The celebrated figure of Ka-aper, or the "Sheykh el Beled," belongs to the same period. The figure is so well known that it need not appear here, but the full face is less familiar (fig. 25). The mouth and chin are perhaps the most truthful part, and seem entirely free from convention. The eyes are excellent in form, but affected by the technical detail of inserting the eyeball of stone and crystal in a copper frame. The similar eyes in the head of Nofert are more carefully inserted, so that the frame is not obvious. The hair is represented as closely cut, so as to allow the wig to be put over it. We can, however, hardly judge of this figure as it is, stripped of the coat of coloured stucco which covered such work. The portions of similar wooden figures in the temple of Abydos had all been thus painted. Such a coat would modify the eye setting, and leave only the dark line visible which imitated the kohl on the eyelids.
Another work of the same age is the best for the pose of the figure (fig. 26). The vigorous, independent, frank attitude is perhaps the finest in any portrait, ancient or modern. The profile is of the same type as that of Nofert, alike in the strong brow and the form of the nose and chin; the eye is more prominent, and the mouth less luxurious, while the under-chin is firmer. Such differences are all in keeping with the character, that of an active mistress of an estate rather than an easy-going noble.
We shall not find in any of the subsequent work of the pyramid age - still less in the later ages - such vitality and strength of individual character as we have seen in these early portraits. With these stands also the minute head of Khufu (fig. 123), which we shall notice with the ivory-work.
The statue of Khafra (fig. 27) carved in diorite is one of the grandest works of Egypt. The entire dignity and majesty shown contrast strongly with the active air of the subordinate classes. The muscular detail is powerful, but yet in keeping with the serenity of the figure. The whole is best grasped from below, as it was intended to be seen; but the head should be studied at its own level, and the profile, from a cast (fig. 28), shows the form as it originally appeared when covered with a facing which concealed the grain of the stone. The difference of character between the calm, easy dignity of this, and the terrible energy of Khufu (fig. 123), should be observed. It shows how free the art is from any mere convention of majesty. The hawk behind the king is shown as spreading out its wings to protect the royal head. This symbolism is ingeniously hidden in the front view, so as not to interfere with the effect of the whole figure as it was intended to be seen. The figures of the Vth and Vlth dynasties have more vivacity than those earlier, but scarcely such a real vitality. The well-known scribe (fig. 29) is a good piece of expression, showing the attentive, waiting air of a man who is following dictation. The anatomy is not detailed, and the surfaces look rather blocked out and bald as compared with Khafra.
27, 28. King Khafra (IVth dynasty)
29. The scribe.
30. Wife and daughter.
The lower part of a group is given here (fig. 30) for figures of the seated wife and daughter. These show good modelling of the figure in a close-fitting garment, and the hair is worn over the forehead beneath the wig, as by Nofert. The figure of Ranofer (fig. 31) is one of the most dignified of the portraits of officials. The pose is strong; the muscles are well rendered, and not too full though clear. The wig stands well off the head, and gives a continuous outline with the figure. It is hard to see how the whole expression could be better than this.
On looking closely at the detail of these early-statues, there is very little that can be set down as conventional. All the features are natural, well placed, and harmonious. The relation of the brow to the eyes is generally true. But this point was entirely missed in later times. In the XIIth dynasty the eye is rather too forward; and in the XVIIIth there is hardly a single statue that is correct, the eyes usually projecting to the plane of the brow. On observing even the finest figures of later times it will be seen how purely conventional is their treatment; the mouth and eyes are cold and mechanical, and it is seldom that any one feature even approaches the truth of the early art.
In the XIIth dynasty the work shows the scholastic style of deliberate accuracy, without as much personal vitality as in earlier times. Yet it is full of carefully observed detail, and is by no means perfunctory like the later work.
The facial surfaces are well rendered: observe the varied treatment of the cheek below the eye in figs. 32, 33, and 35, which are clearly individual. The entirely different form of the mouth in these three is as evidently personal. Throughout Egyptian work the eye is of two distinct types, both of which we see here in the XIIth dynasty. In one type (fig. 32) the upper lid rises to its highest point near the inner side; and with this form the actual corner, or canthus major, may end in a mere angle or in a lachrymal fossa more or less developed, an extreme case of the long and wide fossa being seen in fig. 32, and in the black granite figure from Alexandria (so-called Hyksos) in Cairo. This may be called the gibbous form of lid, and it is the more usual in the sculpture and on coffins. The use of a copper frame round the inserted eye in Old Kingdom statues makes it uncertain how far the lachrymal fossa was intended to appear. But the statues of a single material show a small fossa in most cases, such as Khafra, Dadefra, the (so-called) wife of the Sheykh, and Sebekhotep III. In later work there is no fossa, but only an angle, as in Tahutmes III, Amenhotep III, Amenhotep son of Hapi, and other instances to the end of the dynasties. But a slight fossa is shown in Akhenaten and his family, and in Ramessu II; and, under the Ethiopians, Taharqa and Amenardys are both shown with a long fossa.