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How to See the British Museum in Four Visits online

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stupendous piece of sculpture, he may recall to mind the points in the
career of Giovanni Battista Belzoni. First, the boy helping his father
to shave the beards of the Paduans; then the young adventurer flushed
with hope, jogging on his way to Rome; then the grave young man, with
his vast physical development shrouded in the monkish habit; then, in
1800, when Napoleon was busy in Italy, the monkish garments thrown
aside, he wanders about the continent, stared at everywhere for his
size and strength of limb; then as lecturer on hydraulic machinery,
and exhibitor of feats of strength at Astley's Theatre; then, under
the patronage of the Pasha, constructing a machine to water some
gardens on the banks of the Nile; then engaged by the English Consul
in Egypt, Mr. Salt, to prosecute some of the investigations into the
monuments of antiquity, upon which that gentleman was expending much
time and money; and here he is for the first time recognised in his
true position. Of his labours as explorer of the tombs and temples of
ancient Egypt few people are ignorant. How, dressed as a Turk, he
transported the colossal granite bust of Memnon to Alexandria, and saw
it safely on its way to England; how he penetrated into the Temple of
Ibsamboul; how he patiently explored the rocks of the valley of
Beban-el-Malouk, beyond Thebes to discover the entrances to tombs, and
took exact copies of the thousands of figures he discovered upon
sepulchral walls; how he penetrated into the bowels of the pyramid of
Cephrenes, and found in the inmost chamber only the bones of a sacred
bull; how he was honoured on his return to his native city; and how a
desolate grave on an African shore was the end of his chapter - are
matters of exciting adventure that are read by thousands of young
people in the present day.

The visitor will see a strong family likeness in the colossal heads
that are in the saloon. Proceeding northward from the southern end of
the saloon, the visitor may rapidly notice the colossal fragments of
the statues of kings and high officers, which are all distinctly
marked. First, let the visitor examine two colossal heads (4-6),
wearing the kingly head-covering, and said to resemble the features of
Amenophis III., which were excavated under the superintendence of Mr.
Salt, at Gournah; and then the visitor may turn to a fragment marked
9, which is a colossal fist, found among the ruins of Memphis by the
French, and which fell, together with other valuable relics, into the
possession of the English on the capitulation of Alexandria in 1801.
This fist may well excite the admiration and respect of the most
determined pugilist of the present day. Hereabouts also are a
remarkable monument (12) found in the ruins of Karnak under the
superintendence of Mr. Salt, placed upon a white stone pedestal in an
angle of the wall of the great temple, and showing on each of its
sides representations of Thothmes III. of the 18th dynasty, holding
the hands of deities, said by some to be the moat curious specimen of
Egyptian bas-relief in the Museum; a fractured colossus (14) in black
granite, from Thebes, supposed to be part of a statue of Amenophis
III.; the colossal head (15) discovered at Karnak by Belzoni in 1818,
supposed to represent the features of Thothmes III.; the head and
upper part of a statue of Sesostris, known as the Young Memnon. Before
this, the most celebrated of the Egyptian specimens in the saloon, the
visitor should pause to learn something of it, and notice its
peculiarities for himself. Its name, 'Memnon,' is that given by the
Greeks to many of the colossi which they saw scattered about the
country when they made their way into Egypt. Memnon was the name given
by the ancient Greek writers to an Egyptian hero who had a great
reputation for his conquests, and was said to have done his share of
work in the famous Trojan war. This name having been given
indiscriminately to various statues, conveys no proof of their
identity, since it represents only a mythical hero, whose fame reached
Greece many centuries before our hero. Generally, this young Memnon is
held to be a portrait of the great Sesostris, who was either the first
or second Rameses; but some authorities declare that the weight of
evidence goes in favour of Amenophis III., who was a pharaoh, or
monarch, flourishing more than fourteen centuries before Christ. It is
certain, however, that we have here a carefully-elaborated portrait of
an Egyptian hero who flourished many centuries before our era. The
features have all the prominent parts noticed by writers on Egyptian
sculpture as characteristic of the Egyptian style. Here are the
wonderfully high and prominent ears (which must have been invaluable
peculiarities to Egyptian wits), the thick Ethiopian lips, the coarse
nose, and the full eyes, all carefully and skilfully chiselled.
Certainly, when we recall the time, realise fully the antiquity and
the social state in which this great work was performed, we may see
the sculptor's dawning soul in the majestic repose of this head. The
lines are hard and stiff - have not the flow of the Parthenon
decorations; but here is nothing mean or poor, - all large, solid, and
carved with the force of a giant. The picturesque accounts of its
transmission from the Memnonium at Thebes to Alexandria are familiar
to the majority of readers, with the great Belzoni, with his
marvellous strength and energy, urging on the workmen. "I cannot help
observing," he tells us, "that it was no easy undertaking to put a
piece of granite of such bulk and weight on board a boat that, if it
received the weight on one side, would immediately upset; and, what is
more, this was to be done without the smallest help of any mechanical
contrivance, even a single tackle, and only with four poles and ropes,
as the water was about eighteen feet below the bank where the head was
to descend. The causeway I had made gradually sloped to the edge of
the water, close to the boat, and with the four poles I formed a
bridge from the bank into the centre of the boat, so that when the
weight bore on the bridge it pressed only on the centre of the boat.
The bridge rested partly on the causeway, partly on the side of the
boat, and partly on the centre of it. On the opposite side of the boat
I put some mats well filled with straw. I necessarily stationed a few
Arabs in the boat, and some at each side, with a lever of palm-wood,
as I had nothing else. At the middle of the bridge I put a sack filled
with sand, that, if the Colossus should run too fast into the boat, it
might be stopped. In the ground behind the Colossus I had a piece of a
palm-tree planted, round which a rope was twisted, and then fastened
to its ear, to let it descend gradually. I set a lever at work on each
side; at the same time that the men in the boat were pulling, others
were slackening the ropes, and others shifting the rollers as the
Colossus advanced.

"Thus it descended gradually from the mainland to the causeway, when
it sunk a good deal, as the causeway was made of fresh earth. This,
however, I did not regret, as it was better that it should be so, than
that it should run too fast towards the water; for I had to consider
that if this piece of antiquity should fall into the Nile, my return
to Europe would not be very welcome, particularly to the antiquaries;
though I have reason to believe that some among the great body of its
scientific men would rather have seen it sunk in the Nile than where
it is now deposited. However, it went smoothly on board. The Arabs,
who were unanimously of opinion that it would go to the bottom of the
river, or crush the boat, were all attention, as if anxious to know
the result, as well as to know how the operation was to be performed:
and when the owner of the boat, who considered it as consigned to
perdition, witnessed my success, and saw the huge piece of stone, as
he called it, safely on board, he came and squeezed me heartily by the
hand."

On the back of the statue are hieroglyphics describing the titles of
Rameses. Marked 21, is a colossal black granite statue of the third
Amenophis, also called Memnon, found also at Thebes in the year 1818.
The next remarkable object to which the visitor's attention may be
drawn is the sandstone statue of a monarch of the 19th dynasty, known
as Leti Menephta II. (26), found at Karnak by Mrs. Belzoni. Here the
characteristics of ancient Egyptian sculpture are strictly preserved,
the figure having the arms close to the body, the hands resting upon
the knees, and in the hands an altar, upon which is a ram's head.
Hereabouts, also, is the lower part of a kneeling statue of Sesostris,
supporting an altar, with the scarabaeus, or sacred beetle. Of the age
of the 18th dynasty (of which Amenophis III. was the most notable
monarch) is the restored group marked 29, which represents a guardian
of the temple of Amenra and his wife, seated upon a throne ornamented
with dedications to various deities. Having glanced at the limestone
bust (30), from Gournah, of a statue to a king, the visitor may turn
to a group (31) which represents an ecclesiastic, with his sister (who
is a priestess), and his little son, a priest to Amenophis II. - the
sister holding a bunch of lotus flowers. This group was found in a
tomb near Thebes. A headless statue, marked 35, with red colouring
matter upon it, extracted from a sepulchre in the neighbourhood of the
pyramids of Gizeh, is the next remarkable object deserving the general
visitor's notice; and hereabouts, also, is another group, in the old
Egyptian style (36), of an officer seated beside a female relation.
Passing some remarkable objects which remain for notice under a
separate head, and the lower part of a statue of Sesostris from Abydos
(42), the visitor should next pause before a figure marked 43. This
black granite statue is that of a queen of the 18th dynasty, and
mother of the great Amenophis III. She is represented, as the visitor
will perceive, seated upon a throne. A vulture, in an Athor-headed
boat, hovers over her; and upon the boat the learned may read her name
and dignities. Passing the upper part of a grey granite statue,
representing a king, probably of the 12th dynasty (44), which was
found in the neighbourhood of Gizeh, the visitor should halt before
the statue of an Egyptian scribe, marked 46. This sitting figure is
loaded with symbols. The pectoral plate suspended from his neck
describes the dignities of the great Sesostris; in his right hand is a
symbol of life, and in his left he holds a blade of corn. Near the
scribe the visitor will notice a heavily-draped figure of black
basalt, with the arms solemnly crossed, which was excavated from
behind the Memnon at Thebes. This statue represents a military chief
of the early part of the 18th dynasty, named Banofre. The figure
numbered 51 is that of a prince named Anebta, who lived in the 18th
dynasty: it is of calcareous stone, and was found at Thebes. The two
next statues are those of a royal scribe of the 19th dynasty, and an
officer connected with the libations to the god Amen-ra, both from
Thebes. Two fragments, marked respectively 54 and 55, are the feet of
a statue, and a colossal arm in red granite belonging to the colossal
head, conjectured to be that of Thothmes III., found in the sand in
the Karnak part of Thebes. Having examined these ponderous fragments,
the visitor should next notice the colossal red granite statue of
Sesostris found at Karnak (61), the kingly rank of the monarch being
marked by the hat and the royal apron; and the upper part of a statue
of the same monarch wearing the Pschent or crown of the Pharaohs, and
holding a crook and whip. The small statue of Bet-mes, a state officer
of the sixth dynasty, found in a tomb at Gizeh, is remarkable for its
extraordinary antiquity; and in this neighbourhood, also, is a statue
of an Ethiopian prince of the time of the great Rameses, named Pah-ur,
which was found by Belzoni in Nubia. The figure is kneeling, and
holding an altar. Passing the fragment, in grey granite, of a monarch
of the 18th dynasty (75), the visitor may pause before another object
taken from the French (81). It is the statue, from Karnak, of a high
priest of Amen-ra, seated, holding an ear of corn, and, like his
companions in stone, resting his arms upon his knees. Another
fragment, of green basalt, may be passed (83), which is from a
comparatively modern statue - that of a chamberlain in the reign of
Apries, of the 26th dynasty; and then the visitor should pause before
a white stone statue of the Ptolemaic period (92), which represents a
priest of the god Chons, or Hercules, holding an altar upon which is a
figure of the god; and hereabouts, also, he may remark another
specimen of white stone sculpture, being the colossal bust of a queen
of the 18th or 19th dynasty (93). Passing another fragment of a statue
of the great Rameses, the visitor should next direct his attention to
a dark granite statue, mutilated, of a high military officer, supposed
to have flourished about the 12th dynasty. Among other fragments
hereabouts, the visitor should not fail to examine the fragment (104)
found in Alexandria, at the base of Pompey's Pillar, upon which are
clearly traceable the figure of the great Rameses, being crowned by
divinities, and a list of his dignities; the red granite colossal fist
(106), presented to the Museum by Earl Spencer; and a curious
fragment, which represents parts of a royal scribe, with his writing
slab attached to his leg (103). Passing the curious double statue
(110), of a State officer of the time of the eleventh Rameses, the
visitor should once more halt before a basalt statue of a functionary
(111), of the 26th dynasty, found in 1785, in the Natron Lakes, near
Rosetta, and a granite group (113), representing, side by side, a
chief, and a royal nurse, with the chief's daughter. Amid another
group of fragments, the visitor should remark particularly an
arragonite torso (121); the upper part of an officer, holding a
standard (122); and a red granite bust of a monarch wearing the neumis
(125). A small black basalt statue, of the period of the 26th dynasty
(134) should be noticed. The figure, that of a palace officer, is
kneeling, and has dedications to the deities. Further on is a statue
of the third Thothmes, of the 18th dynasty (168), the head of which
has been restored. Here the visitor should remark the nine bows which
symbolise the enemies of the Egyptians. Having thus far noticed the
collection of statuary which represent human beings, the visitor will
gladly turn to those strange revelations of the ancient Egyptian mind
developed in the

EGYPTIAN SPHINXES.

In these strange conglomerations of various races of animals - the
lions with human heads and hawks' heads - there is generally preserved
that majestic repose, and that mighty force of execution, which rescue
the most incomprehensible of the ancient Egyptian monuments from
contempt. Not at all farcical or barbarous could the effect have been,
when the Egyptian approached his place of worship through an avenue
formed by rows of these colossal sphinxes - all grandly fashioned and
full of majesty. Mr. Long says: "Most speculations on the origin of
the compound figure, called a sphinx, appear unsatisfactory; nor,
indeed, is it an easy matter for the modern inhabitants of Western
Europe to conceive what is meant by the symbolical forms which enter
so largely into the ancient religious systems of the Eastern world. It
seems to us altogether an assumption without proof, that either the
andro-sphinx, or the sphinx with the female head, ought to be
considered as the original type of this compound figure. The sphinx
differs from other compound figures, which occur very often in the
Egyptian pictorial representations, in always having the body of a
lion, or, it may be, a panther, or some such animal as might be
considered a symbol of strength and courage. The whole history of our
species bears testimony to that tendency of the human mind, when not
restrained and guided by better knowledge, to pourtray in some visible
form its conceptions of Deity. However far many superior minds of the
heathen world might advance, in deducing from the contemplation of all
around them more correct views of the goodness and wisdom of an
all-ruling power, these were ideas far too refined for the mass, who
felt the want of something more apparent to the senses - something on
which the mind could repose from vain imaginings and real fears. Hence
the Deity was invested with various forms of familiar objects, under
which he was venerated as a protector and friend, or feared as an
avenging and angry power. Under the form of a ram, and the name of
Ammon, we find a deity worshipped along the banks of the Nile, from
the temple of the ancient Meroe to the sand-girt oasis of Siwah. The
mild and benignant expression of the sacred ram would indicate the
diffusion of tranquillity and peace, nor would the essential value of
the symbol be changed by finding the head of the ram placed on human
shoulders, or attached to the body of a lion. In the first case it
would, in accordance with the Egyptian tradition of gods having
assumed the forms of animals, commemorate, as in the Hindoo mythology,
an incarnation of the superior power; and in the second, the union of
strength and courage with mildness and the arts of peace. The
crio-sphinx, then, belongs to the Ammonian mythology, and is a
distinct symbol from the andro-sphinx and female sphinx, which,
probably, are connected with the worship of Osiris and Isis."
Something of the effect may be comprehended from the two large red
granite lions which mark the southern boundary of the saloon (1-34.)
They are of the time of the third Amenophis, and were discovered at
Mount Barkal by Lord Prudhoe, in 1829. As specimens of the mechanical
skill of ancient Egyptian sculptors, they are worth particular remark.
Here there is little of that angular stiffness characteristic of the
statues the visitor has already examined. And now, making one more
progress through the saloon, the visitor may rapidly notice the
varieties of strange animal forms - all of which, in ancient Egypt, had
their religious meaning. They were, at all events, symbols of divine
instincts, and for this reason a deep interest rises in the modern
mind in the contemplation of their proportions and expression. The
figure numbered 7 is a colossal head of a ram, emblematic of Amen-ra;
that numbered 8, is Hapi, the god of the Nile of the period of the
22nd dynasty, with allegorical waterfowl and plants hanging from the
altar he is holding; two strange figures of gryphons, or hawk-headed
sphinxes, found by Belzoni in the great temple of Ibsamboul (11-13),
and emblematic or Munt-ra, will next engage the visitor's attention;
and from these specimens the visitor should turn to a black granite
fragment of the Egyptian Diana - Pasht, of the time of Amenophis; but
as he will have an opportunity of observing more finished
representations of this popular divinity, he may at once pause before
a second statue of this goddess, also of the time of the third
Amenophis (37), where Pasht is represented in black granite, upon a
throne, with the head of a lion, and in her hand the emblem of life.
Hereabouts, also, are two specimens of the strange cynocephalus, or
dog-headed baboon (38-40), sacred to the Hercules and Mercury of the
Egyptian Pantheon. The figures marked 41-45 are two more specimens of
Pasht, who appears to have been the most popular subject for the
Egyptian sculptor's chisel; these are erect figures, holding lotus
sceptres, and are both from Karnak. The figures marked 49, 50, 52, 53,
57, are all representations of the popular Pasht; in 52 she wears the
disk of the sun. And now the visitor may well pause before a fragment
marked 58. This is a piece of the beard of the Great Sphinx. Peeping
above the sands which surround the famous pyramids of Gizeh, is the
upper part of a man-headed sphinx. This sphinx is said to measure no
less than 62 feet in height, and 143 feet in length; this Colossus has
been plucked by the beard, and the result lies before the visitor.
Hereabouts, in passing, the visitor may glance at another object
wrested from the hands of the French (59). It is a fragment of a
column in porphyry, supporting a colossal areonite hawk, sacred to the
sun. More statues of Pasht! (60, 62, 63, of the 22nd dynasty; 65, 68,
69). A column found in a house at Cairo, the capital of which is
formed in the shape of a lotus flower (64), deserves notice; also
(70), the basalt statue of a god, conjectured to be Amen-ra, holding a
small figure of a monarch of the 28th dynasty. More statues of Pasht
(71, 2, 3, 6, 7, 9; 80, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9); and then the visitor may pause
before the colossal scarabaeus, emblematic of the world and creation
(74); and a broken sphinx, of Roman work (82). Not far off are
deposited the legs of Truth (91), the goddess Ma of the Egyptians;
some altars from Aboukir and Sais, that marked 135, from the Temple of
Berenice, having steps leading to it; entrances to tombs (157),
ornamented with figures; and more statues of Pasht, amongst them a
colossal bust from a statue (521).

Having noticed these specimens, the visitor should pass into the lobby
at the northern end of the saloon, to notice the two small obelisks
placed here, brought from Cairo; they stood before a temple to Thoth.
The hieroglyphics upon them are carefully executed, but these
specimens give the spectator no idea of the colossal obelisks of
ancient Egypt, of which that of Alexandria, 63 feet high, is a fair
specimen. These obelisks were generally in pairs, and were placed on
each side of the great entrance to Egyptian temples. Having returned
to the saloon, the visitor should, before finally passing from it,
notice the famous tablet of Abydos (117), found by Mr. Banks, in 1818,
in the Temple of Abydos. It is the work of the great Sesostris, and
the inscription on it is a record of his predecessors in the kingly
office: hence it has been long an attractive object to chronologists.
Also, before glancing at the few paintings, and closing the
examination of this interesting saloon, the visitor should inspect the
Rosetta stone (24), inscribed in three characters (of which one is
Greek), by order of the high priests, recording the services of the
fifth Ptolemy. And now, with a glance at the

EGYPTIAN FRESCOES,

the visitor should rapidly close his survey of this chamber. These are
rude performances enough, and, as the visitor will see, bear a close
resemblance to those we introduced to him in the Egyptian rooms up
stairs. Mr. Long, while on the subject of Egyptian art, thus mentions
their paintings: - "Sculpture and painting were closely allied, both
among the Egyptians and in the old schools of Greece; and both arts
were intimately associated with architecture. Sculptured and coloured
figures formed in ancient Egyptian edifices the decoration and the
finish of the larger masses of the architecture which served as a
framework within which they were placed. The edifices, from their
massy forms and the magnitude of their component parts, were well
calculated to produce a general impression of grandeur; and this was
not destroyed by the smaller decorated parts, which were always
strictly subordinate to the general design, and were not, like it,
comprehended at a glance, but required to be studied in detail.

"Painting, in the proper sense of the term, that of the
representations of objects by colours on the flat surface, appears to
be an art of less antiquity than that of sculpture. The Egyptians
probably first coloured their reliefs and statues before they
attempted to represent objects with colours on a flat ground. But,
however this may be, paint was most extensively used by them, not only
in making pictures, properly so called, but in painting the surfaces
of tablets and temples, as well as colossal statues and sculptured
figures of all kinds and sizes. Indeed, an Egyptian temple, in its
complete state, bedizened with so many bright unmixed colours, must
have been rather a curious object, and would hardly, perhaps, have
pleased the taste of modern times; though, it must be admitted, that
the effect of these colours under a brilliant sun would be very
different from their appearance in such a climate as this. The
pureness, permanence, and brilliancy of Egyptian colouring are the
only qualities that we can admire; for they never, apparently,
compounded colours so as to produce a greater variety from the simple
colours. It has also been frequently remarked that they did not soften


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Online LibraryW. Blanchard JerroldHow to See the British Museum in Four Visits → online text (page 11 of 17)