Thursday, July 26, 2012


The winds of aesthetic change that swept through Europe in the latter part of the eighteenth century helped to clear a significant space for the appreciation of Egyptian art. A key factor was the fascination engendered by Napoleon's 1798 military expedition to Egypt. The invading French army took with it a whole corps of savants who eventually issued a great multivolume publication, the Description de l'Egypte (1809-1828). These developments were capped by Jean-François Champollion's 1822 decipherment of the Rosetta stone texts, making it possible to read hieroglyphics for the first time in 1300 years.
In fact the responses of this era were not as new as they at first appear. Interest in Egyptian civilization and art had been building since the Renaissance. During the eighteenth century the fascination grew, rivaling Sinomania, the enthusiasm for things Chinese. In due course the melodies of these two attractions blended into a larger symphony of "exotic" affiinities that was to challenge the classical-Renaissance axis that had for so long dominated artistic taste and appreciation. Interesting as the discipline is on its own terms, for their own sake, the rise of Egyptology also helps us to understand how Europe began to free itself from the limitations of its own Eurocentrism.
Unlike the objects of most other exoticisms, Egyptian artifacts did not need to be freshly imported to elicit European notice. A number of enigmatic Egyptian monuments survived in the city of Rome and elsewhere, though they were burdened by folk legend and, perhaps even more, by fanciful efforts to interpret them. Moreover, Egypt figured in classical literature, albeit often shrouded in a cloud of mysterious otherness. It is to this formative Greco-Roman stratum of understanding and misunderstanding that we must first turn.

Permutations of an Image.
The first Greek travelers to Egypt were merchants and soldiers, by their nature generally unreflective. Even had they been more thoughtful, they were interacting with a late stage of Pharaonic civilization, whose great achievements lay almost entirely in the remote past.  For this reason, they responded more to the venerability and not the vitality of Egypt. These Greek visitors did, however, come up with names for two types of monuments that have always struck observers, pyramid (a small cake) and obelisk (little spit).
A sustained effort to penetrate more deeply was made by Herodotus of Halicarnassus, who visited Egypt about 450 BCE as part of the extensive travels he undertook to prepare for his masterpiece The Persian Wars. The account of Egypt, which takes up Book II, found its place there because at the time of Herodotus's visit the country formed part of the Persian Empire, having been annexed as a result of the invasion of Cambyses II in 525. Ignorant of the language, Herodotus was sometimes deceived by the gossip relayed to him by his native informants. He did provide a full account of mummification. Apart from the popular fascination with that funerary practice that has continued ever since, the Greek scholar set the stage for a more pervasive--some would say insidious--approach: the notion of the singularity, even the bizarre exceptionalism of Egyptian society. "The Egyptians appear to have inverted the ordinary practices of mankind. Women attend markets and are employed in trade, while men stay at home and do the weaving. Men in Egypt carry loads on their heads, women on their shoulders. Women pass water standing up, men sitting down. To ease themselves they go indoors, but eat outside on the streets, on the theory that what is unseemly but necessary should be done in private, and what is not unseemly should be done openly."i
Although these observations foreshadowed modern anthropology in their awareness of the distinctiveness of another culture, at the same time they suggested, in the minds of many readers at least, that Egyptian culture was wilfully perverse. Since most individuals, even today, take their own social arrangements as the norm, ones that are so much at variance with the familiar would seem arbitrary and unnatural. Knowledge of the Egyptian custom of brother-sister marriage enhanced this sense of a people who had not learned to observe, or who had perhaps gone beyond, the usual norms of civilized life. At any rate, observations of this kind, together with what one could see for oneself in museums--the ever-present mummies and the animal heads and bodies of many Egyptian deities--earned for pharaonic Egypt a reputation of waywardness and transgression that prevented it from any hope of toppling Greece and Rome from their pinnacle as exemplary civilizations. It was only much later when a whole constellation of nonclassical cultures came into view that Egypt could move closer to the mainstream. Even then its particularism consigned it to a place apart.
At the end of the fourth century BCE Alexander's conquests brought Egypt into the Greek political and cultural sphere. The Ptolemaic capital of Alexandria, with its famous Library, emerged as the chief scholarly center of the Mediterranean world. Under the auspices of the first Ptolemies, Manetho, a high priest of Heliopolis, compiled a summary history of Egypt. This book, written in Greek, divides the history of the country into thirty-one dynasties, a scheme that still prevails today.
Egypt fell to Rome in 30 BCE. The cult of the goddess Isis, which had spread already in the Hellenistic period, became even more prominent under the Roman empire, leading to the construction of temples everywhere in a modified Egyptian style. There was also a more casual, almost touristic interest in Egyptian motifs, as seen in the sphinxes and crocodiles that populate some Roman mosaics and frescoes. The emperors also brought back trophies, especially obelisks. Even today the city of Rome boasts a number of striking examples of these obelisks.ii
During the Roman empire knowledge of Egyptian antiquities declined in Egypt itself, a process accelerated by the adoption of Christianity and the Islamic conquest of 639-42. Medieval ideas were shaped and limited by stereotypes derived from the Bible and strained relations with contemporary Islam. A peculiar linking of surviving knowledge and scriptural motifs is seen in the frequent depiction of pyramids as the granaries of Joseph.
Enthusiasm for Egypt, or a certain myth of the country, became almost boundless as a result of the arrival of manuscripts of the Corpus Hermeticum in Italy in the fifteenth century.iii This collection of mystical treatises passed as the creation of a marvelous sage known as Hermes Trismegistus ("thrice-great"), sometimes claimed to be even older than Moses. Marsilio Ficino, who rendered the Corpus into Latin, esteemed it higher than Plato. First printed in 1471, and repeatedly reissued, this body of writings enjoyed vast renown. In the seventeenth century, however, the true date of origin--the late Hellenistic and Roman periods--and its consequent lack of originality were established. 
During the Renaissance the effect of these treatises in securing the reputation of the Egyptians for wisdom was enhanced by the circulation of another book, the Hieroglyphica of Horapollo, a Greek work probably written in the fourth century of our era, which contains a speculative interpretation of Egyptian writing. According to this view, found more summarily in other Greek authors, hieroglyphs are not phonetic but symbolic presentations of abstract ideas. For example, Horapollo states that in Egyptian inscriptions the picture of a vulture is used to express the idea of "mother," a notion that is correct as far as it goes. But he disregards the phonetic reason for this device in favor of a rambling disquisition in which he claims that the image represents the abstract essence of motherhood because of the myth that these birds, who supposedly comprise only females, reproduce by parthenogenesis. Taking their cue from such sources, Renaissance scholars produced their own, more extensive decodings of the vast store of wisdom they affected to find in the hieroglyphs. Pierio Valeriano, whose Hieroglyphica of 1556 is the most ambitious of these works, treats Egyptian script as a sacred language of ideas--not surprisingly detecting in it many concepts which were typical of his own day rather than of the ancient Egyptians. Sometimes making its way into contemporary painting and sculpture, this allegorical tradition thrived until the late seventeenth century.iv
During the eighteenth century the critical spirit of the Enlightenment dampened interest in these conceptual extravaganzas, together with the inscriptions and art works that had inspired them. It is revealing that this change occurred as a shift in fashion, for the decipherment that would replace the allegorical explanation lay more than a century away. In 1719 the French savant Bernard de Montfaucon included many (poorly rendered) plates of Egyptian works in his L'Antiquité expliquée et representée en figures. In his commentary Montfaucon notes that only with reluctance did he admit these "mostly hideous" Egyptian objects, for chronological and not aesthetic reasons.
In some circles, however, enthusiasm for Egypt ran higher than ever before. A theory that humanity's original civilization was Egyptian and that all other civilizations derived from it gained serious adherents. In 1759 Joseph de Guignes sought to prove that China had been an Egyptian colony, while Jacob Bryant did Wales the same favor in 1774. These theories anticipated the pan-Egyptian diffusionism of Grafton Elliot Smith and W. J. Perry in the 1920s, not to mention the recent flurry of "Afrocentric" assertions of Martin Bernal and his associates.
Among the general educated public Egyptian themes retained prestige through their incorporation in Freemasonry, which spread rapidly in France and Germany in the course of the eighteenth century. Inheriting elements of the hermetic tradition and of Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry fostered a synthesis of occult wisdoms, showing once again that Egyptian motifs were more potent when wedded to other interests. Today the masonic interpretation lives on in performances of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Magic Flute, first produced in Vienna in 1791.
In retrospect, the Masonic reverence of Egypt appears as a kind of last gasp of a mystical attraction, boundless but poorly supported by the evidence. Eventually, this speculation was to yield to a new rigor, that of professional archaeology.v But a time of testing intervened. Although the materials at his disposal were inadequate, Winckelmann felt obliged to include a chapter on Egyptian art in his Geschichte der Kunst des Altertums of 1764. In his view Egyptian artists, restricted to a primitive concern with essentials, had never advanced beyond the first, most primitive stage of art's progress. The ultimate grounds for this limitation resided, Winckelmann believed, in the geographical, political and social environment which were far less favorable than those of the Greeks. He also believed that the physical attributes of the Egyptian people, that they were (as Aristotle claimed) bandy-legged and snub-nosed, made them poor models for the realization of beautiful human forms. With its monarchical authoritarianism, ancient Egypt failed to achieve the condition of political freedom required to produce good art. Winckelmann only granted that some works showed technical skill.
In France, Winckelmann's views received reinforcement from Antoine Chrysostôme Quatremère de Quincy (1755-1849), who extended them to Egyptian buildings, the French theorist asserted, were monotonous and graceless, never developing any principle of reason or proportion. Their ornamental enhancements, including hieroglyphic inscriptions, he decried as overloaded and confusing.
These judgments were countered by the work of Georg Zoëga (1755-1809), a native of Schleswig. After study at the University of Göttingen, then perhaps the most stimulating place to pursue classical studies, Zoëga moved to Rome in 1783. He was determined, so it seemed, to follow in Winckelmann's footsteps. However, Zoëga sought to temper his predecessor's intuitive judgments with sound archaeological reasoning. His treatise De origine et usu obeliscorum (Rome, 1797) has no parallel in Winckelmann's work. Using obelisks as his starting point, the writer critically suveyed the ancient and modern writings on Egypt. After reviewing the question of hieroglyphs, which he conceded was not soluble in the current state of knowledge, he turned to art. He rejected Winckelmann's claim that Egyptian art was stagnant and immutable, by showing how obelisks, statues, and inscriptions could be assigned to distinct periods according to their style and quality. Of course, some of his ascriptions were revised by later scholarship, but it is notable that he had a genuine conception of the development of Egyptian art, which he believed culminated in the twelfth dynasty. He noted a decline in later Egyptian art, but then a revival during the Late Period ("Saite").
Winckelmann's dismissal of Egyptian art was also countered by the engraver and architect Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778), who had opposed, on patriotic grounds, the savant's preference for Greek as against Etruscan and Roman art. Piranesi produced a series of plates showing a variety of Egyptian designs. about 1760 he also designed Egyptianizing murals for a fashionable coffee house, the Caffè Inglese near the Spanish Steps in Rome. As reproduced in his Diverse maniere d'adornare i cammini of 1769, his designs have a cluttered air, mingling baroque and rococo motifs. Nonetheless, Piranesi's efforts stand out as the first attempt by a major artist to create works in a style that can be termed "Egyptian revival."vii
This somewhat fussy evocation of Egypt soon yielded, however, to one more in keeping with the austere taste of the last years of the ancien regime in France. The monumental schemes of the architects Etienne-Louis Boullée and Claude-Nicolas Ledoux reveal a new vision of grandiose blankness, in keeping with the rising aesthetic of the sublime. While these were not executed, Ledoux's pyramids and other geometrical designs became widely known through his illustrated book, Architecture considerée sous le rapport de l'art, des moeurs et de la législation (Paris, 1804). In our day pyramids have even invaded the courtyard of the Louvre, thanks to I. M. Pei's design.
After the Piranesi and the Boullée-Ledoux phases, a third, more archaeologically correct trend commenced in France after the turn of the century. This trend showed the effects of Napoleon's expedition. On reflection it appears that the impact of the new information and visual material produced by this incursion was the greater because the way for it had been substantially prepared. In any event, this third stage engendered much furniture and also a series of Egyptian Revival Buildings in England and America during the first half of the nineteenth century. In keeping with the associationist concept of architecture, the Egyptian Revival style was thought to be particularly suitable for cemeteries and prisons.

Expeditions and Excavations.
In itself, Napoleon's expedition to Egypt, begun in 1798-99 and concluded in 1802 was a brief, inglorious episode overshadowed by later imperial accomplishments on the European continent. Because of the artists and savants that the general took with him, however, the event was to have an enduring resonance.viii In 1802 the artist Dominique Vivant Denon brought out the three volumes of his Voyage dans la Basse et la Haute Egypte pendant les campagnes du général Bonaparte, which not only had vivid illustrations of battles but also renderings of ancient monuments. This work was succeeded by a far more ambitious publication, conveying much learned commentary by savants, Description de l'Egypte, ou Recueil des observations et des recherches qui ont été faites en Egypte pendant l'expédition de l'armée française with nine volumes of text, eleven volumes of plates and an atlas (Paris, 1809-1828). This set, one of the largest publishing ventures ever undertaken, provided the indispensable foundation for further progress in Egyptological research.
Another product of the expedition was the finding of the Rosetta stone. In July 1799 this black basalt slab was discovered by a French soldier digging foundations for a fort. Despite the efforts of the French to retain it, the stone was seized by the British, together with other monuments, and taken back to England. The importance of the Rosetta stone is that it contains one inscription at the bottom, in Greek, and two others, above and center, in hieroglyphic and demotic (cursive) Egyptian script.
Using a number of plaster casts which had been made available, scholars of several countries began the exacting task of comparing the known, the Greek text, with the two unknown texts. The decipherment was a gradual process. However, the decisive breakthrough was made by the French scholar Jean-François Champollion.ix He was greatly assisted by his belief, which was correct, that Coptic, a language written in a modified Greek alphabet, was a late form of Egyptian. Once he was convinced of the phonetic value of the symbols Champollion made rapid progress. His famous "Lettre à M. Dacier" of 1822 revealed the basic principles of Egyptian hieroglyphs. Now the whole vast treasurehouse of Egyptian monumental inscriptions and papyri could be read.
Nominally a part of the Ottoman empire, Egypt was ruled for much of the nineteenth century by a Muslim dynasty of Albanian origin that promoted modernization under European auspices. Then from 1883 onwards Egypt was under British control. These circumstances favored foreign intervention and meddling. As regards art these incursion were at first mainly treasure hunts. The French and English consuls vied in "liberating" booty to enrich the collections of their respective nations. The energetic Giovanni Battista Belzoni, who opened the second pyramid at Giza, particularly excelled in organizing these depradations.
Gradually, however, archaeological standards improved. The French scholar François-Auguste Mariette (1821-1881) teamed up with the learned German Heinrich Karl Brugsch (1827-1894) to explore the Serapeum under the auspices of the Egyptian government. This was followed by a whirlwind of other excavations, conducted with more enthusiasm than scrupulous care. In 1858 Mariette founded the Antiquities Service and the Egyptian Museum; with this official authority he monitored exports of objects, ending an era of unrestrained plunder. Just before Mariette's death the Service began opening a series of small pyramids in the Memphis area. When this work was completed by his successor Gaston Maspero, it revealed the Pyramid Texts, of enormous value for reconstructing the religion of the Old Kingdom.
At the behest of the Prussian government Karl Richard Lepsius (1810-1884) undertook an expedition to Egypt in 1842-45, resulting in a monumental publication in twelve folio volumes, Denkmäler aus Ägypten und Äthiopien. The 15,000 objects he brought back formed the nucleus of the excellent Berlin Egyptian collection and Lepsius inaugurated the Prussian capital's academic tradition in the field by becoming a professor at the university.
Through the work of these and other pioneering scholars, the basic structure of the chronology of Egypt of the pharaohs began to take shape. The old notion of a static, unchanging Egypt yielded to a more articulated scheme. Scholars adopted the convention of distinguishing three major phases: the Old Kingdom (ca. 3110-2258 B.C.), the Middle Kingdom (2134-1786 B.C.), and the New Kingdom (1570-1084 B.C.). This triple sequence of major phases has proved an appealing model to archaeologists working elsewhere, as in the Aegean world, where scholars distinguish Early Minoan, Middle Minoan and Late Minoan.
In due course, archaeologists obtained the evidence to document Egypt during prehistoric times--what is termed the predynastic age. William Matthews Flinders Petrie (1853-1942) first studied British antiquities at Stonehenge and then undertook a great variety of excavations in Egypt, where he founded the British School of Archaeology in 1894. With his work at Naqada he opened a whole new--and vast--chapter of predynastic Egyptian remains.
Two excavations were of special importance. At Tell el-Amarna in Middle Egypt Flinders Petrie dug at the end of the century, succeeded by the Germans, and (after 1920) by the English again. These efforts revealed the lost city of Akhenaten, the "heretical pharaoh," and a fascinating, unknown era of New Kingdom history. The monotheism championed by Akhenaten has triggered much speculation about possible connections with Moses and ancient Israelite monotheism.  Akhenaten has been the subject of a number of modern novels, including those by Philip K. Dick, Naguib Mahfuz, and Dmitri Merezhkovsky; there is also a remarkable opera (1983) by Philip Glass.
In 1922 Howard Carter made the sensational find of the intact tomb of the young pharaoh Tutankhamun in western Thebes.x This last feat touched off a renewed wave of Egyptomania in the decorative arts, where the Tut-inspired motifs found a hospitable climate in art deco.
In the meantime other major finds were taking place in Mesopotamia, which were to challenge Egypt's claim to uniqueness. Much Victorian digging in what is now Iraq was unsystematic treasure hunting, but it did provide large caches of baked-clay cuneiform tablets.xi Once mastered, cuneiform is easier than hieroglyphic, but the decipherment was protracted, proceeding from the known to the unknown. Documents in Old Persian, an Indo-European language, were first read, then texts in Akkadian and Assyrian, two Semitic languages akin to Hebrew. By about 1850 it became clear that the oldest texts were written in a language unrelated to any other; this tongue was termed Sumerian. Today most archaeologists (though not all) agree that writing began in Sumeria in the middle of the fourth millennium BCE, consequently several centuries before the first Egyptian hieroglyphs. With writing came many other original practices, so that the Sumerians justly deserve the honor of having founded civilization itself.xii Even today this primacy has not been sufficiently acknowledged by classical scholars and Egyptologists.

The Consolidation of Egyptology.
Towards the middle of the nineteenth century, the term Egyptology came into common use, marking the separation of the study of Egyptian antiquities from the later ones of Greece and Rome.xiii This development rested on two pillars. On the one hand, the tendency simply to plunder the remains of pharaonic civilization in order to bring back booty had to be brought into control: not only were too many important pieces being taken away from the Nile valley, but precious indications of context were being lost. Mariette was the pivotal figure. Although his field methods with their dynamiting and careless recording of find circumstances were rooted in the old ways, at the same time by his effort to control excavations and monitor exports he inaugurated the new era. The second pillar was the effort to sift and study what had been acquired. This last was in large measure an armchair endeavor, with scholars poring over inscriptions and records in order to establish the essential facts of Egyptian grammar and history. Just as the French and English excelled in field archaeology (though many other nations including the United States were active as well), so German-speaking scholars outstripped the others in the technical progress of academic Egyptological study.
In fact, the masses and masses of material found in the Valley of the Nile demanded reasoned examination. In Berlin Adolf Erman (1854-1937) did fundamental work on Egyptian grammar, laying the foundations for exact translation of original literature. He also used his knowledge of primary sources to create a vivid account of everyday life for the general reader. In 1887 the classical scholar Eduard Meyer (1855-1930) published the first adequate modern history: Geschichte Ägyptens. Other important philological work was done by Kurt Sethe, Hermann Kees, Siegfried Morenz, and the Englishman Sir Alan H. Gardiner.
Careful sifting of the documents showed that the traditional chronology outlined by Manetho and other ancient authorities was not reliable. Not only were the inherited schemes internally inconsistent, but they were difficult to reconcile with astronomical data. Even today, absolute dates cannot be achieved before the beginning of the Dynasty XI.xiv
Today Egyptology boasts an impressive apparatus of informational resources. As they stand somewhat apart from mainstream art history and archaeology, a brief review is appropriate. Since 1947 the flood of new publications has been monitored by the Annual Egyptological Bibliography, published in Leiden. Older references are recorded by site in B. Porter, R. Moss, and E. Burney, Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs and Paintings (7 vols., Oxford, 1927-52; new ed. begun in 1960). The first specialized periodical to appear was Zeitschrift fur ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde, begun by Brugsch in 1863. Also important today are the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology (since 1933), the Revue d'Egyptologie (since 1933), the Chronique d'Egypte (since 1926), the Annales du Service des Antiquités de l'Egypte (since 1900), Aegyptus: Rivista italiana di egittologia e di papirologia (since 1920), and the Journal of Near Eastern Studies (since 1942), the last with broader scope. A superb reference tool is the Lexikon der Ägyptologie, begun in Wiesbaden in 1972 under the editorship of Wolfgang Helck and Eberhard Otto.

Art History
It goes without saying that Egyptologists, though including art objects within their sphere, typically do not evaluate them aesthetically. Rather they use them as historical evidence--as means to an end. The museum-visiting public has asked for something more, and rightly so.xv The credit for a first attempt at an Egyptian art history belongs to Georges Perrot and Charles Chipiez, Histoire de l'art dans l'antiquité, of which the first volume (1882) addresses Egypt. Yet this ten-volume survey is still centered, in concept and coverage, on the classical world of Greek and Rome. German-speaking scholars such as Alois Riegl, Emmanuel Loewy, and Heinrich Schäfer began to voice the need to examine Egyptian art from entirely different premises, freeing it from the domination of classical aesthetics. In France, England, and America, artists, sensitized by the nonmimetic tendencies of cubism and abstractionism, looked upon Egyptian art with new eyes. This response was particularly salient in some African-American modernists, who discerned an ethnic as well as an aesthetic affinity.
As more and more finds were recorded, it became clear how false was the stereotype that Egyptian art was unchanging, that "all Egyptian works look alike." At Giza the work of the American archaeologist George Andrew Reisner clarified the apogee of the Old Kingdom under Mycerinus. Nearby at Saqqara the French exposed the impressive precinct of Zoser, which formed the immediate prelude to the Old Kingdom. The outlines of "Archaic Egypt"--the first two dynasties--became more definite. To accommodate his own discoveries, Flinders Petrie devised an ingenious system of "sequence dates" to organize predynastic finds which became a field of their own.xvi The relatively informal handling of predynastic painting, as found particularly in pottery, gained its own admirers.
Comparison of predynastic art with that produced afterwards under the pharaohs highlighted the prevalence in the latter age of the system of "fractional representation." In paintings and relief carvings, the dynastic Egyptians adhered to a standardized combination of profile and frontal views. In a brief, but seminal study of 1900, the Viennese art historian Emmanuel Loewy sought to connect this convention with a procedure of "memory images" that he found common to many types of primitive and archaic art.xvii In 1919, in what was probably the most incisive intervention in the fundamentals of Egyptian art up to that point, Heinrich Schäfer situated the practice of fractional representation in a larger context.xviii He isolated an aspective imperative that all (or almost all) Egyptian art of the dynastic era obeys, an imperative that in all types of representations prescribes the projection of selective elements on a plane parallel to the observer. The "conventions" or "stylizations" that occur as a product of adhesion to this aspective principle are intuitively grasped by every serious observer, but it is less realized how much they underlie the exceptionalism of Egyptian art as a whole. It is this exceptionalism that has made it sui generis, and therefore unsuited to close comparison with the art of any other people, ancient or modern. A related device was the grid or "canon" of representation, employed in the execution of relief carvings and paintings, comprising first eighteen and then (in the late period) twenty-one squares in height.xix
The forthright emergence of these principles undergirds the status of the Old Kingdom as the era in which the "Egyptianness of Egyptian art" was established. However, the distinctive character of Middle Kingdom portraiture found its champion in Hans-G. Evers,xx and a number of scholars concentrated on the almost caricatural realism of the Amarna phase associated with Akhenaten, which seemed so at variance with long-established norms.xxi The Late Period, so long despised as a mere age of decadence, came into its own in the second half of the twentieth century, in large measure due to the efforts of Bernard V. Bothmer of the Brooklyn Museum.xxii Coptic art was also increasingly studied, in part as a prelude to medieval art; this body of material added to Egypt's status as a repository of nonclassical art.
Although for long periods of its history pharaonic Egypt was essentially self-sufficient, contacts have been traced. The degree of effect is disputed, but it seems undeniable that Mesopotamian influences played a role in triggering the "take off" that began in the first dynasty.xxiii In the New Kingdom there were extensive connections with the Levant and Crete.xxiv Others radiated in the opposite direction, towards Nubia and points south.xxv The link with Greece has proved particularly controversial at the end of the twentieth century, even though careful scholars noted the ultimate Egyptian origin of the Greek kouros sculpture type, for example. Others considered the influence of the lotus motif and of architecture with columns and capitals.
Despite these and other debts that Greece contracted with relation to Egypt, classicists have tended to neglect them, and to emphasize the "miracle of Greece" as something essentially self-generating. This complacent view seems to have met its match in Martin Bernal of Cornell University, the author of a major work, Black Athena, of which three volumes of a projected four have appeared.xxvi The first volume limns the shift in Greek historiography from what Bernal regards as the Greeks' own model of their origins as a synthesis of Pelasgian (Indo-European), West Semitic, and Egyptian elements to an exclusivist paradigm of Greece as self-contained and purely European that triumphed in the nineteenth century. The Ancient Model thus contrasts, in Bernal's view, with the usurping Aryan Model, actuated by racism, anti-semitism, and an overweening confidence in the inherent superiority of all things European. Bernal's work, conceived in the grand manner, covers many disciplines and is difficult to evaluate as a whole. Still, he has decisively reopened the question of the contribution of the various peoples to the rise of civilization in the Mediterranean. 
 In the present writer's view, the chief drawback of Black Athena lies not so much in its "Greece-bashing"--arguably a useful corrective to the Hellenic "miraculism" that has prevailed in the past--as in the tendency to obscure the contribution of the Sumerians and the Semitic peoples of Mesopotamia. Examining all fields of human endeavor, the Mesopotamian contribution is even greater than that of the Egyptians. To be sure, this tendency to exalt Egypt above all other ancient societies is more evident in the Afrocentric followers of Bernal than in the writer himself. Reverting unconsciously to the eccentric pan-Egyptian views of the 1920s, the new Afrocentric approach seeks to ascribe almost everything of value in the ancient world to ancient Egypt. Time will tell whether this emphasis is the culmination of a process of revelation begun in the fifteenth century with Ficino's homage to Egyptian wisdom, or whether a more moderate, ecumenical view will prevail.
A particularly flourishing vehicle of popular enthusiasm for ancient Egypt is film and television.  For a list of some 800 such items, see

             Egyptology is well established as a specialized field of archaeology, though one that is perhaps being remolded as a result of growing interest in an Afrocentric approach to the origins of human culture. The standing of Egyptian art as art is less clear. As late as the 'seventies and 'eighties, despite the popular success of the traveling Tutankhamun and Ramses exhibitions, relatively few art-historical faculties had managed to integrate studies of Egyptian art. The Institute of Fine Arts of New York University, with the cooperation of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum, is an honorable exception.  An encouraging sign is the increasing role being played by well-trained Egyptian scholars conducting research in their own country.
In a brief compass this chapter has traced the ebb and flow of interest in ancient Egypt and its art. More particularly, an effort has been made to locate the beginning of the impact of the art of ancient Egypt in a particular turning point of European sensibility. Egyptian art emerged as an aesthetic presence during the "window of opportunity" represented by the coming of the sublime, romanticism, and, more generally, aesthetic pluralism as they emerged in the latter part of the eighteenth century. Since then, the cause of Egyptian art both gained and lost. With the emergence of Egyptology as an autonomous discipline, it become the property of a highly professional and exclusive elite, whose technical writings are a closed book to the laity. At the same time, the exceptionalism of Egyptian art, obedient to its very special canons, made it both an object of curiosity and mystery. However, today's multiculturalism has--in part for political reasons--brought Egyptian culture and art to center stage again. It may be that the potential of ancient Egyptian artifacts for modifying European norms, a potential that has seemed promising from time to time, is now poised on the verge of becoming a reality.

i Christine Hobson, The World of the Pharaohs. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1987.
ii Anne Roullet, The Egyptian and Egyptianizing Monuments of Imperial Rome, Leiden: Brill, 1972.
iii Frances Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1964, pp. 1-61. A sense of the early popularity of this material transpires from Margaret Lane Ford, Christ, Plato, Hermes Trismegistus: The Dawn of Printing (Catalogue of the Incunabula in the Bibliotheca Pansophica Hermetica, Volume One, Parts One and Two), Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1989.
iv Erik Iversen, The Myth of Egypt and Its Hieroglyphs in European Tradition, Copenhagen: Gec Gad, 1961.  More generally, see Erik Hornung, The Secret Lore of Egypt: Its Impact on the West, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001; and Brian Curran, The Egyptian Renaissance: The Afterlife of Ancient Egypt in Early Modern Italy, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.
v Iversen, Myth, 115 ff.
vi Sylvia Lavin, Quatremère de Quincy and the Invention of a Modern Language of Architecture, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1992.
vii For this theme in its broadest context, see James Stephen Curl, The Egyptian Revival: An Introductory Study of a Recurring Theme in the History of Taste, London: George Allen & Unwin, 1982. An exemplary monograph, emphasizing the United States, is Richard G. Carrott, The Egyptian Revival: Its Sources, Monuments, and Meaning, 1808-1858, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978.
viii Fernand Beaucour, et al., La Découverte de l'Egypte, Paris: Flammarion, 1989.
ix Hermine Hartleben, Champollion: sa vie et son oeuvre, 1790-1832, Paris: Pygmalion/Gérard Watelet, 1983; Jean Lacouture, Champollion, une vie de lumières, Paris: Bernard Grasset, 1988.
x H. V. F. Winstone, Howard Carter and the Discovery of the Tomb of Tutahkhamun, London: Constable, 1991.
xi Edward Chiera, They Wrote on Clay, 2d ed., Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955.
xii Samuel Noah Kramer, History Begins at Sumer, 2nd ed., Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982.
xiii No comprehensive history of Egyptology exists, and it may be that the subject is too vast to be compressed within the covers of a single volume. The following are helpful: Warren Royal Dawson and Eric Parrington Uphill, Who Was Who in Egyptology, 2d ed., London: Egypt Exploration Society, 1972; Thomas G. H. James, Excavating in Egypt: The Egypt Exploration Society, 1882-1982, Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1982; John Romer, Valley of the Kings New York: William Morrow, 1981; J. A. Wilson, Signs and Wonders Upon Pharaoh: A History of American Egyptology, Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1964; John David Wortham, The Genesis of British Egyptology, 1549-1906, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971; and Stephanie Moser, Wondrous Curiosities: Ancient Egypt in the British Museum, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.
xiv W. C. Hayes, "Chronology. I. Egypt--to the End of the Twentieth Dynasty," I. E. S. Edwards, et al., Cambridge Ancient History, 3d ed., I:1, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970, pp. 173-92.
xv This rift between archaeology and art history was to be replicated later in Pre-Columbian studies of Mesoamerica and the Andean region.
xvi Kent R. Weeks, An Historical Bibliography of Egyptian Prehistory (American Research Center in Egypt, Catalogue no. 6), Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1985.  Still useful is the synthesis of Michael A. Hoffman, Egypt Before the Pharaohs, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979.
xvii Translated into English by John Fothergill: The Rendering of Nature in Early Greek Art, London: Duckworth, 1907.
xviii The fourth edition of Schäfer's work, edited by Emma Brunner-Traut, was translated by John R. Baines as Principles of Egyptian Art, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974. The matter was reviewed by the translator, the Oxford Eygptologist John Baines, "Theories and Universals of Representation: Heinrich Schäfer and Egyptian Art," Art History, 8 (1985), 1-25. For a recent book-length reconsideration of these problems, see Whitney Davis, The Canonical Tradition in Ancient Egyptian Art, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
xix See Erik Iversen and Yoshiaki Shibata, Canon and Proportions in Egyptian Art, Warminster, Eng.: Aris and Phillips, 1975 (second ed. of a work originally published by Iversen alone in 1955); and Gay Robins, Proportion and Style in Egyptian Art, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994, who is sharply critical of Iversen's methods.
xx Staat aus dem Stein, 2 vols., Munich: F. Bruckmann, 1929.
xxi See especially the many studies of Cyril Aldred, culminating in Akhenaten: King of Egypt, London: Thames and Hudson, 1988. For a different view, see Donald B. Redford, Akhenaten: The Heretic King, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984.  For other references, see Geoffrey Thorndike Martin, A Bibliography of the Amarna Period and Its Aftermath: The Reigns of Akhenaten, Smenkhare, Tutankhamun and Ay (c.1350-1321 BC), London: Kegan Paul International, 1991.
xxii Bothmer, Egyptian Sculpture of the Late Period, 700 B.C. to A.D. 100, New York: The Brooklyn Museum, 1960.
xxiii A good case for this has been made by a scholar well acquainted with both countries: Henri Frankfort, The Birth of Civilization in the Near East, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1951.
xxiv William Stephenson Smith, Interconnections in the Ancient Near East, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965.
xxv Steffen Wenig, et al., Africa in Antiquity: The Arts of Ancient Nubia and the Sudan, 2 vols., New York: The Brooklyn Museum, 1978.
xxvi Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization. Volume I: The Fabrication of Ancient Greece, 1785-1985, New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1987; Volume II: The Archaeological and Documentary Evidence, 1991; Vol. III, The Linguistic Evidence, 2006.

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