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A History of Greek Art By F. B. Tarbell Characters: 35798

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03

The history of Egypt, from the time of the earliest extant monuments to the absorption of the country in the Roman Empire, covers a space of some thousands of years. This long period was not one of stagnation. It is only in proportion to our ignorance that life in ancient Egypt seems to have been on one dull, dead level. Dynasties rose and fell. Foreign invaders occupied the land and were expelled again. Customs, costumes, beliefs, institutions, underwent changes. Of course, then, art did not remain stationary. On the contrary, it had marked vicissitudes, now displaying great freshness and vigor, now uninspired and monotonous, now seemingly dead, and now reviving to new activity. In Babylonia we deal with perhaps even remoter periods of time, but the artistic remains at present known from that quarter are comparatively scanty. From Assyria, however, the daughter of Babylonia, materials abound, and the history of that country can be written in detail for a period of several centuries. Naturally, then, even a mere sketch of Egyptian, Babylonian, and Assyrian art would require much more space than is here at disposal. All that can be attempted is to present a few examples and suggest a few general notions. The main purpose will be to make clearer by comparison and contrast the essential qualities of Greek art, to which this volume is devoted.

I begin with Egypt, and offer at the outset a table of the most important periods of Egyptian history. The dates are taken from the sketch prefixed to the catalogue of Egyptian antiquities in the Berlin Museum. In using them the reader must bear in mind that the earlier Egyptian chronology is highly uncertain. Thus the date here suggested for the Old Empire, while it cannot be too early, may be a thousand years too late. As we come down, the margin of possible error grows less and less. The figures assigned to the New Empire are regarded as trustworthy within a century or two. But only when we reach the Saite dynasty do we get a really precise chronology.

Chief Periods of Egyptian History:

OLD EMPIRE, with capital at Memphis; Dynasties 4-5 (2800-2500 B.

C. or earlier) and Dynasty 6.

MIDDLE EMPIRE, with capital at Thebes; Dynasties 11-13 (2200-1800

B. C. or earlier).

NEW EMPIRE, with capital at Thebes; Dynasties 17-20 (ca. 1600-1100

B. C.).

SAITE PERIOD; Dynasty 26 (663-525 B. C.).

One of the earliest Egyptian sculptures now existing, though certainly not earlier than the Fourth Dynasty, is the great Sphinx of Gizeh (Fig. 1). The creature crouches in the desert, a few miles to the north of the ancient Memphis, just across the Nile from the modern city of Cairo. With the body of a lion and the head of a man, it represented a solar deity and was an object of worship. It is hewn from the living rock and is of colossal size, the height from the base to the top of the head being about 70 feet and the length of the body about 150 feet. The paws and breast were originally covered with a limestone facing. The present dilapidated condition of the monument is due partly to the tooth of time, but still more to wanton mutilation at the hands of fanatical Mohammedans. The body is now almost shapeless. The nose, the beard, and the lower part of the head dress are gone. The face is seamed with scars. Yet the strange monster still preserves a mysterious dignity, as though it were guardian of all the secrets of ancient Egypt, but disdained to betray them

"The art which conceived and carved this prodigious statue," says Professor Maspero [Footnote: Manual of Egyptian Archaeology second edition 1895 page 208] "was a finished art, an art which had attained self mastery, and was sure of its effects. How many centuries had it taken to arrive at this degree of maturity and perfection?" It is impossible to guess. The long process of self- schooling in artistic methods which must have preceded this work is hidden from us. We cannot trace the progress of Egyptian art from its timid, awkward beginnings to the days of its conscious power, as we shall find ourselves able to do in the case of Greek art. The evidence is annihilated, or is hidden beneath the sand of the desert, perhaps to be one day revealed. Should that day come, a new first chapter in the history of Egyptian art will have to be written.

There are several groups of pyramids, large and small at Gizeh and elsewhere, almost all of which belong to the Old Empire. The three great pyramids of Gizeh are among the earliest. They were built by three kings of the Fourth Dynisty, Cheops (Chufu), Chephren (Chafre), and Mycerinus (Menkere) They are gigantic sepulchral monuments in which the mummies of the kings who built them were deposited. The pyramid of Cheops (Fig. 1, at the right), the largest of all, was originally 481 feet 4 inches in height, and was thus doubtless the loftiest structure ever reared in pre- Christian times. The side of the square base measured 755 feet 8 inches. The pyramidal mass consists in the main of blocks of limestone, and the exterior was originally cased with fine limestone, so that the surfaces were perfectly smooth. At present the casing is gone, and instead of a sharp point at the top there is a platform about thirty feet square. In the heart of the mass was the granite chamber where the king's mummy was laid. It was reached by an ingenious system of passages, strongly barricaded. Yet all these precautions were ineffectual to save King Cheops from the hand of the spoiler. Chephren's pyramid (Fig. 1, at the left) is not much smaller than that of Cheops, its present height being about 450 feet, while the height of the third of this group, that of Mycerinus, is about 210 feet. No wonder that the pyramids came to be reckoned among the seven wonders of the world.

While kings erected pyramids to serve as their tombs, officials of high rank were buried in, or rather under, structures of a different type, now commonly known under the Arabic name of mastabas. The mastaba may be described as a block of masonry of limestone or sun-dried brick, oblong in plan, with the sides built "battering," i.e., sloping inward, and with a flat top. It had no architectural merits to speak of, and therefore need not detain us. It is worth remarking, however, that some of these mastabas contain genuine arches, formed of unbaked bricks. The knowledge and use of the arch in Egypt go back then to at least the period of the Old Empire. But the chief interest of the mastabas lies in the fact that they have preserved to us most of what we possess of early Egyptian sculpture. For in a small, inaccessible chamber (serdab) reserved in the mass of masonry were placed one or more portrait statues of the owner, and often of his wife and other members of his household, while the walls of another and larger chamber, which served as a chapel for the celebration of funeral rites, were often covered with painted bas- reliefs, representing scenes from the owner's life or whatever in the way of funeral offering and human activity could minister to his happiness.

One of the best of the portrait statues of this period is the famous "Sheikh-el-Beled" (Chief of the Village), attributed to the Fourth or Fifth Dynasty (Fig. 2). The name was given by the Arab workmen, who, when the figure was first brought to light in the cemetery of Sakkarah, thought they saw in it the likeness of their own sheikh. The man's real name, if he was the owner of the mastaba from whose serdab he was taken, was Ra-em-ka. The figure is less than life-sized, being a little over three and one half feet in height. It is of wood, a common material for sculpture in Egypt. The arms were made separately (the left of two pieces) and attached at the shoulders. The feet, which had decayed, have been restored. Originally the figure was covered with a coating of linen, and this with stucco, painted. "The eyeballs are of opaque white quartz, set in a bronze sheath, which forms the eyelids; in the center of each there is a bit of rock-crystal, and behind this a shining nail" [Footnote: Musee de Gizeh: Notice Sommaire (1892).]-a contrivance which produces a marvelously realistic effect. The same thing, or something like it, is to be seen in other statues of the period. The attitude of Ra-em-ka is the usual one of Egyptian standing figures of all periods: the left leg is advanced; both feet are planted flat on the ground; body and head face squarely forward. The only deviation from the most usual type is in the left arm, which is bent at the elbow, that the hand may grasp the staff of office. More often the arms both hang at the sides, the hands clenched, as in the admirable limestone figure of the priest, Ra-nofer (Fig. 3).

The cross-legged scribe of the Louvre (Fig. 4) illustrates another and less stereotyped attitude. This figure was found in the tomb of one Sekhem-ka, along with two statues of the owner and a group of the owner, his wife, and son. The scribe was presumably in the employ of Sekhem-ka. The figure is of limestone, the commonest material for these sepulchral statues, and, according to the unvarying practice, was completely covered with color, still in good preservation. The flesh is of a reddish brown, the regular color for men. The eyes are similar to those of the Sheikh-el- Beled. The man is seated with his legs crossed under him; a strip of papyrus, held by his left hand, rests upon his lap; his right hand held a pen.

The head shown in Fig. 5 belongs to a group, if we may give that name to two figures carved from separate blocks of limestone and seated stiffly side by side. Egyptian sculpture in the round never created a genuine, integral group, in which two or more figures are so combined that no one is intelligible without the rest; that achievement was reserved for the Greeks. The lady in this case was a princess; her husband, by whom she sits, a high priest of Heliopolis. She is dressed in a long, white smock, in which there is no indication of folds. On her head is a wig, from under which, in front, her own hair shows. Her flesh is yellow, the conventional tint for women, as brownish red was for men. Her eyes are made of glass.

The specimens given have been selected with the purpose of showing the sculpture of the Old Empire at its best. The all-important fact to notice is the realism of these portraits. We shall see that Greek sculpture throughout its great period tends toward the typical and the ideal in the human face and figure. Not so in Egypt. Here the task of the artist was to make a counterfeit presentment of his subject and he has achieved his task at times with marvelous skill. Especially the heads of the best statues have an individuality and lifelikeness which have hardly been surpassed in any age. But let not our admiration blind us to the limitations of Egyptian art. The sculptor never attains to freedom in the posing of his figures. Whether the subject sits, stands, kneels, or squats, the body and head always face directly forward. And we look in vain for any appreciation on the sculptor's part of the beauty of the athletic body or of the artistic possibilities of drapery.

There is more variety of pose in the painted bas-reliefs with which the walls of the mastaba chapels are covered. Here are scenes of agriculture, cattle-tending, fishing, bread-making, and so on, represented with admirable vivacity, though with certain fixed conventionalities of style. There are endless entertainment and instruction for us in these pictures of old Egyptian life. Yet no more here than in the portrait statues do we find a feeling for beauty of form or a poetic, idealizing touch.

As from the Old Empire, so from the Middle Empire, almost the only works of man surviving to us are tombs and their contents. These tombs have no longer the simple mastaba form, but are either built up of sun-dried brick in the form of a block capped by a pyramid or are excavated in the rock. The former class offers little interest from the architectural point of view. But some of the rock-cut tombs of Beni-hasan, belonging to the Twelfth Dynasty, exhibit a feature which calls for mention. These tombs have been so made as to leave pillars of the living rock standing, both at the entrance and in the chapel. The simplest of these pillars are square in plan and somewhat tapering. Others, by the chamfering off of their edges, have been made eight-sided. A repetition of the process gave sixteen-sided pillars. The sixteen sides were then hollowed out (channeled). The result is illustrated by Fig. 6. It will be observed that the pillar has a low, round base, with beveled edge; also, at the top, a square abacus, which is simply a piece of the original four-sided pillar, left untouched. Such polygonal pillars as these are commonly called proto-Doric columns. The name was given in the belief that these were the models from which the Greeks derived their Doric columns, and this belief is still held by many authorities.

With the New Empire we begin to have numerous and extensive remains of temples, while those of an earlier date have mostly disappeared. Fig. 7 may afford some notion of what an Egyptian temple was like. This one is at Luxor, on the site of ancient Thebes in Upper Egypt. It is one of the largest of all, being over 800 feet in length. Like many others, it was not originally planned on its present scale, but represents two or three successive periods of construction, Ramses II., of the Nineteenth Dynasty, having given it its final form by adding to an already finished building all that now stands before the second pair of towers. As so extended, the building has three pylons, as they are called, pylon being the name for the pair of sloping-sided towers with gateway between. Behind the first pylon comes an open court surrounded by a cloister with double rows of columns. The second and third pylons are connected with one another by a covered passage-an exceptional feature. Then comes a second open court; then a hypostyle hall, i.e., a hall with flat roof supported by columns; and finally, embedded in the midst of various chambers, the relatively small sanctuary, inaccessible to all save the king and the priests. Notice the double line of sphinxes flanking the avenue of approach, the two granite obelisks at the entrance, and the four colossal seated figures in granite representing Ramses II.-all characteristic features.

Fig. 8 is taken from a neighboring and still more gigantic temple, that of Karnak. Imagine an immense hall, 170 feet deep by 329 feet broad. Down the middle run two rows of six columns each (the nearest ones in the picture have been restored), nearly seventy feet high. They have campaniform (bell-shaped) capitals. On either side are seven rows of shorter columns, somewhat more than forty feet high. These, as may be indistinctly seen at the right of our picture, have capitals of a different type, called, from their origin rather than from their actual appearance, lotiform or lotus-bud capitals. There was a clerestory over the four central rows of columns, with windows in its walls. The general plan, therefore, of this hypostyle hall has some resemblance to that of a Christian basilica, but the columns are much more numerous and closely set. Walls and columns were covered with hieroglyphic texts and sculptured and painted scenes. The total effect of this colossal piece of architecture, even in its ruin, is one of overwhelming majesty. No other work of human hands strikes the beholder with such a sense of awe.

Fig. 9 is a restoration of one of the central columns of this hall. Except for one fault, say Messrs. Perrot and Chipiez,[Footnote: "Histoire de l'Art Egypte," page 576. The translation given above differs from that in the English edition of Perrot and Chipiez, "Art in Ancient Egypt," Vol. II., page 123.] "this column would be one of the most admirable creations of art; it would hardly be inferior to the most perfect columns of Greece." The one fault-a grave one to a critical eye-is the meaningless and inappropriate block inserted between the capital and the horizontal beam which it is the function of the column to support. The type of column used in the side aisles of the hall at Karnak is illustrated by Fig. 10, taken from another temple. It is much less admirable, the contraction of the capital toward the top producing an unpleasant effect.

Other specimens of these two types of column vary widely from those of Karnak, for Egyptian architects did not feel obliged, like Greek architects, to conform, with but slight liberty of deviation, to established canons of form and proportion. Nor are these two by any means the only forms of support used in the temple architecture of the New Empire. The "proto-Doric" column continued in favor under the New Empire, though apparently not later; we find it, for example, in some of the outlying buildings at Karnak. Then there was the column whose capital was adorned with four heads in relief of the goddess Hathor, not to speak of other varieties. Whatever the precise form of the support, it was always used to carry a horizontal beam. Although the Egyptians were familiar from very early times with the principle of the arch, and although examples of its use occur often enough under the New Empire, we do not find columns or piers used, as in Gothic architecture, to carry a vaulting. In fact, the genuine vault is absent from Egyptian temple architecture, although in the Temple of Abydos false or corbelled vaults (cf. page 49) do occur.

Egyptian architects were not gifted with a fine feeling for structural propriety or unity. A few of their small temples are simple and coherent in plan and fairly tasteful in details. But it is significant that a temple could always be enlarged by the addition of parts not contemplated in the original des

ign. The result in such a case was a vast, rambling edifice, whose merits consisted in the imposing character of individual parts, rather than in an organic and symmetrical relation of parts to whole.

Statues of the New Empire are far more numerous than those of any other period, but few of them will compare in excellence with the best of those of the Old Empire. Colossal figures of kings abound, chiseled with infinite patience from granite and other obdurate rocks. All these and others may be passed over in order to make room for a statue in the Louvre (Fig. 11), which is chosen, not because of its artistic merits, but because of its material and its subject. It is of bronze, somewhat over three feet in height, thus being the largest Egyptian bronze statue known. It was cast in a single piece, except for the arms, which were cast separately and attached. The date of it is in dispute, one authority assigning it to the Eighteenth Dynasty and another bringing it down as late as the seventh century B.C. Be that as it may, the art of casting hollow bronze figures is of high antiquity in Egypt. The figure represents a hawk-headed god, Horus, who once held up some object, probably a vase for libations. Egyptian divinities are often represented with the heads of animals- Anubis with the head of a jackal, Hathor with that of a cow, Sebek with that of a crocodile, and so on. This in itself shows a lack of nobility in the popular theology. Moreover it is clear that the best talents of sculptors were engaged upon portraits of kings and queens and other human beings, not upon figures of the gods. The latter exist by the thousand, to be sure, but they are generally small statuettes, a few inches high, in bronze, wood, or faience. And even if sculptors had been encouraged to do their best in bodying forth the forms of gods, they would hardly have achieved high success. The exalted imagination was lacking.

Among the innumerable painted bas-reliefs covering the walls of tombs and temples, those of the great Temple of Abydos in Upper Egypt hold a high place. One enthusiastic art critic has gone so far as to pronounce them "the most perfect, the most noble bas- reliefs ever chiseled." A specimen of this work, now, alas! more defaced than is here shown, is given in Fig. 12. King Seti I. of the Nineteenth Dynasty stands in an attitude of homage before a seated divinity, of whom almost nothing appears in the illustration. On the palm of his right hand he holds a figure of Maat, goddess of truth. In front of him is a libation-standard, on which rests a bunch of lotus flowers, buds, and leaves. The first remark to be made about this work is that it is genuine relief. The forms are everywhere modeled, whereas in much of what is commonly called bas-relief in Egypt, the figures are only outlined and the spaces within the outlines are left flat. As regards the treatment of the human figure, we have here the stereotyped Egyptian conventions. The head, except the eye, is in profile, the shoulders in front view, the abdomen in three-quarters view, the legs again in profile. As a result of the distortion of the body, the arms are badly attached at the shoulders. Furthermore the hands, besides being very badly drawn, have in this instance the appearance of being mismated with the arms, while both feet look like right feet. The dress consists of the usual loin-cloth and of a thin, transparent over-garment, indicated only by a line in front and below. Now surely no one will maintain that these methods and others of like sort which there is no opportunity here to illustrate are the most artistic ever devised. Nevertheless serious technical faults and shortcomings may coexist with great merits of composition and expression. So it is in this relief of Seti. The design is stamped with unusual refinement and grace. The theme is hackneyed enough, but its treatment here raises it above the level of commonplace.

Egyptian bas-reliefs were always completely covered with paint, laid on in uniform tints. Paintings on a flat surface differ in no essential respect from these painted bas-reliefs. The conventional and untruthful methods of representing the human form, as well as other objects-buildings, landscapes, etc.-are the same in the former as in the latter. The coloring, too, is of the same sort, there being no attempt to render gradations of color due to the play of light and shade. Fig. 13, a lute-player from a royal tomb of the Eighteenth Dynasty, illustrates some of these points. The reader who would form an idea of the composition of extensive scenes must consult works more especially devoted to Egyptian art. He will be rewarded with many a vivid picture of ancient Egyptian life.

Art was at a low ebb in Egypt during the centuries of Libyan and Ethiopian domination which succeeded the New Empire. There was a revival under the Saite monarchy in the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. To this period is assigned a superb head of dark green stone (Fig. 14), recently acquired by the Berlin Museum. It has been broken from a standing or kneeling statue. The form of the closely-shaven skull and the features of the strong face, wrinkled by age, have been reproduced by the sculptor with unsurpassable fidelity. The number of works emanating from the same school as this is very small, but in quality they represent the highest development of Egyptian sculpture. It is fit that we should take our leave of Egyptian art with such a work as this before us, a work which gives us the quintessence of the artistic genius of the race.

Babylonia was the seat of a civilization perhaps more hoary than that of Egypt. The known remains of Babylonian art, however, are at present far fewer than those of Egypt and will probably always be so. There being practically no stone in the country and wood being very scarce, buildings were constructed entirely of bricks, some of them merely sun-dried, others kiln-baked. The natural wells of bitumen supplied a tenacious mortar. [Footnote: Compare Genesis XI 3: "And they had brick for stone and slime had they for mortar."] The ruins that have been explored at Tello, Nippur, and elsewhere, belong to city walls, houses, and temples. The most peculiar and conspicuous feature of the temple was a lofty rectangular tower of several stages, each stage smaller than the one below it. The arch was known and used in Babylonia from time immemorial. As for the ornamental details of buildings, we know very little about them except that large use was made of enameled bricks.

The only early Babylonian sculptures of any consequence that we possess are a collection of broken reliefs and a dozen sculptures in the round, found in a group of mounds called Tello and now in the Louvre. The reliefs are extremely rude. The statues are much better and are therefore probably of later date, they are commonly assigned by students of Babylonian antiquities to about 3000 B.C. Fig. 15 reproduces one of them. The material, as of the other statues found at the same place, is a dark and excessively hard igneous rock (dolerite). The person represented is one Gudea, the ruler of a small semi-independent principality. On his lap he has a tablet on which is engraved the plan of a fortress, very interesting to the student of military antiquities. The forms of the body are surprisingly well given, even the knuckles of the fingers being indicated. As regards the drapery, it is noteworthy that an attempt has been made to render folds on the right breast and the left arm. The skirt of the dress is covered with an inscription in cuneiform characters.

Fig. 16 belongs to the same group of sculptures as the seated figure just discussed. Although this head gives no such impression of lifelikeness as the best Egyptian portraits, it yet shows careful study. Cheeks, chin, and mouth are well rendered. The eyelids, though too wide open, are still good; notice the inner corners. The eyebrows are less successful. Their general form is that of the half of a figure 8 bisected vertically, and the hairs are indicated by slanting lines arranged in herring-bone fashion. Altogether, the reader will probably feel more respect than enthusiasm for this early Babylonian art and will have no keen regret that the specimens of it are so few.

The Assyrians were by origin one people with the Chaldeans and were therefore a branch of the great Semitic family. It is not until the ninth century B.C. that the great period of Assyrian history begins. Then for two and a half centuries Assyria was the great conquering power of the world. Near the end of the seventh century it was completely annihilated by a coalition of Babylonia and Media.

With an insignificant exception or two the remains of Assyrian buildings and sculptures all belong to the period of Assyrian greatness. The principal sites where explorations have been carried on are Koyunjik (Nineveh), Nimroud, and Khorsabad, and the ruins uncovered are chiefly those of royal palaces. These buildings were of enormous extent. The palace of Sennacherib at Nineveh, for example, covered more than twenty acres. Although the country possessed building stone in plenty, stone was not used except for superficial ornamentation, baked and unbaked bricks being the architect's sole reliance. This was a mere blind following of the example of Babylonia, from which Assyria derived all its culture. The palaces were probably only one story in height. Their principal splendor was in their interior decoration of painted stucco, enameled bricks, and, above all, painted reliefs in limestone or alabaster.

The great Assyrian bas-reliefs covered the lower portions of the walls of important rooms. Designed to enrich the royal palaces, they drew their principal themes from the occupations of the kings. We see the monarch offering sacrifice before a divinity, or, more often, engaged in his favorite pursuits of war and hunting. These extensive compositions cannot be adequately illustrated by two or three small pictures. The most that can be done is to show the sculptor's method of treating single figures. Fig. 17 is a slab from the earliest series we possess, that belonging to the palace of Asshur-nazir-pal (884-860 B.C.) at Nimroud. It represents the king facing to right, with a bowl for libation in his right hand and his bow in his left, while a eunuch stands fronting him. The artistic style exhibited here remains with no essential change throughout the whole history of Assyrian art. The figures are in profile, except that the king's further shoulder is thrown forward in much the fashion which we have found the rule in Egypt, and the eyes appear as in front view. Both king and attendant are enveloped in long robes, in which there is no indication of folds, though fringes and tassels are elaborately rendered. The faces are of a strongly marked Semitic cast, but without any attempt at portraiture. The hair of the head ends in several rows of snail-shell curls, and the king's beard has rows of these curls alternating with more natural-looking portions. Little is displayed of the body except the fore-arms, whose anatomy, though intelligible, is coarse and false. As for minor matters, such as the too high position of the ears, and the unnatural shape of the king's right hand, it is needless to dwell upon them. A cuneiform inscription runs right across the relief, interrupted only by the fringes of the robes.

Fig. 18 shows more distinctly the characteristic Assyrian method of representing the human head. Here are the same Semitic features, the eye in front view, and the strangely curled hair and beard. The only novelty is the incised line which marks the iris of the eye. This peculiarity is first observed in work of Sargon's time (722-705 B. C.).

A constant and striking feature of the Assyrian palaces was afforded by the great, winged, human-headed bulls, which flanked the principal doorways. The one herewith given (Fig. 19) is from Sargon's palace at Khorsabad. The peculiar methods of Assyrian sculpture are not ill suited to this fantastic creature, an embodiment of force and intelligence. One special peculiarity will not escape the attentive observer. Like all his kind, except in Sennacherib's palace, this bull has five legs. He was designed to be looked at from directly in front or from the side, not from an intermediate point of view.

Assyrian art was not wholly without capacity for improvement. Under Asshur-bam-pal (668-626), the Sardanapalus of the Greeks, it reached a distinctly higher level than ever before. It is from his palace at Nineveh that the slab partially shown in Fig. 20 was obtained. Two demons, with human bodies, arms, and legs, but with lions' heads, asses' ears, and eagles' talons, confront one another angrily, brandishing daggers in their right hands. Mesopotamian art was fond of such creatures, but we do not know precisely what meaning was attached to the present scene. We need therefore consider only stylistic qualities. As the two demons wear only short skirts reaching from the waist to the knees, their bodies are more exposed than those of men usually are. We note the inaccurate anatomy of breast, abdomen, and back, in dealing with which the sculptor had little experience to guide him. A marked difference is made between the outer and the inner view of the leg, the former being treated in the same style as the arms in Fig. 17. The arms are here better, because less exaggerated. The junction of human shoulders and animal necks is managed with no sort of verisimilitude. But the heads, conventionalized though they are, are full of vigor. One can almost hear the angry snarl and see the lightning flash from the eyes.

It is, in fact, in the rendering of animals that Assyrian art attains to its highest level. In Asshur-bam-pal's palace extensive hunting scenes give occasion for introducing horses, dogs, wild asses, lions, and lionesses, and these are portrayed with a keen eye for characteristic forms and movements. One of the most famous of these animal figures is the lioness shown in Fig. 21. The creature has been shot through with three great arrows. Blood gushes from her wounds. Her hind legs are paralyzed and drag helplessly behind her. Yet she still moves forward on her fore- feet and howls with rage and agony. Praise of this admirable figure can hardly be too strong. This and others, of equal merit redeem Assyrian art.

As has been already intimated, these bas-reliefs were always colored, though, it would seem, only partially, whereas Egyptian bas-reliefs were completely covered with color.

Of Assyrian stone sculpture in the round nothing has yet been said. A few pieces exist, but their style is so essentially like that of the bas-reliefs that they call for no separate discussion. More interesting is the Assyrian work in bronze. The most important specimens of this are some hammered reliefs, now in the British Museum, which originally adorned a pair of wooden doors in the palace of Shalmaneser III. at Balawat. The art of casting statuettes and statues in bronze was also known and practiced, as it had been much earlier in Babylonia, but the examples preserved to us are few. For the decorative use which the Assyrians made of color, our principal witnesses are then enameled bricks. These are ornamented with various designs-men, genii, animals, and floral patterns-in a few rich colors, chiefly blue and yellow. Of painting, except in the sense of mural decoration, there is no trace.

Egypt and Mesopotamia are, of all the countries around the Mediterranean the only seats of an important, indigenous art, antedating that of Greece. Other countries of Western Asia-Syria, Phrygia, Phenicia, Persia, and so on-seem to have been rather recipients and transmitters than originators of artistic influences. For Egypt, Assyria, and the regions just named did not remain isolated from one another. On the contrary, intercourse both friendly and hostile was active, and artistic products, at least of the small and portable kind, were exchanged. The paths of communication were many, but there is reason for thinking that the Phenicians, the great trading nation of early times, were especially instrumental in disseminating artistic ideas. To these influences Greece was exposed before she had any great art of her own. Among the remains of prehistoric Greece we find, besides some objects of foreign manufacture, others, which, though presumably of native origin, are yet more or less directly inspired by Egyptian or oriental models. But when the true history of Greek art begins, say about 600 B. C., the influences from Egypt and Asia sink into insignificance. It may be that the impulse to represent gods and men in wood or stone was awakened in Greece by the example of older communities. It may be that one or two types of figures were suggested by foreign models. It may be that a hint was taken from Egypt for the form of the Doric column and that the Ionic capital derives from an Assyrian prototype. It is almost certain that the art of casting hollow bronze statues was borrowed from Egypt. And it is indisputable that some ornamental patterns used in architecture and on pottery were rather appropriated than invented by Greece. There is no occasion for disguising or underrating this indebtedness of Greece to her elder neighbors. But, on the other hand, it is important not to exaggerate the debt. Greek art is essentially self-originated, the product of a unique, incommunicable genius. As well might one say that Greek literature is of Asiatic origin, because, forsooth, the Greek alphabet came from Phenicia, as call Greek art the offspring of Egyptian or oriental art because of the impulses received in the days of its beginning. [Footnote: This comparison is perhaps not original with the present writer.]

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