fa-
vorite God of later Egypt (say about 450
B. C.) ; the monuments show that he had al-
ready won his pre-eminence 3,000 or possi-


bly 4,000 years before the time of Herodo-
tus, even before the epoch of the Pyramids.

Thus, Sculpture in its primal and most
colossal manifestation has arisen, spring-
ing from the deepest faith of the people ex-
pressed in their supreme Mythus, which tells
them the process of their divinity, the move-
ment of their universe. It is the direct epiph-
any of the God in stone, visible there before
them. Herein we may note what called
Sculpture primarily into existence and in-
deed all Art. In some way man must see
his God, be it with the outer or inner eye,
or both.

The Sphinx has, therefore, still something
to say to us in this age of evolution, if we
examine it and its connections with worthy
interest and penetration. First of all, at
its view rises the suggestion of the soul's
immortality which is the very pulse-beat of
the Osirian Mythus. The God, the All-in-
All, manifests the process of life, death and
resurrection; the negative Typhon, though
ever at work, is still to be conquered ; behold
his master, Horus, here embodied, and em-
bracing the total round of the divine proc-
ess, which is thus eternal life. No portion
of the human race ever showed such faith in
immortality, which was the bed-rock where-
on the Egyptian soul reposed. Other peo-


pies have believed in the future state un-
doubtedly, but to Egypt it was the ever-
present fact of mundane existence. Hence
ancient travelers noted that the Nile folk
were the most religious of mortals. This
sense of awe-stricken religiosity, of the God's
real presence may be held to be expressed
in the look as well as in the colossality of the

Very deeply pervading and controlling-
Egyptian spirit was the belief in immortal-
ity; but a still deeper and more compelling-
doctrine rose to utterance through the Osi-
rian Mythus, the divine process of the Trin-
ity known as Osiris, the father, Isis, the
mother, and Horus, the son. Thus Egypt
sought to express mythically the creative
movement of the universe in a Holv Familv,
the very genesis of the All in its threefold
personality. Primarily the God had this
triune process ; but the Eg^q^tian saw it in
the earth at his feet with its bloom, decay
and rebirth; saw it in the Nile before him
with its rise, fall and return; saw it in the
sun above his head with its diurnal and an-
nual cycles ; saw it even in his own physical
body which must also go the round of life,
death and resurgence. Thus everywhere to
him was manifested the Osirian process in
Nature, and this process he could not help
developing- still further and applying to him-


self, to tliat soul which moved so myste-
riously within him and showed the same
triune cycle which his supreme God had man-
ifested. We hold that Egypt was the local-
ity where the evolutionary man first broke
through into consciousness and became self-
aware for the first time, no doubt very slowly
taking Egyptian millenniums for each tiny
step. Thus the Osirian Mythus with its tri-
une movement of deity utters the process of
Man, of Nature, and of God, both together
and separately, as one and as many. It is no
wonder then that the Sphinx takes such a
grip in the soul, 3^et calls up such manifold
interpretations, representing, as it does, so
many particular processes, and the universal
process, that of the universe itself. No won-
der that it has been called the riddle, yea, the
riddle of all riddles, allowing every beholder
his own interpretation, without rebuttal. The
Sphinx is the Sun, is the Nile, is Egypt, is
Man, is human consciousness rising from ani-
mality (the supposed answer of Greek Oedi-
pous), is a thousand things, and just therein
is still the Sphinx.

But not Egypt alone felt and unfolded the
Osirian Mythus, it has streamed down the
ages to the present. As far back as the
fourth century B. C, especially with Alex-
ander's conquest of the country, it began to
color the religion of the Greeks. Rome also


took it up, and during lier imperial age in
the distant provinces on the Danube and the
Khine, altars Avere raised to Osiris, Isis and
their son. We may see in Plutarch what
an Egyptian strand it wove into Greek phi-
losophic culture. But its mightiest influ-
ence was perpetuated through Christianity.
The doctrine of the Trinity, of immortality,
as well as the dogmatic formulation of doc-
trine, came into the early church from the
Egyptian religious consciousness where
they had long existed. History declares
that the first people to become permeated
with Christianity were these children of old
Nile. The first Christian Apologists were
of Alexandria, and also the earlv fathers of
the Church, notably Athanasius, the chief
formulator of the Nicene creed. Thus we
mav well think that the Osirian Mvtlius,
doubtless with many a transformation, has
wound through civilized Europe into our own
time. If this be so, that old Egyptian
Sphinx is in us still, and its image lurks in
European literature from the ancient Greek
till our own. We dare think it the most in-
fluential work of Art, and hence the most
significant that the human mind has yet
achieved. Strangely distant have been its
peregrinations which we may follow in Asia
and Europe; but how did they ever extend


to Yucatan and Southern Mexico, where the
Sphinx is found lying amid ruins of cities
"which flourished long- before the discovery
of America?

The word Spliinx is Greek and means the
choker or strangler; Init no such action can
be ascribed to the present shape, reposeful
as far as can be seen, though the whole body
has never been uncovered to modern eyes,
being veiled in sand not nnlike that other fa-
mous Egyptian statue at Sais. Probably
the Mythus gives the clew, florus being the
strangler of Typlion, darkness, desert, death,
the Egyptian devil, -wherein the ethical sug-
gestion common in Egyptian lore is found
— good overcoming evil. The hieroglyphics
call the Sphinx the watchman — of what? Of
this necropolis, of the dead generally, of the
Pyramids, of the Nile, of Egypt. In all
these matters we may conceive the final
function of Horus as mastering death, de-
stroying destruction, negating the negative,
wherein he represents the third stage of the
Osirian Trinity, overwhelming Typhon. And
still the combat rages ; the Sphinx is largely
covered with sand, being almost buried in
his own graveyard; only his huge head
rears up from underneath his Saharan bed-
clothes. Several times during the nine-
teenth century the front part of the Sphinx


was excavated and examined, especially by
Egypt-lover Mariette, but angry Typlion
with liivS wliirling sand-winds entombed the
exposed body again. It is recorded that al-
ready in antiquity an Egyptian king disin-
terred the Sphinx afresh, bringing about a
sort of new epiphany of Horns. Herodotus
does not mention the Sphinx though that
very inquisitive traveler visited and de-
scribed the Pyramids in the same locality.
Probably during his visit even the head was
invisible, being wrapped in the folds of Ty-
plion. One cannot help reflecting tliat in
Egypt nature is still making her own sym-
bol out of this man-made symbol, and re-

Online LibraryDenton Jaques SniderMusic and the fine arts; a psychology of aesthetic → online text (page 9 of 32)