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spirit of repose and dignity which are lacking in the work of later periods. The Egyptians themselves thought this, for in the XXVIth dynasty, when the Saïte kings at tempted to revive the dying arts of sculpture and
painting, they took Palm-leaf capital. Hathor-headed
the works of the
capital. great artists of the IVth and Vth dynasties as their models. The men who made them were no mere hirelings, and their work shows that they tried to represent men and things as they saw thenı; the unbiassed will probably admit that they succeeded admirably in doing this. In the Cairo Museum are fine series of examples of statues, etc., of this period, which testify to the great skill of the Egyptian artists,
Ornate capital both as sculptors and
painters. It seems that the earliest statues were made of wood, like the earliest temples and other buildings, and as rare specimens of artistic work in wood the reader should note the panels from the tomb of Hesi at Şakşâra, which were made about B.C. 3,600; these panels are now in the Cairo Museum, and they are undoubtedly the finest known examples of that particular class of work. It is, as a
Canon of proportion. rule, to the private tombs that we must look for the best examples of artistic
work of all kinds, for the individual was more free to follow his own dictates in the selection of both subject and artist than the royal
personage, who Sarcophagus of King Ai, XVIIIth dynasty.
obliged to employ court draughtsmen, court artists, and court sculptors.
In bas-reliefs and painted scenes, much of the artistic effect is lost because perspective was either not understood, or was little practised, and as a result where rows of men, and groups of animals or objects, etc., have to be depicted, they are represented in such a way that they seem to be standing one above the other or upon the other. The artist's skill in drawing which is exhibited by the paintings in all periods is marvellous, but the greatest skill is certainly displayed in the fishing and hunting scenes, and in those which are commonly found in tombs. Even in these, however, the artist often breaks away from his fetters of conventionality, and depicts some ludicrous or amusing incident quite out of keeping with the general character of the subject. The sense of fun which the Egyptian possessed in all periods of his history must have found an outlet in many comic sketches on papyri, but unfortunately besides the so-called satirical papyri very few examples of such have come down to us; touches of realism which western artists would not have included in their compositions occur every here and there, but these are due rather to an attempt to be true to nature than to depraved ideas.
The system of writing employed by the earliest inhabitants of the Valley of the Nile known to us was entirely pictorial, and had much in common with the pictorial writing of the Chinese and the ancient people who migrated into Babylonia from the East. There appears to be no dynastic inscription in which pictures are used entirely, for the earliest inscriptions now known to us contain alphabetic characters. Inscriptions upon statues, coffins, tombs, temples, etc., in which figures or representations of objects are employed, are usually termed 'Hieroglyphic' (from the Greek iepoylupikós); for writing on papyri a cursive form of hieroglyphic called “Hieratic' (from the Greek iepatikos) was employed by the priests, who, at times, also used hieroglyphic; a third kind of writing, consisting of purely conventional modifications of hieratic characters, which preserve little of the original form, was employed for social and business purposes; it is called Demotic (from the Greek Önuotikos). The following will show the different forms of the characters in the three styles of writing,
No. I is copied from the Prisse * papyrus (Maxims of Ptah-hetep, p. V. I. 1), and is transcribed and translated as follows:-
åb temu in sekha - nej s ef .... the heart fails, not remembers he yesterday.
qes men-f en āuu bu nefer kheper emThe body suffers it in [its] entirety, happiness becomes
bu [bản] wretchedness.t
No. III. is copied from the demotic version inscribed on the stele of Canopus (see p. 50), and No. IV. is the corresponding passage in the hieroglyphic version of the
* This papyrus is probably the oldest in the world, and was written about B.C. 2500 ; it was presented to the Bibliothèque Nationale by Prisse, who acquired it at Thebes.
† Ptah-hetep is lamenting the troubles of old age, and the complete passage runs : “The understanding perisheth, an old man remembereth not yesterday. The body becometh altogether pain ; happiness turneih into wretchedness : and taste vanisheth away."