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—In conformity with this view, I conceive that no Egyptian sculpture is to be judged of with a direct reference to the human form in its natural state, or to be considered good or bad in proportion as it assimilates to or departs from the best models of that form. On the contrary, there is a shadowy character about it, added to a total absence of any thing like perspective (if the word may be so used) which seem to indicate that the forms, of whatever class, which it represents, were imaginative ones entirely;—that they were founded in something which the designer had actually seen; hut that they were not intended to represent, or even to remind the spectator of any thing real.—The forms of Egyptian sculpture are, in their general character, like those which we see in feverish dreams, and which haunt us in that nervous affection called the nightmare; and these are obviously founded on something that we have previously seen, though they are more unlike any thing belonging to the real world than we could possibly imagine in our waking hours. In a word, Egyptian sculpture, properly so called, like the annals of the country which produced it, and the associations which we are accustomed to connect with those annals and that country, more resembles "a phantasma and a dream," than a reality. In Egypt, sculpture was not an " imitative art."
It would probably be difficult, even in Egypt itself, to find collected in one point of view, so many and such fine illustrations of the above remarks, as are to be seen in the room of the British Museum marked No. 9.—I have said that Egyptian sculpture has a shadotcy character belonging to it. What I mean will perhaps be better understood by examining the fragment of stone which stands on the left hand immediately as you enter this room. (It has no number—being one of the new acquisitions.)—It consists of a solid block of granite, from the surface of which projects a company of figures linked together hand in hand, as if engaged in dancing. Now, though there is a total want of expression in these figures—a uniform smoothness of surface— which precludes all appearance of life or action—yet the workmanship cannot be called rude. In fact, the figures lie upon the surface, not like imitations of any thing real, but like shadows. There is nothing distinct about them—nothing made out. There is no detail. They are all like each other, too; and like nothing else. "There is no speculation in them." In a word, the huge block of stone before us is scarcely at all changed in its character by the sculptures that are upon it. It is not a piece of sculpture, but a piece of stone.—Now it is not improbable that this effect is what was intended to be produced. In Egypt sculpture was an art devoted exclusively to religious purposes; and in this instance the desired impression seems to have been that of shadowy forms, passing by us as if in a dream ; —scarcely seen, and not to be remembered as visible objects; but only to be felt, as we feel the impression of a dream long after we have forgotten all the detail of its forms and circumstances.
Turning from the above-named object, to the beautiful head of the younger Memnon (so called)—(No. 11.) we shall find that a somewhat similar character prevails even in this, with all its high finish, and notwithstanding its enormous size. Nothing can be more beautifully executed, in point of mere workmanship, than the face of this noble fragment; but there is no life in it—no character—no expression. It is like a beautiful mask. There cannot be a mure striking evidence than is here afforded, that mere features do not make up a human face, however (what is called) regular and perfect they may be. We do not feel the least degree of human sympathy with this face; because there is nothing individualized about it. The impression is therefore merely shadowy —like that of an outline. And surely, supposing this figure to have represented a Deity, this want of individualized expression is more appropriately expressive than any thing else can be. The Jupiters and Apollos, the Minervas and Venuses, • even of the Greeks, were actual likenesses of individual men and women that most of us may have seen in the course of our lives. But no one ever saw a likeness of this Memnon, any more than they did the Deity himself.—This magnificent fragment formed part of a colossal statue which stood in front of the great temple at Thebes, called the Memnonium. It is mentioned in the Synopsis as having been presented to the Museum by Mr. Salt and the late Mr. Burckhardt. But is it by an oversight, or an intentional omission, that the name of Belzoni is not in any way connected with it?—This is the object the acquirement of which for this country would have alone immortalized that extraordinary man, if there had been nothing else to do so. And though it is true that the actual money expended on the undertaking, of bringing it from Thebes to Alexandria, was paid by Messrs. Salt and Burckhardt, yet the time, trouble, and skill (which were undoubtedly of much more value) were all supplied by Belzoni. Nay—it is expressly stated by Mr. Burckhardt, in a MS. letter quoted in the Quarterly Review, that he particularly wished Mr. Belzoni's name to be mentioned in connexion with this curious relic "because" (adds he) " he was actuated by public spirit fully as much as ourselves *."
Opposite to the beautiful head of Memnon just described, is placed another head, of nearly equal dimensions, and but little inferior in beauty of workmanship. This also possesses the same characteristic want of character. It is, in fact, a block of granite cut into the representation of a human face, but without any individual expression whatever; and even without any sexual expression. It has a national character; but nothing more. Perhaps nothing that has been seen in this country, or even in Egypt itself, is calculated to convey a more true and at the same time favourable impression of Egyptian art, than tin's beautiful fragment: for the workmanship of it ifl exquisite—there is enough preserved entire to enable us to judge of the whole statue almost as well as if it stood before us—and as to the state of what is preserved, it is as fresh and perfect as on the day the sculptor's hand quitted it,—the stone of which it is composed being indestructible, except by force or fire—There is no number to this object, nor any ac
* It may be worth while to correct an error into which the Quarterly Reviewer of Belzoni's book seems to hare fallen, on this point. He says, "We regret to perceive any feeling of irritation on a matter which appears to us of no importance, and on a point, too, wherein the merit of our author has never been called in question. The name of Belzoni alone is coupled ivilh the bust of Memnon in the Museum; and this, we should think, ought to satisfy him."—Qua. Rev. v. 24. p. 144.
Now the fact is, that, in the Synopsis of the Museum, the object in question is described as " presented, in 1817, by Henry Salt, Esq. and the late Louis Burckhardt, Esq."—without a word of Belzoni!
count of it in the Synopsis ; but if we mistake not, it was discovered by Belzoni about six or seven years ago, at Thebes; and was then considered to represent Orus. The head wears a lofty mitre-like cap; and the dimensions of it are ten feet from the neck to the extremity of the cap.—Behind this head lies a granite arm belonging to the same statue.
The next objects which claim attention in this room are two sarcophagi; one composed of a beautiful green breccia, and entirely covered with hieroglyphics, within and without; and the other of black granite, ornamented in a similar manner. The first of these (No. 5) which was brought from the mosque of St. Athanasius, at Alexandria, is that on which the late Dr. Clarke has written a most learned, ingenious and entertaining dissertation, tending to prove (and really with very considerable shew of probability) that it was actually the tomb in which the body of Alexander the Great was buried.
We must now quit this department of the Museum, and betake ourselves to the last and noblest portion of it—that containing the marbles from Phigalia, and from the Parthenon. On entering these rooms, (numbered 14 and 15), I feel at once that any thing like general reflections must be avoided. To say nothing of my plan precluding the necessity of these, the Elgin marbles have been spoken of in general terms by nearly all the most accomplished practical as well as theoretical authorities of the day, and nothing adequate to their claims has been said of them yet. I am therefore not disposed to add one to the number of the failures. But besides this. I very much doubt whether any thing can be said of them, that shall either increase the impression they are calculated to convey to those who are susceptible of that impression, or create any impression in regard to them which they cannot create for themselves. I shall therefore merely place the reader before the most striking and remarkable of these objects, and then let them as it were speak for themselves :— for it is as objects of immediate sight that these fragments are chiefly valuable; and those reflections and sentiments which they do not call forth from any given spectator at the moment of seeing them, they cannot be made to call forth at all by any adventitious means. It is true there are some noble and inspiring associations connected with them, which have little to do with their intrinsic merits. But it is of these latter that I am speaking; because it is on these that their chief, not to say their sole interest and value depend. If the sculptures from the Parthenon had possessed a less superlative degree of excellence than they do, it would have been a shame and a sacrilege to have brought them away from that hallowed spot. But as it is, all real lovers both of art and of antiquity must rejoice that they have been placed out of the reach of accident, and it may almost be said of Time: —for, being as they are the most perfect specimens of art in the world, England possesses in them a school of study that viay lead to the production of something not absolutely unworthy of such models; while Athens is as rich in those associations which they, when there, did but assist in gathering around her, as she was before they were taken away: in short England is infinitely richer than before she possessed them, and Athens is no poorer than before she lost them.
The building at present containing the Elgin and Phigalian marbles is merely a temporary one. On descending the stairs which lead out of the principal gallery of sculpture, we find ourselves in a sort of amiroom (No. 14) round the walls of which are ranged a most complete and interesting series of bas-reliefs, which formed two continuous pictures round the interior of the cella of a small temple, dedicated to Apollo Epicurius, and situated on an eminence near the ancient city of Phigalia, in Arcadia. The first eleven slabs represent a battle between the Centaurs and Lapithae ; and the remainder, one between the Greeks and Amazons. The different portions of these sculptures are by no means equal in merit, and none of them reach to the very highest pitch of excellence in the art; but on the other hand, every portion of them, even the least excellent, is instinct with spirit and vitality; and the whole produce an effect superior to any thing else of the kind that we possess, with the single exception of the sculptures from the Parthenon. Perhaps Nos. 5 and 6 may be pointed out as the best separate portions of the whole.—I must not forget to mention that these sculptures, and the temple to which they appertained, (fragmental specimens of the various parts of which will be found in this room) possess a peculiar source of interest, in the fact of our being authentically acquainted with the architect who raised the temple. Pausanias gives a particular description of this temple, and tells us that it was raised by Ictinus, the same architect who built the Parthenon itself.
This room should not be quitted by the visitor without his remarking a few other interesting objects which it contains. The most striking of these is undoubtedly the beautiful Caryatis, or architectural statue, (42) forming one of six which served as supports to the little Temple at Athens, called the Pandroseum. — From what has been said above, relative to the Elgin Marbles generally, it will be seen that 1 fully agree with those who look upon the outcry which was raised, on Lord Elgin bringing them away from their places, as mere folly, where it was not mere cant and affectation. But there is no denying that the arguments which defend and justify the proceeding generally, and in regard to all the objects from the Parthenon, in no degree apply to the statue before us. That was only in its true place where it stood, and there was no reason to fear that it would lose that place: for the Athenians themselves looked upon the whole six sisters with a kind of superstitious reverence. In fact, it evinced as little correctness of taste, as well as moral sentiment, to remove this particular statue from the spot where the hands of its sculptor had placed it, as I cannot help thinking it did in Dr. Clarke to remove the celebrated statue of Ceres (now at Cambridge) from its birth-place and home, amidst the mingled tears, entreaties, and prophetic execrations of the native peasants, who looked up to it as the chief object of their hopes and prayers.—The beautiful little temple from the facade of which this statue was torn, is, but for this unfortunate outrage, almost in a complete state: and if the present Greek government knows the true interests of the people and the country over which it presides, it will not think it an object beneath its consideration to take the first favourable opportunity of doing what it can to recover this lost treasure:—for a treasure it is in regard to the spot from whence it came, and to which it may emphatically be said to belong; whereas to us it is comparatively of little value—possessing, as we do, objects of a similar kind, but of a superior character of workmanship.
The only other objects that need be pointed out in this room, are some specimens of columns, capitals, &c. from some of the most celebrated temples of antiquity. What 1 would point out in particular, are those numbered from 44 to 47 inclusive.—The most remarkable of these is an exquisitely ornamented Ionic capital from the portico of the Erectheum—situated in the Acropolis of Athens. This is the temple which joins to, and forms a sort of moral as well as mechanical union with, that dedicated to Pandrosa, from which the Caryatis (42) was taken.
We now enter the fifteenth room, containing the marbles from the Parthenon—perhaps the most beautiful religious temple that ever was erected by human hands, and that ever will be; and also that which was most celebrated among the ancients themselves, and has been most talked of, visited, and written about, by the moderns.—Let us proceed at once to place ourselves before the noblest fragment which time and the Turks have left us of this exquisite ruin—for such, unhappily, the Parthenon has been for the last hundred and forty years; that is to say, since the explosion of a powder magazine, which took place in it during the siege of Athens by the Venetians, in the year 1687.—The fragment to which I allude is that of Theseus—as it is now pretty generally called (No. 71)—which occupied that triangular portion of the temple situated immediately above the entrance. This figure wants the hands and feet; and all the superficial part of the head and face has been destroyed by the effect of exposure to the weather. But, notwithstanding all this, I would ask the spectator to contemplate this statue from any point of view he pleases, and then to say if it is possible to stand before it, or even to think of it afterwards, without a sentiment of mingled surprise and delight, with which no other external object whatever is capable of inspiring him. There is an easy yet dignified elevation of character, which seems, as it were, to emanate from this noble work as a whole, added to an absolute truth, purity, and simplicity in all the various details, which perhaps does not belong to any other statue known to be in existence. And yet this, be it remembered, did but form one of an immense variety of figures, all executed with a corresponding, if not an absolutely equal degree of excellence, and all forming merely the external ornaments of a public building, and placed at a distance of between forty and fifty feet from the eyes of the spectator!—Of what then must have consisted the interior ornaments of the sacred places of such a temple?—I fear the answer to this question must go nigh to indicate that Art, at the era alluded to, was on the extreme verge from which it must descend when once it arrives there: for it cannot remain stationary at any point. The mere skill of the Greek sculptors at the period in question, was so fertile in its effects, and at the same time reached such absolute perfection, that mere skill was not sufficient to satisfy the appetites to which it was destined to administer. Accordingly, we find that the statue of the Goddess of the Parthenon, which was placed in the interior of the temple, was composed of ivory and gold!—From this period, the arts of Greece began to degenerate. And no wonder; for the taste which is not satisfied with absolute and intrinsic beauty of effect, unless it be allied to variety and costliness of material, is not a taste that can support art at the highest point of its perfection—that is to say, at the point where