Open main menu

Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/138

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Part I.

that lithic grandeur which is inherent in large masses of precious materials.

Such a temple as that of the Sphinx cannot compete either in richness or magnificence with the great temples of Thebes, with their sculptured capitals and storied walls, but there is a beauty of repose and an elegance of simplicity about the older example which goes far to redeem its other deficiencies, and when we have more examples before us they may rise still higher in our estimation.

Whatever opinion we may ultimately form regarding their architecture, there can be little doubt as to the rank to be assigned to their painting and sculpture. In these two arts the Egyptians early attained a mastery which they never surpassed. Judged by the rules of classic or of modern art, it appears formal and conventional to such an extent as to render it difficult for us now to appreciate its merits. But as a purely Phonetic form of art—as used merely to enunciate those ideas which we now so much more easily express by alphabetic writings, it is clear and precise beyond any picture writings the world has since seen. Judged by its own rules, it is marvellous to what perfection the Egyptians had attained at that early period, and if we look on their minor edifices as mere vehicles for the display of this pictorial expression, we must modify to some extent the judgment we would pass on them as mere objects of architectural art.