The XlXth dynasty art is fairly represented by a figure of one of the king's sons (fig. 8). Here is seen the baldness of the style. The profile is mechanical, the hair hangs in a heavy and ugly flap, the body has no anatomy, the legs are badly drawn, and the long streamers flying from the waist are out of keeping. The coarse, heavy work of the temples of Abu Simbel, or the great hall of Karnak, is obtrusive in spite of their grandiose conception. In the XXth dynasty the inscriptions also suffered by being cut very deeply, so that the signs appeared as black shadows without any detail. The decay was only arrested by a deliberate copying of the style of the pyramid age.
The XXVIth dynasty tried to recover the early grandeur of sculpture by close imitation, but it is rarely that any fragment of this work does not betray itself by its inane treatment, bad jointing of the limbs, and want of proportion. One of the best examples of the more original work is the figure of an elderly official (fig. 9). The want of detail is hidden by the stiff robe without a fold or curve, leaving only the head and extremities to be represented. Another example is in fig. 64, where the bad jointing and lack of anatomy is too evident.
In the Ptolemaic time these faults are even more apparent, when the bad copy of a copy was the ideal. In fig. 10 is seen the hopelessly wrong proportioning of the parts, the clumsy lumps of flesh and exaggerated muscles, which are the extreme opposite to the over-refined flat relief of the Xllth dynasty. The hair partakes of the same faults, being carved as rows of lumps representing separate curls.
Portraiture, which compelled some attention to Nature, is the latest surviving form of art. In the XXVIth dynasty fairly good heads were occasionally done, but often with some disproportion. The modelled stucco heads of the Roman age are the last stage. Some of them show a real ability and feeling for character (figs. 135 to 137), and one example which can be compared with the skull proves the accuracy of the modelling (fig. 138).
The various Schools of Art should now be noticed. The styles of the different periods that we have considered were of course obvious in all the schools; the character of an age affected all parts of the country. Owing to the absence of any artists' names, and the extreme rarity of those of architects, it is impossible to trace the personal origin of any works. And as we cannot say how much the artists travelled about the country, mere locality does not prove a conclusive test; probably for royal works the artists went to any city according to orders. Among private tombs we can see great differences of style, as between Memphis, Thebes, and Aswan. But the difficulty of exact dating makes comparison doubtful, as we might set side by side works of the rise and of the climax of a period. The most satisfactory evidence about the schools is from the statuary in different materials. When once a sculptor was trained to the peculiarities of one stone he would not be likely to enter on all the difficulties of a fresh material. A man trained for years to slicing and bruising out granite without the least fear of a crack, would not relish hewing soft sandstones that split, or limestone that could not be trusted with its own weight on a finished surface. Certainly the men who learned sculpture on the softer materials would be helpless on the granite. Then we know that the statues were at least dressed into shape - if not entirely finished - at the quarries, and hence the work in one material would continue in the hands of one local school. It is therefore likely that the stone workers of each material formed an unbroken succession, probably in certain families for the most part, and handed on their traditions for several dynasties successively, perhaps even throughout thousands of years. This would not be so much the case in relief sculpture, as there the blocks were built in and sculptured at the building, wherever that might be.
When we look for differences of treatment we see how strongly one style of work is continued in one material through a long period. We have here contemporaneous examples in four different stones, the statues of Rameses II in black granite, hard limestone, red granite and Nubian sandstone (figs. 11 to 14). In all cases work in black granite is finer than that in the other stones at the same period. The figures of the so-called Hyksos type (fig. 34), of the XIIIth, the XVIIIth, the XlXth and the XXVth dynasties, and the sarcophagi of the XVIIIth dynasty, in black granite, all show far finer forms and finish than those in the other materials. Of briefer use there were two other stones which show equally fine work - diorite, which was hardly ever sculptured except in the IVth dynasty (fig. 27), and green basalt, used in the XVIIIth (fig. 37). The green basalt must be put in the highest place as regards minute handling and freedom of curves; the fine grain and moderate hardness were most favourable to the artist. The black granite work comes next in quality, having fine curves but not quite the same freedom, owing to the coarser grain. The diorite has a beautiful grain for work, but the hardness has influenced the detail of recesses, and it is seldom that inner angles are as truly worked out as in the black granite. The comparison is perhaps hardly just, as there are no contemporary works in these two stones. It seems not improbable that all these hard stones were found in the same region, the Eastern desert, and that they were all worked by one school. That there was a fine technical training there in early times is shown by the splendid bowls and vases of the hardest rocks which were wrought in prehistoric ages and the first dynasty. Such vases were made in the mountain district, as the figures of a warmly-clad race bear them in tribute to the Egyptian king (Jour. Anthrop. Inst., xxxi., pl. xix., 13 - 15). Thus we may look on this black-granite school as belonging really to the border people of the Eastern desert, and not to the Nile plain.
11. Black granite 13. Red granite.
12. Hard limestone 14. Nubian sandstone.
The limestone school was expressly that of Memphis and Middle Egypt. It is best known from the host of private statues found in the cemetery of Saqqareh. Work of the finest delicacy was done in this soft and uniform material (see figs. 24, 29 - 32); and a branch of the same school was that working the harder limestones which were a favourite stone in the XVIIIth and XlXth dynasties in upper Egypt, as in the colossus of Rameses II (fig. 12). Both branches of this school excelled in the delicate expression of physiognomy; the proportions of the limbs and the finish of the extremities are usually excellent. The alabaster work is a branch of this same school, with similar proportion and finish. It is a rare material for sculpture till the XVIIIth dynasty, but under Amenhotep II to IV it was often used; and it serves for one of the best works of later time, the statue of Amenardys (fig. 47). The quarries were in the midst of the limestone hills, especially where the hard limestone occurs near Tell-el-Amarna. Thus the same school dealt with this whole group of calcareous rocks.
Another very fine school was that of the quartzite sandstone of Gebel Ahmar, near Cairo. The material was closely limited to a single hill cemented by hot springs; and what is now seen there is only the immense heap of chippings left by workers of all ages: the hill itself has almost vanished. This material was worked in the pyramid times, but only roughly. The Xllth dynasty kings saw its value, and quarried it for sarcophagi and chambers, but seldom used it for sculpture. The XVIIIth dynasty attacked it on an enormous scale; the two great colossi of Amenhotep III, weighing 1175 tons each, were cut and carried up-stream 450 miles to Thebes. Statues are found, royal and private, in all parts of the land, and naturally this stone was largely used at Tanis. The work is usually excellent, almost equal to the limestone sculpture; but it generally falls a little below that of the previous schools in the depth of cutting and the freedom of work in hollows.
The red granite school was at Aswan, where the statues and obelisks are still lying unfinished in the quarries. The artist was much hindered by the coarse grain of the stone, which made fine work difficult. On the obelisks this has been fairly overcome by a great amount of emery cutting, and sharp smooth hieroglyphs were cleanly cut. But for statuary, even in the pyramid age the features are coarsely worked and the detail scanty; and when used later on a large scale, the forms are heavy, the inner angles seldom worked out, and the extremities thick and massive. This is seen in the colossus of Rameses II (fig. 13), as well as in earlier figures.
The Nubian sandstone school was the least artistic. The softness and ready splitting of the stone prevented clean and well-finished work. Detail was almost impossible, and it was a mistake to use a good building stone for the wrong purpose of fine carving. In early times this stone was never used, except locally in its own region. The XIIth dynasty rarely used it, but by the middle of the XVIIIth it became general, and it was the main stone of the XIXth dynasty in Upper Egypt. Its use, however, does not come down to Middle or Lower Egypt. The long avenue of sphinxes at Thebes are the most familiar sculpture in this material, and similar figures were also placed by Amenhotep III in his temple on the Western bank. The great colossi of Abu Simbel are the main example of sculpture in this stone (fig. 14). They show the defects of the other southern school, that of red granite. The limbs are square and heavy, the feet and hands are flat and mechanical, and the muscles are crude ridges. But the face is fairly rendered, as well perhaps as was practicable in such material.
We thus see that there were essential differences between the various schools of Egyptian art, partly due to the various peoples, but mainly resulting from the material used by each school.