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Georg Ebers
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 58 pages of information about An Egyptian Princess Volume 03.

“Certainly I do,” answered the sculptor.  “Two centuries ago Egypt was unquestionably the first of the nations.  In Art and Science she far excelled us; but we learnt their methods of working, improved on them, held firm to no prescribed proportions, but to the natural types alone, gave freedom and beauty to their unbending outlines, and now have left our masters far behind us.  But how was this possible? simply because the Egyptians, bound by unalterable laws, could make no progress; we, on the contrary, were free to pursue our course in the wide arena of art as far as will and power would allow.”

“But how can an artist be compelled to fashion statues alike, which are meant to differ from each other in what they represent?”

“In this case that can be easily explained.  The entire human body is divided by the Egyptians into 21 1/4 parts, in accordance with which division the proportion of each separate limb is regulated.  I, myself, have laid a wager with Amasis, in presence of the first Egyptian sculptor, (a priest of Thebes), that, if I send my brother Telekles, in Ephesus, dimensions, proportion and attitude, according to the Egyptian method, he and I together can produce a statue which shall look as if sculptured from one block and by one hand, though Telekles is to carve the lower half at Ephesus, and I the upper here in Sais, and under the eye of Amasis.”

[These numbers, and the story which immediately follows, are taken from Diodorus I. 98.  Plato tells us that, in his time, a law existed binding the Egyptian artists to execute their works with exactly the same amount of beauty or its reverse, as those which had been made more than a thousand years before.  This statement is confirmed by the monuments; but any one well acquainted with Egyptian art can discern a marked difference in the style of each epoch.  At the time of the ancient kingdom the forms were compressed and stunted; under Seti I. beauty of proportion reached its highest point.  During, and after the 20th dynasty, the style declined in beauty; in the 26th, under the descendants of Psammetichus, we meet with a last revival of art, but the ancient purity of form was never again attained.]

“And shall you win your wager?”

“Undoubtedly.  I am just going to begin this trick of art; it will as little deserve the name of a work of art, as any Egyptian statue.”

“And yet there are single sculptures here which are of exquisite workmanship; such, for instance, as the one Amasis sent to Samos as a present to Polykrates.  In Memphis I saw a statue said to be about three thousand years old, and to represent a king who built the great Pyramid, which excited my admiration in every respect.  With what certainty and precision that unusually hard stone has been wrought! the muscles, how carefully carved! especially in the breast, legs and feet; the harmony of the features too, and, above all, the polish of the whole, leave nothing to be desired.”

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