Gaston Camille Charles Maspero.

Manual of Egyptian Archaeology and Guide to the Study of Antiquities in Egypt online

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[Illustration: Fig. 229. - Hippopotamus in blue glaze.]

[Illustration: Fig. 230. - Glazed ware from Thebes.]

[Illustration: Fig. 231. - Glazed ware from Thebes.]

The Egyptians also enamelled stone. One half at least of the scarabaei,
cylinders, and amulets contained in our museums are of limestone or schist,
covered with a coloured glaze. Doubtless the common clay seemed to them
inappropriate to this kind of decoration, for they substituted in its place
various sorts of earth - some white and sandy; another sort brown and fine,
which they obtained by the pulverisation of a particular kind of limestone
found in the neighbourhood of Keneh, Luxor, and Asûan; and a third sort,
reddish in tone, and mixed with powdered sandstone and brick-dust. These
various substances are known by the equally inexact names of Egyptian
porcelain and Egyptian faïence. The oldest specimens, which are hardly
glazed at all, are coated with an excessively thin slip. This vitreous
matter has, however, generally settled into the hollows of the hieroglyphs
or figures, where its lustre stands out in strong contrast with the dead
surface of the surrounding parts. The colour most frequently in use under
the ancient dynasties was green; but yellow, red, brown, violet, and blue
were not disdained.[61] Blue predominated in the Theban factories from the
earliest beginning of the Middle Empire. This blue was brilliant, yet
tender, in imitation of turquoise or lapis lazuli. The Gizeh Museum
formerly contained three hippopotamuses of this shade, discovered in the
tomb of an Entef[62] at Drah Abû'l Neggeh[63] One was lying down, the two
others were standing in the marshes, their bodies being covered by the
potter with pen-and-ink sketches of reeds and lotus plants, amid which
hover birds and butterflies (fig. 229). This was his naïve way of depicting
the animal amid his natural surroundings. The blue is splendid, and we must
overleap twenty centuries before we again find so pure a colour among the
funerary statuettes of Deir el Baharî. Green reappears under the Saïte
dynasties, but paler than that of more ancient times, and it prevailed in
the north of Egypt, at Memphis, Bubastis, and Sais, without entirely
banishing the blue. The other colours before mentioned were in current use
for not more than four or five centuries; that is to say, from the time of
Ahmes I. to the time of the Ramessides. It was then, and only then, that
_ûshabtiû_ of white or red glaze, rosettes and lotus flowers in yellow,
red, and violet, and parti-coloured kohl-pots abounded. The potters of the
time of Amenhotep III. affected greys and violets. The olive-shaped amulets
which are inscribed with the names of this Pharaoh and the princesses of
his family are decorated with pale blue hieroglyphs upon a delicate mauve
ground. The vase of Queen Tii in the Gizeh collection is of grey and blue,
with ornaments in two colours round the neck. The fabrication of many-
coloured enamels seems to have attained its greatest development under
Khûenaten; at all events, it was at Tell el Amarna that I found the
brightest and most delicately fashioned specimens, such as yellow, green,
and violet rings, blue and white fleurettes, fish, lutes, figs, and bunches
of grapes.[64] One little statuette of Horus has a red face and a blue
body; a ring bezel bears the name of a king in violet upon a ground of
light blue. However restricted the space, the various colours are laid in
with so sure a hand that they never run one into the other, but stand out
separately and vividly. A vase to contain antimony powder, chased and
mounted on a pierced stand, is glazed with reddish brown (fig. 230).
Another, in the shape of a mitred hawk, is blue picked out with black
spots. It belonged of old to Ahmes I. A third, hollowed out of the body of
an energetic little hedgehog, is of a changeable green (fig. 231). A
Pharaoh's head in dead blue wears a _klaft_[65] with dark-blue stripes.

[Illustration: Fig. 232.]

Fine as these pieces are, the _chef-d'oeuvre_ of the series is a statuette
of one Ptahmes, first Prophet of Amen, now in the Gizeh Museum. The
hieroglyphic inscriptions as well as the details of the mummy bandages are
chased in relief upon a white ground of admirable smoothness afterwards
filled in with enamel. The face and hands are of turquoise blue; the head-
dress is yellow, with violet stripes; the hieroglyphic characters of the
inscription, and the vulture with outspread wings upon the breast of the
figure, are also violet. The whole is delicate, brilliant, and harmonious;
not a flaw mars the purity of the contours or the clearness of the lines.

[Illustration: Fig. 233. - Interior decoration of cup, Eighteenth Dynasty.]

[Illustration: Fig. 234. - Lenticular vase, glazed ware, Saïte.]

[Illustration: Fig. 235. - Chamber decorated with tiles in step pyramid of

Glazed pottery was common from the earliest times. Cups with a foot (fig.
232), blue bowls, rounded at the bottom and decorated in black ink with
mystic eyes, lotus flowers, fishes (fig. 233), and palm-leaves, date, as a
rule, from the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, or Twentieth Dynasties. Lenticular
ampullae coated with a greenish glaze, flanked by two crouching monkeys for
handles, decorated along the edge with pearl or egg-shaped ornaments, and
round the body with elaborate collars (fig. 234), belong almost without
exception to the reigns of Apries and Amasis.[66] Sistrum handles, saucers,
drinking-cups in the form of a half-blown lotus, plates, dishes - in short,
all vessels in common use - were required to be not only easy to keep clean,
but pleasant to look upon. Did they carry their taste for enamelled ware so
far as to cover the walls of their houses with glazed tiles? Upon this
point we can pronounce neither affirmatively nor negatively; the few
examples of this kind of decoration which we possess being all from royal
buildings. Upon a yellow brick, we have the family name and _Ka_ name of
Pepi I.; upon a green brick, the name of Rameses III.; upon certain red and
white fragments, the names of Seti I. and Sheshonk.

[Illustration: Fig. 236. - Tile from step pyramid of Sakkarah.]

Up to the beginning of the present century, one of the chambers in the step
pyramid at Sakkarah yet retained its mural decoration of glazed ware (fig.
235). For three-fourths of the wall-surface it was covered with green
tiles, oblong in shape, flat at the back, and slightly convex on the face
(fig. 236). A square tenon, pierced through with a hole large enough to
receive a wooden rod, served to fix them together in horizontal pyramid of
rows.[67] The three rows which frame in the doorway are inscribed with the
titles of an unclassed Pharaoh belonging to one of the first Memphite
dynasties. The hieroglyphs are relieved in blue, red, green, and yellow,
upon a tawny ground. Twenty centuries later, Rameses III. originated a new
style at Tell el Yahûdeh. This time the question of ornamentation
concerned, not a single chamber, but a whole temple. The mass of the
building was of limestone and alabaster; but the pictorial subjects,
instead of being sculptured according to custom, were of a kind of mosaic
made with almost equal parts of stone tesserae and glazed ware.

[Illustration: Fig. 237. - Tile inlay, Tell el Yahûdeh.]

[Illustration: Fig. 238. - Tile inlay, Tell el Yahûdeh.]

[Illustration: Fig. 239. - Inlaid tiles, Tell el Yahûdeh.]

The most frequent item in the scheme of decoration was a roundel moulded of
a sandy frit coated with blue or grey slip, upon which is a cream-coloured
rosette (fig. 237). Some of these rosettes are framed in geometrical
designs (fig. 238) or spider-web patterns; some represent open flowers. The
central boss is in relief; the petals and tracery are encrusted in the
mass. These roundels, which are of various diameters ranging from three-
eighths of an inch to four inches, were fixed to the walls by means of a
very fine cement. They were used to form many different designs, as
scrolls, foliage, and parallel fillets, such as may be seen on the foot of
an altar and the base of a column preserved in the Gizeh Museum. The royal
ovals were mostly in one piece; so also were the figures. The details,
either incised or modelled upon the clay before firing, were afterwards
painted with such colours as might be suitable. The lotus flowers and
leaves which were carried along the bottom of the walls or the length of
the cornices, were, on the contrary, made up of independent pieces; each
colour being a separate morsel cut to fit exactly into the pieces by which
it was surrounded (fig. 239). This temple was rifled at the beginning of
the present century, and some figures of prisoners brought thence have been
in the Louvre collection ever since the time of Champollion. All that
remained of the building and its decoration was demolished a few years ago
by certain dealers in antiquities, and the _débris_ are now dispersed in
all directions. Mariette, though with great difficulty, recovered some of
the more important fragments, such as the name of Rameses III., which dates
the building; some borderings of lotus flowers and birds with human hands
(fig. 240); and some heads of Asiatics and negro prisoners (fig. 241).[68]
The destruction of this monument is the more grievous because the Egyptians
cannot have constructed many after the same type. Glazed bricks, painted
tiles, and enamelled mosaics are readily injured; and in the judgment of a
people enamoured of stability and eternity, that would be the gravest of
radical defects.

[Illustration: Fig. 240. - Relief tile, Tell el Yahûdeh.]

[Illustration: Fig. 241. - Relief tile, Tell el Yahûdeh.]

[55] Works on scarabaei are the Palin collection, published in 1828; Mr.
Loftie's charming _Essay of Scarabs_, which is in fact a
catalogue of his own specimens, admirably illustrated from drawings by
Mr. W.M.F. Petrie; and Mr. Petrie's _Historical Scarabs_,
published 1889. - A.B.E.

[56] These twin vases are still made at Asûan. I bought a small specimen
there in 1874. - A.B.E.

[57] The sepulchral vases commonly called "canopic" were four in number,
and contained the embalmed viscera of the mummy. The lids of these
vases were fashioned to represent the heads of the four genii of
Amenti, Hapi, Tûatmûtf, Kebhsennef, and Amset; i.e. the
Ape-head, the Jackal-head, the Hawk-head, and the human head. - A.B.E.

[58] The remains of this shrine, together with many hundreds of beautiful
glass hieroglyphs, figures, emblems, etc., for inlaying, besides
moulds and other items of the glassworker's stock, were discovered by
Mr. F. Ll. Griffith at Tell Gemayemi, about equidistant from the
mounds of Tanis and Daphnae (Sân and Defenneh) in March 1886. For a
fuller account see Mr. Griffith's report, "_The Antiquities of Tell
el Yahudîyeh," in Seventh Memoir of the Egypt Exploration Fund_.
- A.B.E.

[59] Some of these beautiful rods were also found at Tell Gemayemi by Mr.
F. Ll. Griffith, and in such sound condition that it was possible to
cut them in thin slices, for distribution among various museums. -

[60] That is, of the kind known as the "false murrhine." - A.B.E.

[61] The yellows and browns are frequently altered greens. - A.B.E.

[62] One of the Eleventh Dynasty kings.

[63] There is a fine specimen at the Louvre, and another in the museum at
Leydeu. - A.B.E.

[64] For an account of every stage and detail in the glass and glaze
manufactures of Tell el Amarna, see W.M.F. Petrie's _Tell el

[65] _Klaft, i.e._, a headdress of folded linen. The beautiful
little head here referred to is in the Gizeh Museum, and is a portrait
of the Pharaoh Necho. - A.B.E.

[66] _Apries_, in Egyptian "Uahabra," the biblical "Hophra;"
_Amasis_, Ahmes II.; both of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty. - A.B.E.

[67] Some specimens of these tiles may be seen in the Egyptian department
at the British Museum. - A.B.E.


[Illustration: Fig. 242. - Spoon.]

Objects in ivory, bone, and horn are among the rarities of our museums; but
we must not for this reason conclude that the Egyptians did not make ample
use of those substances. Horn is perishable, and is eagerly devoured by
certain insects, which rapidly destroy it. Bone and ivory soon deteriorate
and become friable. The elephant was known to the Egyptians from the
remotest period. They may, perhaps, have found it inhabiting the Thebaid
when first they established themselves in that part of the Nile Valley, for
as early as the Fifth Dynasty we find the pictured form of the elephant in
use as the hieroglyphic name of the island of Elephantine. Ivory in tusks
and half tusks was imported into Egypt from the regions of the Upper Nile.
It was sometimes dyed green or red, but was more generally left of its
natural colour. It was largely employed by cabinet makers for inlaying
furniture, as chairs, bedsteads, and coffers. Combs, dice, hair-pins,
toilette ornaments, delicately wrought spoons (fig. 242), Kohl bottles
hollowed out of a miniature column surmounted by a capital, incense-burners
in the shape of a hand supporting a bronze cup in which the perfumes were
burned, and boomerangs engraved with figures of gods and fantastic animals,
were also made of ivory. Some of these objects are works of fine art; as
for instance at Gizeh, a poignard-handle in the form of a lion; the plaques
in bas-relief which adorn the draught-box of one Tûaï, who lived towards
the end of the Seventeenth Dynasty; a Fifth Dynasty figure, unfortunately
mutilated, which yet retains traces of rose colour; and a miniature statue
of Abi, who died at the time of the Thirteenth Dynasty. This little
personage, perched on the top of a lotus-flower column, looks straight
before him with a majestic air which contrasts somewhat comically with the
size and prominence of his ears. The modelling of the figure is broad and
spirited, and will bear comparison with good Italian ivories of the
Renaissance period.

[Illustration: Fig. 243. - Wooden statuette of officer, Eighteenth Dynasty.]

[Illustration: Fig. 244. - Wooden statuette of priest, Eighteenth Dynasty.]

[Illustration: Fig. 245. - Wooden statuette of the Lady Naï.]

Egypt produces few trees, and of these few the greater number are useless
to the sculptor. The two which most abound - namely, the date palm and the
dôm palm - are of too coarse a fibre for carving, and are too unequal in
texture. Some varieties of the sycamore and acacia are the only trees of
which the grain is sufficiently fine and manageable to be wrought with the
chisel. Wood was, nevertheless, a favourite material for cheap and rapid
work. It was even employed at times for subjects of importance, such as Ka
statues; and the Wooden Man of Gizeh shows with what boldness and amplitude
of style it could be treated. But the blocks and beams which the Egyptians
had at command were seldom large enough for a statue. The Wooden Man
himself, though but half life-size, consists of a number of pieces held
together by square pegs. Hence, wood-carvers were wont to treat their
subjects upon such a scale as admitted of their being cut in one block, and
the statues of olden time became statuettes under the Theban dynasties. Art
lost nothing by the reduction, and more than one of these little figures is
comparable to the finest works of the ancient empire. The best, perhaps, is
at the Turin Museum, and dates from the Twentieth Dynasty. It represents a
young girl whose only garment is a slender girdle. She is of that
indefinite age when the undeveloped form is almost as much like that of a
boy as of a girl. The expression of the head is gentle, yet saucy. It is,
in fact, across thirty centuries of time, a portrait of one of those
graceful little maidens of Elephantine, who, without immodesty or
embarrassment, walk unclothed in sight of strangers. Three little wooden
men in the Gizeh Museum are probably contemporaries of the Turin figure.
They wear full dress, as, indeed, they should, for one was a king's
favourite named Hori, and surnamed Ra. They are walking with calm and
measured tread, the bust thrown forward, and the head high. The expression
upon their faces is knowing, and somewhat sly. An officer who has retired
on half-pay at the Louvre (fig. 243) wears an undress uniform of the time
of Amenhotep III.; that is to say, a small wig, a close-fitting vest with
short sleeves, and a kilt drawn tightly over the hips, reaching scarcely
half-way down the thigh, and trimmed in front with a piece of puffing
plaited longwise. His companion is a priest (fig. 244), who wears his hair
in rows of little curls one above the other, and is clad in a long
petticoat falling below the calf of the leg and spreading out in front in a
kind of plaited apron. He holds a sacred standard consisting of a stout
staff surmounted by a ram's head crowned with the solar disc. Both officer
and priest are painted red brown, with the exception of the hair, which is
black; the cornea of the eyes, which is white; and the standard, which is
yellow. Curiously enough, the little lady Naï, who inhabits the same glass
case, is also painted reddish brown, instead of buff, which was the
canonical colour for women (fig. 245). She is taken in a close-fitting
garment trimmed down the front with a band of white embroidery. Round her
neck she wears a necklace consisting of a triple row of gold pendants. Two
golden bracelets adorn her wrists, and on her head she carries a wig with
long curls. The right arm hangs by her side, the hand holding some object
now lost, which was probably a mirror. The left arm is raised, and with the
left hand she presses a lotus lily to her breast. The body is easy and well
formed, the figure indicates youth, the face is open, smiling, pleasant,
and somewhat plebeian. To modify the unwieldy mass of the headdress was
beyond the skill of the artist, but the bust is delicately and elegantly
modelled, the clinging garment gives discreet emphasis to the shape, and
the action of the hand which holds the flower is rendered with grace and
naturalness. All these are portraits, and as the sitters were not persons
of august rank, we may conclude that they did not employ the most
fashionable artists. They, doubtless, had recourse to more unpretending
craftsmen; but that such craftsmen were thus highly trained in knowledge of
form and accuracy of execution, shows how strongly even the artisan was
influenced by the great school of sculpture which then flourished at

This influence becomes even more apparent when we study the knick-knacks of
the toilet table, and such small objects as, properly speaking, come under
the head of furniture. To pass in review the hundred and one little
articles of female ornament or luxury to which the fancy of the designer
gave all kinds of ingenious and novel forms, would be no light task. The
handles of mirrors, for instance, generally represented a stem of lotus or
papyrus surmounted by a full-blown flower, from the midst of which rose a
disk of polished metal. For this design is sometimes substituted the figure
of a young girl, either nude, or clad in a close-fitting garment, who holds
the mirror on her head. The tops of hair-pins were carved in the semblance
of a coiled serpent, or of the head of a jackal, a dog, or a hawk. The pin-
cushion in which they are placed is a hedgehog or a tortoise, with holes
pierced in a formal pattern upon the back. The head-rests, which served for
pillows, were decorated with bas-reliefs of subjects derived from the myths
of Bes and Sekhet, the grimacing features of the former deity being carved
on the ends or on the base. But it is in the carving of perfume-spoons and
kohl-bottles that the inventive skill of the craftsman is most brilliantly

[Illustration: Fig. 246. - Spoon.]

[Illustration: Fig. 247. - Spoon.]

[Illustration: Fib. 248. - Spoon.]

[Illustration: Fig. 249. - Spoon.]

[Illustration: Fig. 250. - Spoon.]

[Illustration: Fig. 251. - Spoon.]

[Illustration: Fig. 252. - Spoon.]

[Illustration: Fig. 253. - Spoon.]

Not to soil their fingers the Egyptians made use of spoons for essences,
pomades, and the variously-coloured preparations with which both men and
women stained their cheeks, lips, eyelids, nails, and palms. The designer
generally borrowed his subjects from the fauna or flora of the Nile valley.
A little case at Gizeh is carved in the shape of a couchant calf, the body
being hollowed out, and the head and back forming a removable lid. A spoon
in the same collection represents a dog running away with an enormous fish
in his mouth (fig. 246), the body of the fish forming the bowl of the
spoon. Another shows a cartouche springing from a full-blown lotus;
another, a lotus fruit laid upon a bouquet of flowers (fig. 247); and here
is a simple triangular bowl, the handle decorated with a stem and two buds
(fig. 248). The most elaborate specimens combine these subjects with the
human figure. A young girl, clad in a mere girdle, is represented in the
act of swimming (fig. 249). Her head is well lifted above the water, and
her outstretched arms support a duck, the body of which is hollowed out,
while the wings, being movable, serve as a cover. We have also a young girl
in the Louvre collection, but she stands in a maze of lotus plants (fig.
250), and is in the act of gathering a bud. A bunch of stems, from which
emerge two full-blown blossoms, unites the handle to the bowl of the spoon,
which is in reverse position, the larger end being turned outwards and the
point inwards. Elsewhere, a young girl (fig. 251) playing upon a long-
necked lute as she trips along, is framed in by two flowering stems.
Sometimes the fair musician is standing upright in a tiny skiff (fig. 252);
and sometimes a girl bearing offerings is substituted for the lute player.
Another example represents a slave toiling under the weight of an enormous
sack. The age and physiognomy of each of these personages is clearly
indicated. The lotus gatherer is of good birth, as may be seen by her
carefully plaited hair and tunic. The Theban ladies wore long robes; but
this damsel has gathered up her skirts that she may thread her way among
the reeds without wetting her garments. The two musicians and the swimming
girl belong, on the contrary, to an inferior, or servile, class. Two of
them wear only a girdle, and the third has a short garment negligently
fastened. The bearer of offerings (fig. 253) wears the long pendent tresses
distinctive of childhood, and is one of those slender, growing girls of the
fellahîn class whom one sees in such numbers on the banks of the Nile. Her
lack of clothing is, however, no evidence of want of birth, for not even
the children of nobility were wont to put on the garments of their sex
before the period of adolescence. Lastly, the slave (fig. 254), with his
thick lips, his high shoulders, his flat nose, his heavy, animal jaw, his
low brow, and his bare, conical head, is evidently a caricature of some
foreign prisoner. The dogged sullenness with which he trudges under his
burden is admirably caught, while the angularities of the body, the type of
the head, and the general arrangement of the parts, remind one of the
terra-cotta grotesques of Asia Minor. In these subjects, all the minor
details, the fruits, the flowers, the various kinds of birds, are rendered
with much truth and cleverness. Of the three ducks which are tied by the
feet and slung over the arms of the girl bearing offerings, two are
resigned to their fate, and hang swinging with open eyes and outstretched
necks; but the third flaps her wings and lifts her head protestingly. The
two small water-fowl perched upon the lotus flowers listen placidly to the
lute-player's music, their beaks resting on their crops. They have learned
by experience not to put themselves out of the way for a song, and they
know that there is nothing to fear from a young girl, unless she is armed.
They are put to flight in the bas-reliefs by the mere sight of a bow and
arrows, just as a company of rooks is put to flight nowadays by the sight
of a gun. The Egyptians were especially familiar with the ways of animals
and birds, and reproduced them with marvellous exactness. The habit of
minutely observing minor facts became instinctive, and it informed their
most trifling works with that air of reality which strikes us so forcibly
at the present day.

[Illustration: Fig. 254. - Spoon.]

Household furniture was no more abundant in ancient Egypt than it is in the

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Online LibraryGaston Camille Charles MasperoManual of Egyptian Archaeology and Guide to the Study of Antiquities in Egypt → online text (page 16 of 21)