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hand became more skilful, his imagination more active, and he
was no longer contented to convey his ideas wholesale, from
nature on the one hand, and on the other from those humble
arts which flourish even in the earliest ages of every civilized
society. He learnt to create designs for himself — designs which
can certainly not be traced to the mats and tissues which formed

his first models. Our Figure
286 will give some idea of the
variety of motives to be found
upon the panels and ceilings of
the tombs and other buildings at
Thebes. The chess- board pattern,
which was so much used during
the Ancient Empire, is found
here also ; but by its side ap-
pear patterns composed of frets,
meandering lines, and rosettes.
Below these, again, are designs in
which lines twist themselves into
volutes and spirals, crossing each
other and enclosing lotus flowers,
rosettes, and forms like the shafts
of columns. The flowers are in
no way imitative ; their motives
have been suggested, not sup-
plied, by nature. The papyrus
Fig. 285.— Carpet hung across a pavilion. niay have given the first idea for

the sixth of these designs, while
in the last we find a motive which afterwards played an important
part in Greek and Roman ornament — namely, the skull of an ox.
The two specimens of this last-named motive given by Prisse, are
taken from tombs of the eighteenth and twentieth dynasties.^

These tombs and the mummy cases they contain are often
decorated with symbolic ornament, as well as with geometrical
designs and those suggested by the national flora. The compart-
ments of ceiling decorations have scarabs in their centres, and
1 Prisse, Histoire de PArt igyptien^ text, p. 369.

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Fig. 286. — Specimens of ceiling decorations. From Prissc.

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Ornament. 361

upon the mummy cases it is occasionally substituted for the
uraeus- crowned disk in the centre of a huge pair of extended
wings. Beneath it, figures of I sis or Nephthys, the guardians of

Fig. 287. — Painting on a mummy case. Description^ vol iu pi. 58.

the tomb, are found (Fig. 287). The effect is similar to that of
the winged globes which are found upon cornices. In the latter
the disk which represents the sun is red, and stands boldly out
from the green of the two wings. The latter, again, are relieved

Fig. 288.— Winged globe. From Prisse.

against a striped ground, on which bands of red, blue, and white
are laid alternatively. Thanks to the happy choice of these
colours, the result is excellent from a decorative point of view,
VOL. II. 3 A

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362 A History of Art in Ancient Egypt.

and that in spite of its continual repetition and the simplicity of
its lines.

Among the original motives to be found in these paintings,
there is yet another which deserves to be named for its uncommon
character, we mean those tables for offerings which are shown
loaded with vases and other objects of a like nature. As if to
mark the importance of the funerary gifts, the stems of these
tables are made so lofty that they rise high above two trees,
apparently cypresses, which grew right and left of their feet
(Figs. 289 and 290).

The Egyptians made use 01 the afterwards common decorative
motive of alternate buds and open blooms of lotus, but they
entirely failed to give it the lightness and elegance with which it
was endowed by the Greeks. Their buds were poor and meagre,
their flowers heavy, and the general design not without stiffness.^

The colours are often well preserved, at least in parts, and, as
one combination is repeated several times, it is easy to restore the
missing parts by reference to those which are intact. The gilding,
however, has disappeared, and left hardly a trace behind. Gold
was used pretty generally in order to give warmth and brightness.
The obelisks, those of Hatasu for instance, were gilded upon all
four faces ; the winged globe was sometimes gilded,^ and so
were the bronze plates with which the temple doors were covered.
The important part played by the gilders, some of whose books
of gold have come down to our time,' is chiefly known to us
by the inscriptions. Their employment may also be divined here
and there by the fashion in which the stone has been prepared,
sometimes by the peculiar colour effects in certain parts of the

In some tombs gold is lound in its pure state. During the
excavations at the Serapeum, Mariette opened the tomb of Ka-
em-nas, a son of Rameses II. When the mummy chamber was
entered, the lower parts of the walls and of the mummy cases
shone with gold in the candle-light. The floor was strewn with
scraps of the same metal, and as many as four books of gold leaf

^ Lepsius, Denkfnalety part iii. plate 62. Prisse, Histoire de PArt ^gyptien^
atlas, plate lettered Frises FUuronnkes,

2 Description^ Antiquith^ vol. ii. p. 533.

* There is one of these books in the Louvre {Salle Funkrairey case Z) ; the gold
leaf which it contains differs from that now in use only in its greater thickness.

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Ornament. 363

were found in the tomb. Mariette was then in want of funds, and
in order that the excavations might proceed, he obtained authority
from the French consul to sell this gold, to which, of course, no
scientific interest was attached. The thick gold mask of the
prince and the fine jewelry which adorned his mummy are now
in the Louvre.

The mummy's toe-nails, bracelets, and lips, and the linen
mask over its face, were very often gilt. The feet are sometimes
entirely gilt. So too is the shroud. Those of princes and great
personages are sometimes covered with gold from head to foot.

Figs. 289, 290. — ^Tables or oflferings ; from the paintings in a royal tomb.

The Egyptian artisans understood these delicate operations at a
very early date. Even in the tombs at Beni- Hassan we find the
process of gold-beating illustrated in full. We need hardly say
that a decorative industry which disposed of such complete
resources, thoroughly understood what we call graining, the
imitation of the veins and textures of wood, and also those of the
different kinds of granite, upon other substances. In more than
one instance we find the commoner kinds of stone thus made to
look like rarer and more costly materials.

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§ I. Definition and Characteristics of Industrial Art.

The expression, indtistrial art, has sometimes been severely
criticised, but yet it answers to a real distinction founded upon the
nature of things, and we do not see that it could be dispensed
with. When the artist sets about making a statue or a picture his
only aim is to produce a fine work. He does not take utility, in
the unphilosophic sense of the word, into account. The task
which he sets before himself is to discover some form which shall
truly interpret his own individual thoughts and feelings. This
done, his end is accomplished. The resulting work of art is self-
contained and self-sufficient Its raison d'etre is to satisfy one of
the deepest and most persistent desires of the human mind, the
(esthetic sentiment, or instinct for the beautiful.

In the industrial arts it is different. When a cabinet-maker or
a potter sets to work to produce an easy chair, or a vase, his first
idea is to make a chair in which one may sit comfortably, or a
vessel to which liquids may be safely entrusted and from which
they may be easily poured. At first, the artisan does not look
beyond fulfilling these wants, but a time comes, and comes very
soon, when he feels impelled to ornament the furniture or pottery
upon which he is at work. He is no longer content to turn out
that which is merely useful ; he wishes everything that comes from
his hands to be rich and beautiful also. He begins by adding
ornament made up of dots and geometrical lines ; this he soon
follows up with forms borrowed from organic life, with leaves and
flowers, with figures of men and animals ; and from an artisan he
springs at once to be an artist. But his productions are strictly
works of industrial art, and although they may deserve a high

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Definition and Characteristics of Industrial Art. 365

place in right of their beauty, that beauty is only in some sort an
excrescence, it does not affect the primary object of the matters to
which it is applied, although it may greatly increase their value
and interest.

In view of this definition, it may be asserted that architecture
itself is one of the industrial arts. The first duty of the con-
structor is to make his building well fitted for the object it has
to serve. The house must afford a proper shelter for its in-
habitants, the tomb must preserve the corpse entrusted to it
from all chance of profanation, the temple must shield the statue
or the symbol of the god from curious glances, and afford con-
venient space for ritual celebrations. These requirements may
be fulfilled by edifices which have no pretensions to beauty.
With a roof and a certain number of naked walls, it is always
possible to cover and enclose a given space, and to divide it
into as many portions as may be desired. Such a process has
nothing in common with art. Art steps in when the builder
attempts to endow his work with that symmetry which does not
exclude variety, with nobility of proportion, and with the charm
of a decoration in which both painter and sculptor play their
parts. The constructor then gives place to the architect. The
latter, of course, always keeps the practical end in view, but it
is not his sole preoccupation. The house, as he builds it, has
to respond to all the wants, intellectual as well as corporeal, of
civilized man ; the tomb must embody his ideas of death and a
future life ; the magnificent dimensions and the gorgeous decora-
tions of the temple must give expression to the inexpressible,
must symbolize the divine majesty to the eyes of men, and help
to make it comprehensible by the crowds that come to sacrifice
and pray.

In all this, the role played by art is so preponderant that it
would be unjust to class architecture among the industrial arts.
The ambition of those who built the temple of Amen, at Karnak,
or that of Athend. on the Acropolis, was to produce a work
which should give faithful expression to the highest thoughts
which the human mind can conceive. In one sense, architec-
ture may be called the first of the arts. In those great com-
positions whose remains we study with such reverence, whose
arrangements we endeavour with such care to re-establish, it
was the architect who determined what part the painter and the

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366 A History of Art in Ancient Egypt.

sculptor should take in the work, who laid out for them the
spaces they were called upon to fill.

Although we shall not include architecture among the indus-
trial arts, the distinction which we have established loses none
of its practical importance. We must acknowledge, however,
that there are certain classes of objects which lie upon the border-
line between the two categories, so that we have some difficulty
in deciding whether they belong to fine or to industrial art.
The work of some Cellini of ancient times, or of our own day.
may be classed, for instance, by its general form and ostensible
use, among the more or less utilitarian productions of the gold-
smith or silversmith ; but, on the other hand, it may be adorned
with figures executed in such a fashion that we are tempted
to place it among works of sculpture. Rigorous and inflexible
definitions have, in fact, to be confined to the exact sciences,
such as geometry. In the complexity of life, definitions and
classifications can only be adhered to with a reservation. They
help the historian to find his way amid the infinite diversity of
phenomena, but he is the first to acknowledge that they are far
from having an absolute value. They must be taken for what
they are worth, simply as methods of exposition, as approxima-
tions which are useful and convenient, though more or less

We have no intention of writing a history of Egyptian in-
dustry. We refer those who require an account of it to the
voluminous work of Sir Gardner Wilkinson, where they will
find abundant details upon the trades of Egypt and the materials
which they employed. We shall be content with selecting a few
examples from the chief industries upon which the wealth of
Egypt depended, in order to show how her artisans, like those
of Greece, sought to give a certain amount of artistic value to
every object that left their hands. Forms and motives which we
have encountered in the higher branches of art are there again to
be found. When civilization is in its first infancy, and the plastic
instinct just struggling into life, it is from those handicrafts which
may be called elementary or primitive that art borrows its first
combinations of line and colour. But afterwards, when art has
developed itself and created a style expressive of the national
genius, the process is reversed, and the handicraftsman borrows
in turn from the artist. In our modern society the use of

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Glass and Pottery. 367

machines and the division of labour have put a great gulf between
the workman and the artist Among the ancients it was very
different The workman was responsible for his work from in-
ception to completion, and he expended upon it all the inventive-
ness, taste, and skill, that he possessed. He was not the slave of
a machine turning out thousands of repetitions of a single object
with inflexible regularity. Every day he introduced, almost
without knowing it, some variation upon his work of the day
before ; his labour was a perpetual improvisation. Under such
conditions it is difficult to say where the artist began and where
the handicraftsman left oft. In spite of the richness and subtlety
of their idioms, the classic languages were unable to mark this
distinction. In Greek, as in Latin, there was but a single term
for two positions which seem to us by no means equal in dignity.

§ 2. Glass and Pottery.

The potter's is, perhaps, the oldest of all the crafts. Among the
relics of the cave-men and lake-dwellers of the West, the remains
of rough pottery, shaped by the hand and dried either by the sun
or in the neighbourhood of the domestic hearth, have been found.
The Egypt of the earliest dynasties was already more advanced
than this. The vases found in the mastabas show by their
symmetrical shapes that the potter's wheel was already in use, and
by their quality, that, although the Egyptians were content to
dry their bricks in the sun, they fired their pottery in kilns and
thoroughly understood the process.^

Egypt afforded an abundant supply 01 excellent potter s earth,
and her inhabitants, like those of ancient Greece and Italy,
employed terra-cotta for purposes to which we should now apply
glass, wood, or metal. A good idea of the varied uses to which
the material was put may be obtained from the early chapters
of the work in which Dr. Birch has traced the history of ancient
pottery, with the help of numerous illustrations.^

We shall not dwell upon common earthenware. It is represented

1 The oldest representation of the potter's wheel yet discovered is in one of the
paintings at Beni-Hassan. It is reproduced in Birch's Ancient Pottery^ p. 14.

2 S. Birch, A History of Ancient Pottery, Egyptian, Assyrian, Greek, Etruscan,
and Roman, i vol. 8vo, 1873. London, Murray.

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368 A History of Art in Ancient Egypt.

by numerous vessels from the most ancient tombs in the Memphite
necropolis ; they are of a reddish or yellowish colour, and, in spite
of the absence of all glaze, they hold water perfectly well. Like
Greek vessels of the same kind they have sometimes three ears
or handles (Fig. 291). Examples of coupled vessels, like those
found in Cyprus, have also been discovered. They communicate
with one another by a tube and are kept together by a common

Fig. 291. — Pitcher of red earth. British Museum.

handle (Fig. 292). Of all the representative specimens of earthen-
ware from the mastabas given by Lepsius, there is but one which
does not seem to belong to the category of domestic pottery. It
is a kind of aryballus, and is gracefully ornamented with inter-
lacing circles.^ In later times many of these unglazed vases were
decorated with the brush, but they were not remitted to the oven
after that operation.^ The colour was therefore without lustre
or solidity, and the designs were always very simple. To this

^ Lepsius, Denkmaler^ part ii. pi. 153. * Birch, Ancient Pottery ^ p. 37.

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Glass and Pottery. 369

group belong the vases shaped in the form of men, women, or
animals, which are common enough in museums.^ Sometimes
a head, recalling that of the god Bes, is sketched in low relief upon
a vase, and in a few instances a pair of small arms complete the
fanciful design (Fig. 293).

Another kind of pottery, that known as Egyptian porcelain, must
be noticed in greater detail. This designation is inexact. The proper
name would be Egyptian faience. It consists of white sand, gently
fused, and overspread with a glaze of coloured enamel. This enamel
is composed of flint and soda, with the addition of a colouring

Fig. 292. — Red earthenware. British Museum.

matter. This faience has been fired with such care that it is able
to support the high temperature of a porcelain kiln without damage.
Vases of many different kinds, enamelled tiles, statuettes (Fig. 294),
sepulchral figurines (Figs. 96 and 97, Vol. I.), neck ornaments
and other articles for decorating the person, amulets (Fig. 295),
scarabs, rings, and many other articles were made in this material.
Vases were generally either blue or apple green. A very small
number of them were ornamented with figures of men or animals,
always treated in a purely decorative fashion. No vase has yet

^ Birch, Ancient Pottery, Figs. 23 and 25.
VOL. II. 3 B

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370 A History of Art in Ancient Egypt.

been discovered with any attempt to portray an incident upon it.
The figures are never united by a subject. Bouquets of lotus
around some central motive are of most frequent occurrence
(Fig. 296). Sometimes these flowers are combined with mystic
symbols, like the eyes in Fig. 297. These designs, which are
in black, are produced by inlaying coloured enamel.

Two of the vases which we reproduce (Figs. 296 and 297)
are similar to those shown in the bas-reliefs, in scenes of libation

Fig. 293.— Gray earthenware. Fio. 294.— The God Bes. Enamelled

Boulak. earthenware.

to the gods or to the dead. Their form is that of the Greek
c^iaXij and the Latin patera. Numerous bottles have also been
found whose general shape exactly resemble that of the Greek
apu^dWog (Fig. 298).

The blue with which these objects are covered has often
preserved a brilliance and transparency which could not even
now be surpassed. Yellow, violet, and white glazes are also met
with, but less frequenriy. The hieroglyphs which many of them
bear prove that the manufacture of these little articles was in full

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Glass and Pottery.


swing under the three great Theban dynasties, that it continued
through the Saite period, and that under the Ptolemies, and even
later still, it was not extinct. To the same branch of industry
belong those tiles of enamelled faience which seem to have been

Fig. 295. — Pendant for necklace.

Fig. 296. — Enamelled earthenware. British '

used by the Egyptians from very early times. They were also
used by the Assyrians, as we shall see hereafter. ** These tiles
were used very extensively in eastern and southern countries,
and are found both in palaces and in private dwellings. In the

Fig. 297.— Enamelled earthenware. British Museum.

towns of Turkey and of Modern Egypt, in the towns and villages
of Algeria and of all the African coast as far as the Straits of
Gibraltar, thousands of examples are to be found. The freshness
which seems to result from their use and the enduring brilliancy

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A History of Art in Ancient Egypt.

of their colours make these tiles very popular with the inhabitants
of hot climates."^

We do not know whether these tiles were used for the floors
and walls in the dwellings of rich Egyptians or not, but it appears
certain that their manufacture was understood even as early as
the Ancient Empire. The doorway of a chamber in the stepped
pyramid of Sakkarah is enframed with enamelled plaques. A
sketch of Perring's, which we reproduce, gives a good idea of
this arrangement (Fig. 299).^ Some of these plaques are now
in London, but a still larger number are in the Berlin Museum,

Fig. 298.— Enamelled faience. British

Fig. 299. — Doorway in the Stepped Pyramid
at Sakkarah.

where the doorway as a whole has been restored, the missing
parts being replaced by copies. Our Figures 300 — 302 show
the back, the front, and the profile, of a single plaque. The
obverse is slightly convex, and covered with a greenish-blue glaze ;
the reverse has a salient tenon which was held securely by the
mortar. Through a small hole in this tenon a rod of wood or
metal may have passed which, by uniting all the plaques in each
horizontal row, would give additional solidity to the whole arrange-

^ Brongniart, Histoire de la Ceramique^ vol. ii. p. 95.

^ See also Lepsius, Denkmcekr^ part ii. pi. 2, and the Verzeichniss der yEgyptischen
Alterthiimer of the Berlin Museum, 2879, p. 25.

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Glass and Pottery. 373

ment.^ On the backs of several plaques there are marks which
seem to be rotation numbers. They are figured in the centre of
Perring's sketch. Other bricks from the same doorway are covered
with an almost black enamel. They form the horizontal mouldings
between the rows of upright bricks, and are decorated with a sort
of arrow-head pattern.

This fashion endured throughout the Theban period. The
most important relic of it which we now possess is from the
decoration of a temple built by Rameses III. to the north-west
of Memphis, near the modern Tell-el-Yahoudeh, upon the railway
from Cairo to Ismailia. The building itself was constructed of
crude brick, the walls being lined with enamelled tiles. The

Figs. 300 — 302. — Enamelled plaque from the Stepped Pyramid.

royal ovals and titles were cut in the earth before it was fired,
and afterwards filled up with an enamel so tinted as to stand
out in strong relief from the colour of the brick. Other tiles
represent African and Asiatic prisoners. The figures are in relief;
the enamel is parti-coloured, the hair of the prisoners being black,
their carnations yellowish-brown, and certain details of their
costume being accentuated by other hues. Dr. Birch reproduces
some of these painted reliefs and compares them to the figurines
rustiques of Bernard Palissy.^ The principal fragments of this

^ We owe our ability to give these curious details to the kindness of M. Conze
and the officers of the Egyptian museum at Berlin. One of the original fragments
brought home by I^psius was lent to us.

2 Birch, Ancient Pottery^ p. 50.

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374 A History of Art in Ancient Egypt.

decoration are in the store-rooms of the Boulak Museum. They
deserve more publicity than they have received. Most of them
are purely decorative in character and bear designs of which an
idea may be gained from three pieces of faience which are now
in the British Museum. Two have graceful rosettes, while the
third is covered with a pattern resembling a spiders web
(Figs. 303—305).^

Certain buildings in Memphis seem to have been decorated
in the same fashion. ** The most curious thing brought by me
from Mitrahineh," writes Jomard, ** is a fragment of enamelled and
sculptured terra-cotta, which probably belonged to a wall lined
with that fine material. It is remarkable for the brilliant blue,

the blue of the lapis-lazuli, which covers it The outlines

of the hieroglyphs are as firm, and their edges as sharp as if they
were the work of a skilful carver, and had never been subjected
to the heat of a furnace. They are of blue stucco, inlaid into the

Figs. 303—305. — Enamelled earthenware plaques in the British Museum.

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