Greece and Egypt
1. Greek Art.
Albeit, before I proceed with my task, do not be surprised if, like Charles the First's executioner, Brandon, I kneel to kiss the hand of my victim, if only by so doing I may seem to you to understand the grave nature of my business, and satisfy you
Goethe says somewhere that, if we find fault with Euripides at all we should do so on bended knees. It seems to me that this ought also to be the attitude of people and critics in this age who attempt to value what the Greeks achieved in the graphic arts. For the earnestness and vigour wherewith, collectively, they set up their triumphs and ideals in stone and marble, the moment any opportunity arose for them to affirm and exalt their type, is deserving of the utmost praise and admiration.
Too many great writers have exalted the Greeks, however, to make it necessary for me to edify "you with any long and enthusiastic praise of those qualities which Nietzsche admired in them.
Fairness alone, therefore, compels me to acknowledge the grandeur of the type their art advocates. With Nietzsche I can but extol the yea-saying of this type to the passions, to beauty, to health, in fact to life. The fearlessness of the Greeks before beauty was their acknowledgment that life was a blessing to which it was worth while to be lured and seduced. And their innocent acceptance of the strongest passions is sufficient to show to what extent they had not only mastered them, but had also enlisted them into their service.
Nevertheless, though it is only decent to exercise some reserve in this matter, it certainly is necessary to point to a curious fact in regard to Greek Art
In examining the works of the seventh, sixth and fifth centuries before Christ, it is well to bear in mind the peculiar state of the country in which they appeared, its division into states, and its mixed population. It is well to think of the many ideals that dominated these people, and of the fact that the citizen of one city was often regarded as an alien, without any political rights whatever, if he ventured to transfer his abode to another city but a few miles distant from his own; and allowances should be made for the rivalry and competition this state of affairs conduced to bring about. It is also well to remember the individual lives the colonists lived, and the altered outlook on life to which their independent positions were bound to lead, and which, when they returned to their mother city, as many of them used to do, must
Although a certain uniformity can be traced in the political history of most Greek states, no one would dare to maintain that the Greeks, at any time in their history, were a perfectly united people observing the same values; whilst even in the history of each separate state, changes occurred so constantly that a stable political type is a rare and practically negligible fact.
In spite of the many heroes and geniuses which arose from time to time, there never seems to have been that power, either human or superhuman, which might have welded these peoples indissolubly together, or which, taking its root in one of the contending races, could have made that race completely absorb and digest the others.
Even the games of Greece, which, it might be argued, tended to unite the various peoples, cannot be said to have gone very far in this respect, since the very fact that the Hellenic nation enforced a sacred armistice during the month of the games, between states that were at war, shows that the most this institution could achieve was a suspension' of arms.
On the whole, therefore, the fact that one can talk of different types as characteristic of particular schools or ideals is amply accounted for, and when the general spirit of rivalry that animated the whole nation for centuries is duly taken into consideration it is not difficult to explain a certain preponderance of manifold characteristics over simplicity, which is
For, when technique is largely mastered, realism, as I have shown in the case of Mediæval and Renaissance Art, may in a great measure be the outcome of a desire to make one's own particular ideal unmistakably plain, and although this kind of truth to nature always reveals a clashing of values or types, it is of a kind which may be regarded as infinitely superior to the realism which has nothing to say at all, and which merely copies out of poverty of invention.
When talking to strangers about an ideal they do not share with you, it is necessary to bring all your powers to bear upon an adequate and perfectly vivid representation of what you have in your mind.
I, on this platform, assuming that Nietzsche as an art valuer was strange to you, had to present him to you with all the realism and detail I could dispose of. If I had been talking to people who
1 See Edward A. Freeman, The Chief Periods of European History, p. 6: "The mission of the Greek race was to be the teachers, the beacons, of mankind, but not their rulers." Page 9: "The tale of Hellas shows us a glorified ideal of human powers, held up to the world for a moment; to show what man can be, but to show us also that such he cannot be for long."
This same feeling, I believe, partly explains the tendency to realism in Greek art. And it is precisely to this tendency to realism that I think it is now high time to call attention, after all the fulsome praise which has for ages been lavished upon the products of the Hellenic spirit.
When you turn to the granite statue of the Egyptian goddess Sekhet in the Louvre, or to the lions of Gebel Barkal in the Egyptian Gallery of the British Museum, you are conscious of a sensation of great strangeness, of humiliating unfamiliarity, of almost incalculable distance. You may look at these things for a moment and wonder what they mean; you may even pass on with a feeling of indifference amounting to scorn; 1 but whatever your sensations are, you will be quite unable to deny that what you have seen does not belong to your world, that it is utterly and completely separated from you, and that you felt in need of a guide and of an initiator in its presence.
You may laugh at the lions of Gebel Barkal, you may deny that they are beautiful; but, whoever you are, scholar, poet, painter or layman, you will
1 The attitude of such men as Lübke and Winckelmann to Egyptian art is typical of the lack of understanding with which modern Europeans have approached the monuments of the Nile. See History of Sculpture, by Dr. Wilhelm Lübke, Vol. I, pp. 2225, and History of Ancient Art, by John Winckelmann, Vol. I, pp. 169, 171, 175.
If you have not been to Athens, you must not suppose that you have missed much, as far as the Parthenon is concerned. Unless you are very modern and very romantic, and can take pleasure in visiting a gruesome ruin by moonlight, you would be only depressed and disappointed by the decayed and ugly mass of stones that now stands like a battered skeleton on the Acropolis. You may take it, therefore, that, as you stand in the Elgin Room, you have around you the best that the Parthenon could yield after its partial destruction and dismantlement in 1687 by the victorious Veneto-German army. And what is it that you see?
Remember that you are a man of the twentieth century A.D., and that you have just been bored
In spite of all this, however, you will walk up to the horse's head at the extreme right of the Eastern pediment of the Parthenon, and the two thousand and four hundred years that separate you from it will vanish as by magic.
For years I have taken men, women and children up to this horse's head. In some cases these people have been technical connoisseurs of a horse's points; in others they have been mere bourgeois people, indifferent both to the art of Greece and to equine anatomy; and with the children I was concerned with raw manhood that cared not a jot for Art, and whose one sole, savage instinct was to recognize and classify what was before them.
If you supposed, however, that the verdict of these different people was anything but unanimous, you would be vastly mistaken. The children cried with delight. Their powers of recognizing things was stimulated to the utmost. One of them told me it was like a real bus-horse. The connoisseurs of a horse's points began to draw plausible conclusions from the existing head as to the probable conformation of the body which the artist had deliberately omitted, and the bourgeois people declared that they loved the fascinating softness and convincing looseness of the mouth. All of them were charmed.
Their comments on the Parthenon Frieze were much the same. Once or twice one of them would say that there was a monotonous similarity of feature in the men and in the horses a comment which immediately revealed to me that 2,400 years had indeed wrought some change. On the whole, however, the attitude of those I escorted amazed me; for, with but few exceptions, it was one of sympathy and understanding. I will not say that I did not stimulate their interest a good deal, by making them feel that their criticism was valuable to me; I will not pretend that if they had been alone they would have troubled to concentrate their minds to any great extent upon the exhibits around them; but this I will affirm, with absolute confidence: that if all the men, women and children who stream through the Elgin Room daily were given the same stimulus to exercise their critical faculty, and were similarly induced to give particular attention to all they saw, the sympathy and understanding which I observed among the groups of visitors I escorted would be found to be a fairly general, if not a common occurrence.
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The Apollo of Tenea
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B. The Apollo of Tenea.
When I first halted before this bewilderingly beautiful statue in the Glyptothek at Munich, I felt I was in the presence of something very much more masterful, very much more impressive, and infinitely more commanding than anything Greek I had ever seen in London, Paris, or Athens.
Here was a style which was strange. But it was evidently a style which was the product of a will, and of a long observance of particular values that had at last culminated in a type; for this Apollo resembled nothing modern, Egyptian, Assyrian, Mediæval, or of the Renaissance.
This statue scorns to make a general appeal. It is the apotheosis of a type. Of this there can be no question. It is the work of a loving and powerful artist, who could simplify the human frame, and express stenographically, so to speak, the essential features of the people he represented, because he knew the essential features to which their values aspired.
The arms, alone, transcend everything that I have ever seen in Hellenic Art for consummate skill in transfiguring and retaining bare essentials alone; and although, here and there, particularly in the breast, there is a broadness and a sweeping ease, which I admit ought to be attributed more to incomplete control of essentials than to their actual
I would deny that the qualities of this statue are not ultimate qualities. I would deny that there is anything transitional or archaic in them. What is archaic, what is transitional, is the weak treatment of the chest and abdomen. Compared with the simplified chest and abdomen of an Egyptian statue of the fourth or fifth dynasty, it shows a minimum rather than a maximum of command of, and superiority over, reality. Any healthy development of such an art, however, ought only to have led to greater perfection in the treatment of the parts mentioned, and I seriously question the general belief that it marks a progress in sculpture which must ultimately lead to the rendering of the athletic types for which the sculptors of Argos and Sicyon became famous. There is something strange and foreign in this statue which does not reappear in the Hellenic Art of the Periclean
1 This view seems quite opposed to that of a great authority on the subject, Mr. A. S. Murray; but how this author comes to the conclusion that ". . . in describing the progress of sculpture from its early days to its highest development, it is convenient to speak of it as a gradual elimination of realism," I am quite at a loss to understand. See A History of Greek Sculpture, p. 239.
And yet, as I have shown, it cannot be regarded as a perfect specimen of Ruler-art; there are too many uncertainties and too many doubts in it.
As marking an advanced stage in a very high class of Ruler-art, however, it is magnificent, and any transformation of its form to greater realism would be a descent, rather than an ascent, in taste.
If you turn from it to the sculptures of the temple of Selinus, which, as far as one can say, must have been carved not more than about half a century earlier, you will see that these are indeed archaic. They are beneath realism in their coarseness and crudity. But it is in the sculptures of Selinus, and not in the Apollo of Tenea, or in the best vases of the sixth century, that you must seek the motive spirit of the Art which has made the Periclean age so glorious; This striving after realism, although unsuccessful in the metopes of Selinus, reveals a different aspiration, a totally different will, from that which created the Munich Apollo, and it was precisely this aspiration that was fully realized, with but a slight admixture of the other will, in Athens of the fifth century.
Some will say that Egyptian influence is apparent in the Apollo of Tenea, and they will add that the
Both of these suggestions are perfectly legitimate. The Apollo of Tenea either betrays Egyptian influence or, owing to its Ruler form, it takes one's mind back involuntarily to the Ruler-art of the Nile. The sculptures of Selinus may also be the outcome of the conscious renunciation of Eastern influence, or they may be the manifestation of a particular "Art-Will," as Worringer has it, which aimed at realism and was quite guiltless of any other ulterior motive. In both cases I favour the latter alternative, and I should like to believe that in addition to the influences I have already mentioned in respect of realism there were two Art-Wills active in ancient Greece each striving for supremacy and power.
1 See The Chief Periods of European History, pp. 2123. See also Bury, History of Greece, Chaps. IV and V.
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The Medusa Metope of Selinus
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This is not the usual view, I know. As a rule, the art of the age of Pericles is considered to be the highest that Greece ever produced. But in this art I see a preponderance of realism which reveals to what extent the other and inferior will was beginning to prevail. And when I study Hellenistic art, and see this evil assuming such proportions as to make even modern historians and Art-scholars deliberately denounce it, I cannot help but recognize the germs of this decay in the art which hitherto has been most praised and admired.
As I say, I am judging purely from the artistic records. But I have no doubt that, if I possessed the necessary scholarship, I could trace the two Art-wills to two distinct races of men who, from the days of the fall of Mycenæan culture, strove for mastership in Greece. I also entertain no
1 In studying the actual decline of Greek art it would, I think, be very necessary to lay some stress upon the part taken by the people in general, in judging and criticizing artistic productions under the democracies. See Rev. J. Mahaffy (Social Life in Greece), who is talking entirely from the Hellenic standpoint, p. 440: "The really vital point was the public nature of the work they (the Athenian Demos) demanded; it was not done to please private and peculiar taste, it was not intended for the criticism of a small clique of partial admirers, but it was set up, or performed for all the city together, for the fastidious, for the vulgar, for the learned, and for the ignorant. It seems to me that this necessity, and the consequent broad intention of the Greek artist, is the main reason why its effects upon the world has never been diminished, and why its lessons are eternal" (the italics are mine).
Professor Ridgeway's Early Age of Greece leads me to suppose that the problem might be solved in the way I suggest. But, in any case, whether this is so or not, the style of the art of Pheidias shows a descent from the style of the Apollo of Tenea, which only an age with a mistaken conception of what art really is could possibly have overlooked.
The art of the fifth and fourth centuries, I will not and cannot deny, contains a large proportion of Ruler form, or what modern and ancient art-historians call the "ideal." 1 No people, any por-
1 T. G. Tucker, in his Life in Ancient Greece, does his best to reconcile the realism of Greek art with the "ideal," and helps himself out of the difficulty by reasserting Schelling's claim in The Philosophy of Art (see note to p. 91 in this book). Mr. Tucker says, p. 186: "Many people imagine that Greek sculpture to take that salient province again deliberately avoided truth to Nature, and aimed at some utterly conventional thing called the ideal. Nothing could be more mistaken. The whole aim of Greek sculpture was to reproduce the living man or woman, and the sublime of its execution was attained only when the carving seemed instinct with life a life not merely of the limbs, but a life of the soul, which informed the countenance, and was felt to be controlling every limb. A Greek sculptor like Praxiteles studied long and lovingly. . . . To anatomy he is as true as an artist need wish to be. But are not his figures ideal? Doubtless, but what does 'ideal' mean? That they are abstract, conventional, or frankly superhuman? Anything but that. It means simply that he carves figures which, while entirely true to strict anatomy, entirely lifelike
The appreciation which it has met with at the hands of almost all Europeans of all ages, and particularly at the hands of the Renaissance realists, shows how general its appeal has been; and no art which has been so very much above Nature as to apotheosize the particular values of a particular people at its zenith, has ever made such a general appeal.
In speaking of the great style of the Greeks, in painting a style which vanished with the sixth century, he says
"The great style of the Greeks in painting that style which was theirs before a stage chiaroscuro and imitation of Nature were brought in by the Appellesian school, rises up before us with inefface-
in all their delicate modelling . . . are examples of nature in happiest circumstances. . . ."
When it is remembered that the demands of theatrical scenery are generally admitted to have exercised considerable influence over Greek painting, we need feel no surprise at the necessarily vulgar nature of its ultimate development; while in raising this point about chiaroscuro, Okakura-Kakuzo really opens a very serious and needful inquiry.
It may be seriously questioned whether the chiaroscuro which Apollodorus is said to have introduced in the fifth century was not the worst possible blow that has ever been levelled at Ruler-Art, and it is difficult to separate this discovery from the people who made it.
Once it is recognized that chiaroscuro implies a blending of colours together, an elimination of all those sharp contrasts which the compromising spirit of a democratic age cannot abide, and a general hugging and embracing of all colours by each other, at the cost of the life of all definite lines; once it is acknowledged, moreover, that all gradations and blurred zones of contact lead inevitably to the very worst forms of Police Art, such as Zeuxis, Parrhasius and Timanthus practised, and that escape from realism is not only difficult, but almost impossible under such con-
1 Ideals of the East, p. 53.
You have noticed that until now I have not compared the Periclean art of Greece with the art of any other country, but simply with what is generally called the archaic art of Greece itself. I have spoken Only of the Apollo of Tenea, and of certain promising features in the sixth-century sculptures which were discovered on the Acropolis within recent years.
1 I am quite willing with Mr. Gardner to acknowledge the superiority of the latter over the former. See Handbook to Greek Sculpture, p. 216 et seq.
2 Encyclopædia Britannica (9th Edition), Article, "Egypt."
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We now know too much to believe that the noble simplicity of King Khephrën the builder of the second pyramid of Gizeh is the result of incompetence or of limited means in dealing with the stone out of which he was carved. No artist who follows the careful lines and profiles of this statue, and who understands the broad grasp with which each undulation, however sweeping, comprehends and comprises all that is essential and indispensable, can doubt for an instant that the sculptor who carved it was not only capable of realism, but infinitely superior to it. And he who does not admire the consummate Ruler form of this statue, and see in it the expression of the greatest artistic power that has ever existed on earth, and probably the portrait of the greatest human power that has ever existed on earth, confesses himself, immediately, unfamiliar with the fundamental spirit of great art. 1
The type of King Khephrën it is quite impossible to admire and to like, unless one is to some extent
1 See Dr. Petrie, A History of Egypt. On page 54 of this book the author says, speaking of King Khephrën: "It is a marvel of art; the precision of the expression combining what a man should be to win our feelings, and what a King should be to command our regard. The subtlety shown in this combination of expression the ingenuity in the overshadowing hawk, which does not interfere with the front view; the technical ability in executing this in so resisting a material all unite in fixing our regard on, this as one of the leading examples of ancient art,"
Here is to be seen that autocratic mode of expression which brooks neither contradiction nor disobedience; the Symmetry which makes the spectator obtain a complete grasp of an idea; the Sobriety which reveals the restraint that a position of command presupposes; the Simplicity proving the power of a great mind that has overcome the chaos in itself and has reflected its order and harmony upon an object, the most essential features of which it has selected with unfailing accuracy; the Transfiguration that betrays the Dionysian ecstasy and pathos from which the artist gives of himself to reality and makes it reflect his own glory back upon him; the Repetition which ensures obedience, and finally the Variety which is the indispensable condition of all living Art. 1
For the artist who carved this monument was no
1 Georges Perrot and Charles Chipiez, A History of Art in Ancient Egypt, Vol. II, p. 239: "The true originality of the Egyptian style consists in its deliberately epitomizing that upon which the artists of other countries have elaborately dwelt in its lavishing all its executive powers upon chief masses and leading lines, and in the marvellous judgment with which it seizes their real meaning, their proportion and the sources of their artistic effect."
How was this possible? How were these values maintained so long?
In the first place, it can now be affirmed with confidence that the Egyptians, in the days of Khephrën, were a very pure and united race, having remained, thanks to their isolated position on the Delta of the Nile, aloof and free from the ethical and blood influence of the foreigner for probably thousands of years. Secondly, everybody seems to agree that, whatever its ultimate purity may have been, the Egyptian people, thanks to the inordinate power of their values, certainly had a capacity for absorbing and digesting foreign elements which was simply extraordinary; 1 and, thirdly, we have it on the
1 A History of Egypt, by Dr. Henry Brugsch-Bey, Vol. I, p. 7: "Although in so long a space of time as sixty centuries, events and revolutions of great historical importance must of necessity have altered the political state of Egypt, yet, notwithstanding all, the old Egyptian race has undergone but little change; for it still preserves to this day those distinctive features of physiognomy, and those peculiarities of manners and customs, which have been handed down to us by the united testimony of the monuments and the accounts of the ancient classical writers, as the hereditary characteristics of this people."
We can understand King Khephrën, then, only as the apotheosis of a type which was the product of the values of his people. For that they loved him and worshipped him quite willingly and quite heartily, no honest student of their history can any longer doubt.
It was with great rejoicings, and not, as Buckle and Spencer thought, with the woeful and haggard faces of ill-used slaves, that his people assembled annually to continue and to complete the building of his pyramid. Dr. Henry Brugsch-Bey, Wilkinson, Dr. Petrie, 2 and many others have cleared up
1 The Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians, Vol. I, p. 293.
2 A History of Egypt, p. 40: "It is said that a hundred thousand men were levied for three months at a time (i. e. during the three months of the inundation, when ordinary labour would be at a standstill); and on this scale the pyramid building occupied twenty years." [He is speaking of the Great Pyramid built by Kheops, Khephrën's predecessor; but this does not affect my contention.] "On reckoning number and weight of the stones, this labour would fully suffice for the work. The skilled masons had large barracks", now behind the second pyramid, which might hold even four thousand men; but perhaps a thousand would quite suffice to do all the fine work in the time. Hence there was no impossibility in the task, and no detriment to the country in employing a small proportion of the population at a season when they were all idle by the compulsion of natural causes.
For it was highly probable that King Khephrën had no standing army. It is certain that his predecessor had not. 3 It is even probable that he had
The training and skill which they would acquire by such work would be a great benefit to the national character."
And the same writer says in The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh, p. 211: "Thus we see that the traditional accounts that we have of the means employed in building the great Pyramid, require conditions of labour supply which are quite practicable in such a land, which would not be ruinous to the prosperity of the country, or oppressive to the people, and which would amply and easily suffice for the execution of their work."
1 History of Civilization in England (Ed. 1871), Vol. I, pp. 90, 91, 92, 93. And Herbert Spencer's Autobiography, Vol. II, pp. 341343.
2 Quite typical of Western inability to understand the basis of a patriarchal government, and of the misinterpretation of such a form, which writers like Buckle did their best to increase and spread, was the first Act of the play Fallen Idols, recently presented at His Majesty's Theatre, London, in which Egyptian slaves were seen cringing and crawling before an inhuman taskmaster, who continually lashed out at them with a big whip.
3 Fergusson, History of Architecture, Vol. I, p. 95: "Nor is our wonder less when we ask ourselves how it happened that such a people became so strongly organized at that early age as to be willing to undertake the greatest architectural works the world has since seen in honour of one man from among themselves. A king without an army, and with no claim, so far as we can see, to such an honour, beyond the common consent of all, which could hardly have been attained except by the title of long-inherited services acknowledged by the community at large." And on p. 94, speaking of the pictures in the Great Pyramid, the author
This power, there can no longer be any doubt, was the power of affection and profound and sincere reverence. An examination of the pyramids of Gizeh, alone, apart from all historical evidence, is sufficient to convince any one who has any knowledge of what forced labour produces, that love was very largely active in the work of these Egyptians of the third and fourth dynasties; 1 and, if we turn from the actual monuments themselves to the sculpture that adorned them, we become convinced that the people who built them were a united, law-abiding race, who recognized in Khephrën the highest product of their values.
says: "On these walls the owner of the tomb is usually represented seated, offering first-fruits on a simple table-altar to an unseen god. He is generally accompanied by his wife, and surrounded by his stewards, who enumerate his wealth in horned cattle, in oxen, in sheep and goats, in geese and ducks. In other pictures some are ploughing and sowing, some reaping or thrashing out corn, while others are tending his tame monkeys or cranes, and other domesticated pets. Music and dancing add to the circle of domestic enjoyments, and fowling and fishing occupy his days of leisure. No sign of soldiers or of warlike strife appears in any of these pictures, no arms, no chariots or horses. No camels suggest foreign travel."
1 I should like to reproduce here Fergusson's enthusiastic account of the work in the interior of the Great Pyramid. I have not space, however, and earnestly recommend readers to refer to it on pp. 93, 94 of Vol. I in his History of Architecture.
"I teach the priests what is their duty: I turn away the ignorant man from his ignorance. . . . The gods are full of delight in my time, and their temples celebrate feasts of joy. I have placed the boundaries of the land of Egypt at the horizon. I gave protection to those who were in trouble, and smote those who did evil against them. I placed Egypt at the head of all the nations, because its inhabitants are at one with me in the worship of Amon! " 1
He was a man the moral standards of whose people were in many respects higher than those of the Greeks; 2 he and his subjects felt very strongly the value of strength of character and of self-control; 3 though perhaps they laid "greater stress upon discretion and quietness than on any qualities of character. In the repudiation of sins an Egyptian would say: 'My mouth hath not run on;' 'My mouth hath not been hot;' 'My voice hath not been voluble in my speech;' 'My voice is not loud.'" 4
"Ptahotep urged similar discreetness; he said: 'Let thy heart be overflowing, but let thy mouth be
1 Dr. Henry Brugsch-Bey, History of Egypt under the Pharaohs, Vol. I, pp. 444445.
2 Dr. Petrie, Religion and Conscience in Ancient Egypt, p. 86.
3 Ibid., p. 112.
4 Ibid., p. 116.
Thus we find all the evidences of precisely that principle which goes to rear a great people the belief that restraint is necessary, and part of the art of life, and that in order to have one group of advantages, another group must be sacrificed.
For this is the principle of all great legislation; it is the principle of all great art, and it is the principle of all great life.
A great legislator has to discover what sacrifices his people can afford to make, what things they will be able for ever to discard in order to reap the advantages of a certain mode of life. His teaching must include restraint. It is the renunciation of some things and the careful cultivation of others that builds up a noble type. As Mr. Chesterton once observed, with really uncustomary wisdom, you cannot be King of England and the Beadle of Balham at the same time. To be the one you must sacrifice the advantages which are associated with the other. All values, all art, 3 and all life is based upon this principle that if you grasp all, you lose all; or, as Nietzsche has it: "The belief in the
1 Dr. Petrie, Religion and Conscience in Ancient Egypt, p. 116.
2 Ibid., p. 117. This moralist was Any.
3 G. E., p. 107: "Every artist knows how different from the state of letting himself go, is his 'most natural' condition, the free arranging, locating, disposing and constructing in the moments of 'inspiration' and how strictly and delicately he then obeys a thousand laws, which, by their very rigidness and precision, defy all formulation by means of ideas."
You may argue that the enjoyment of one set of joys is better in your opinion than the enjoyment of another set; but you cannot claim the enjoyment of all; that is impossible. It is only among an uncultured or democratic people that every one aspires to all pleasures, and it is precisely among such a people that some form of Puritanism becomes an urgent need that is to say, as a substitute for the art of life. 2 Because the indiscriminate pursuit of all joys perforce ends in failure, and therefore in unhappiness. But measure is the delight only of æsthetic natures; 3 hence, where the art of living has not yet been learned, some kind of severe puritanical morality will be a condition of existence, and if that is dropped excesses will soon begin to make their presence felt.
I do not wish you to imagine, therefore, that the Egyptians were an austere, ascetic and self-castigating race; on the contrary, as all authorities declare, they were full of the joy of life and of the love of life; 4 and it was precisely because they recognized well-defined limits in particular things that they could allow themselves a certain margin in others.
1 W. P., Vol. II, p. 309.
2 See Nietzsche's remarks on the great need of Christianity in England, G. E., p. 211.
3 W. P., Vol. II, p. 309.
4 See Brugsch-Bey, A History of Egypt, Vol. I, p. 25; Wilkinson, The Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians, Vol. I, p. 156; Georges Perrot and Charles Chipiez, A History of Art in Ancient Egypt, p. 38; Dr. Petrie, Religion and Conscience in Ancient Egypt, p. 162.
No one can command who has not first learnt to obey his own will. Nobody could command as that Man-God Khephrën commanded, 2 before he had become complete master of himself.
"He who cannot command himself shall obey," says Zarathustra. 3 And about five thousand years ago Ptahotep the great moralist of the fifth dynasty of Egypt said: "He that obeyeth his heart, shall command!" 4
This atmosphere is strange to us. We, who are used to seeing liberty and authority granted indiscriminately as ends in themselves, to everybody and anybody, find it difficult to realize this manner of thought. If we know of it at all, we misunderstand it and confound the moderation of weak natures with the restraint of the strong. 5
This art of life which takes as a fundamental principle that every joy is bought by some sacrifice,
1 See Wilkinson, Vol. I, p. 179.
2 See Ibid., p. 167. Where he is speaking of the Pharaohs he says: "By the practice of justice towards their subjects, they secured to themselves that good-will which was due from children to a parent . . . and this, Diodorus observes, was the main cause of the duration of the Egyptian state."
3 Z., III, LVI.
4 Dr. Petrie, Religion and Conscience in Ancient Egypt, p. 120.
5 W. P., Vol. II, p. 309.
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The Lady Nophret
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It cannot be said too often, therefore, that the Egyptians were a happy and contented people, and this they were because there was some power abroad in their world, and because he who wielded that power could make them believe that the human race was as high as a pyramid, although but one man perhaps could ever represent the apex.
I confess that when I drew near to these statues in the Museum at Cairo, it is no exaggeration to
1 History of Architecture, Vol. I, p. 95.
You must not gather, from what I have just said, that the Lady Nophret is in the slightest degree as vulgar or as commonplace as an ordinary waxwork figure or modern portrait. Though its vitality cannot be denied, 2 there are artistic qualities in the simple moulding of the figure which place it very much higher than the realistic work either of ancient Greece or of modern Europe. It is only beside the statue of King Khephrën that it appears so weak; and, as it is almost a contemporary of this magnificent person, the manner in which it has been presented to us by the artist seems to be a problem.
1 Miss Jane Harrison, Introductory Studies in Greek Art, p. 6.
2 Dr. Petrie, A History of Egypt, p. 35. Referring to the Lady Nophret and her husband, the author says (speaking quite in the style of a modern art-critic): "These statues are most expressive, and stand in their vitality superior to the works of any later age in Egypt."
When they are not realistic, then, it is because they do not wish to be; it is because they deliberately desire to rise above nature, to transfigure it, simplify it, and arrange it in fact, to be artists.
What, then, was the object of these realistic portrait-statues about which I have chosen to speak collectively in my references to the Lady Nophret?
They were never intended by the artist who made them to be seen by the eye of man. They were never intended to be works of Ruler-art, set up to emphasize and underline the values of a people. They had a definite purpose, of course, but this
1 On the walls of some of the tombs I inspected at Sakarah, the consummate mastery with which some of the minutest characteristics of domestic animals were represented in bold outline gave me a standard by the side of which even M. Boutet de Monvel's beautiful studies of animals seemed to fall into the shade. (See his illustrations to La Fontaine's fables.)
2 Models of the Scribe and of the Cheikh-el-Beled are to be seen at the British Museum; but they give one but a poor idea of the originals.
It was related to Death. 1 No realistic sculptural work was associated with Life by the ancient Egyptians. As men who were still able to believe in a Man-God, and were still convinced of the power of man-wrought miracles, how could they associate realism or that principle of manufacture whereby a man deliberately suppresses his will to art and makes himself subservient to nature how could they associate this with Life, Life which to these dwellers on the Nile was inextricably bound up with the hand, the thought, the will, and the power of man?
No these realistic sculptures which throw all our puerile Police Art into the shade were associated not with Life, but with the opposite of Life with Death, with underground tombs and sarcophagi, with mummies and musty mastabas, and with the hope of conquering Eternal Sleep.
The Egyptians believed that a living man consisted of a body, a Ka or ghost, and a Ba or soul. At death, the Ka and Ba were supposed to be liberated; but it was hoped that a day would nevertheless come when the Ka, which was the element in which the life of the deceased person was
1 Georges Perrot and Charles Chipiez, A History of Art in Ancient Egypt, Vol. II, p. 181. Speaking of these portrait statues, they say: "They were not ideal figures to which the desire for beauty of line and expression had much to say; they were stone bodies, bodies which had to reproduce all the individual contours of their flesh-and-blood originals; when the latter was ugly, its reproduction had to be ugly also, and ugly in the same way."
Accidents, however, might happen, thought the ancient Egyptians. The embalmed mummy might perish, it might be destroyed. What would the unfortunate Ka do, if it returned and found the mummy of its former body annihilated? A way out of this difficulty quickly occurred to the nimble minds of these imaginative people. If the mummy had perished, they thought, the Ka might possibly enter an effigy of its former body, provided that effigy were sufficiently lifelike. In this way the realistic Ka-statues were introduced, and for fear lest even these might perish, wealthy people would sometimes multiply their number to what would seem a ridiculous extent.
Once they were manufactured, these Ka-statues would be placed far away from the sight of living man, in the tomb of the departed person, and in this way his resurrection was supposed to be ensured. 1
For the Egyptians could imagine no world
1 See Georges Perrot and Charles Chipiez, A History of Art in Ancient Egypt, Vol. II, p. 181. Speaking of the arrangements which were necessary to enable the inhabitants of the tomb to resist annihilation, the authors say: "Those arrangements were of two kinds, a provision of food and drink, which had to be constantly renewed, either in fact or by the magic multiplication which followed prayer, and a permanent support for the Ka or double, a support that should fill the place of the living body of which it had been deprived by dissolution."
The realism of the Ka-statue of the Lady Nophret, therefore, need not frighten us. On the contrary, it only helps to throw the transfiguration and power of King Khephrën's diorite statue into greater relief. The Egyptians knew perfectly well that a Ka-statue was only a duplication, a copy, and a repetition of reality, and they knew also that its proper place was underground and out of sight. 1 If Lady Nophret and her companion Ka-statues had never been found, however, we might have believed, as many have believed, that the conventionalism of Egyptian sculpture was beneath instead of very much above Nature.
But even when we know what we do know, it is only with the utmost difficulty that an artist who is a child of this weak and impotent age can feel any love for these strange, transcendentally powerful, and almost superhuman figures in granite and diorite which the sculptors of Egypt have left us. The artist may perhaps get nearer to them than any one else in his age, because he, by virtue of the modicum of creative power that is in him, initiates himself almost automatically into the
1 Okakura-Kakuzo passes a funny remark in regard to our modern realistic portraits; he says: "In Western houses we are often confronted with what appears to us useless reiteration. We find it trying to talk to a man while his full-length portrait stares at us from behind his back. We wonder which is real, he of the picture, or he who talks, and feel a curious conviction that one of them must be a fraud." The Book of Tea, p. 97.
The style of the statue of King Khephrën, with but a few modifications, was the style of all Egyptian statuary until the days of Psammetichus, over two thousand years later: how can we, the changeable and restless children of Europe, understand these things?
The Pyramid, which in its form embodies all the highest qualities of great art, and all the highest principles of a healthy society, is the greatest artistic achievement that has been discovered hitherto.
This symbolic wedlock of Art and Sociology still stands, with all its six thousand years of age, on the threshold of the desert that is to say, on the threshold of chaos and disorder, where none but
In its synthesis of the three main canons, simplicity, repetition and variety, 1 nothing has ever excelled it; in its mystic utterance of the conditions of the ideal state, in which every member takes his place and ultimately succeeds in holding highest man uppermost and nearest the sun, it is unparalleled in history; and in its sacred revelation that Man can attain to some height if he chooses, that he can believe in Man the God, and Man the Hierophant, and Man the Prophet, if he chooses, and that he can be noble, happy, lasting and powerful in so doing in this treble advocacy of these sublime ideals, the pyramid and the Egyptians who created it stand absolutely alone in the history of the world.
The best in Greece was borrowed from them; the best we still possess is perhaps but a faint after-glow of their setting sun, and the cold and unfamiliar tone in which their art seems to appeal to modern men ought to prove to us how remote, how incalculably far off, they are from our insig-
1 See Hogarth, The Analysis of Beauty (Ed. 1753), p. 21: "There is no object composed of straight lines that has so much variety, with so few parts, as the pyramid: and it is its constantly varying from its base gradually upwards in every situation of the eye (without giving the idea of sameness as the eye moves round it) that has made it esteemed in all ages, in preference to the cone, which in all views appears nearly the same, being varied only by light and shade."
I cannot go into the details of their society with you now. I can but assure you that the more you read about it in the works of men like Wilkinson, Petrie and Brugsch-Bey, the more convinced you will become of its transcendental superiority. And if, in praising their art above that of any other nation, I have been forced to deal all too hastily with their morals and their State, it is simply because I can conceive of no such perfect art being possible, save as the flower of the noble and man-exalting values which I find at the base of the Egyptian Pyramid.
In identifying Nietzsche's art canon with that admired and respected by Egypt at its best, I have done nothing at all surprising to those who know Nietzsche's philosophy. Everything he says on Art in his maturest work, The Will to Power, drove me inevitably, not to Italy, not to Greece, not to Holland, and not to India but to the Valley of the Nile; while in two books already published I forestalled these lectures, in one respect, by declaring Nietzsche's ideal aristocratic state to have been based symbolically upon the idea of the Egyptian Pyramid.
Only a romantic idealist would have the sentimental fanaticism to stand up before you now to preach an Egyptian Renaissance. I wish to do
1 Z., III, LI.
This will at least give you a standard of measurement, according to which most of the culture of the present day will strike you as tawdry and putrescent. In this way a salutary change may be brought about, and the words of Disraeli concerning the Egyptians may also come true, in which he said: "The day may yet come when we shall do justice to the high powers of that mysterious and imaginative people." 1
Nothing can be done, however, until our type is purified, 2 until we have at least become a people. For until that time it will be impossible to discover a type which may become the subject-matter of the graphic arts.
"Upwards life striveth to build itself with columns and stairs: into remote distances it longeth to gaze: and outwards after blissful beauties therefore it needeth height!
1 Contarini Fleming.
2 W. P., Vol. II, p. 318: "Purification of taste can only be the result of strengthening of the type;" and p. 403: "Progress is the strengthening of the type, the ability to exercise great will power; everything else is a misunderstanding and a danger."
"Verily, he who here towered aloft his thought in stone knew as well as the wisest ones about the secret of life!
"That there is struggle and inequality even in beauty and war for power and supremacy: that doth he here teach us in the plainest parable.
"Thus spake Zarathustra." 1
1 Z., II, XXIX.