Ancient Egyptian Ornaments

EGYPTIAN ORNAMENT - The history of Egypt, extending from 4400 B.C. to 340 B.C., during which 30 dynasties existed, is usually divided into three groups: 

(1) The Ancient Empire, I.-XI. dynasties, 4400-2466 B.C. 

(2) The Middle Empire, XII.-XIX., 2466-1200; and 

(3) the New Empire, XX.-XXX. dynasties, 1200-340 B.C.

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Еxcerpt from the book: A Manual of HISTORIC ORNAMENT TREATING UPON THE EVOLUTION, TRADITION AND DEVELOPMENT OF ARCHITECTURE AND OTHER APPLIED ARTS. PREPARED FOR THE USE OF STUDENTS AND CRAFTSMEN.
BY RICHARD GLAZIER, Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects; Head Master of the Municipal School of Art, Manchester, LONDON: 1899

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The capitals of the Ancient Empire comprised Memphis and Abydos; of the Middle Empire, Thebes, Luxor and Tanis: and of the New Empire, Sais and Bubastis. The remarkable civilization of these early dynasties are attested by the many fine remains of architecture, sculpture and decorative arts that enrich our national museums. 

The Great Pyramids were built during the fourth dynasty, the largest by Kheops, 3733-3700 B.C., is 756 ft. × 756 ft., and 480 ft. high; the second, by Kephren, 3666-3633 B.C., is 707 ft. × 707 ft. and 454 ft. high: and the third, 333 ft. × 330 ft., and 218 ft. high, was erected by Mykerinos, 3633-3600 B.C.

The Sphinx, half animal and half human, is the oldest sculpture known, and is probably of the 1st and 2nd dynasties, yet it is singular that all the earliest sculptures of the 3rd and 4th dynasties with which we are acquainted, were realistic portraiture, remarkable for its fidelity to nature. 

Kings, queens, and individuals of note, were finely sculptured, frequently of a colossal size. But the Deities, Amen Sckhet, Horus, Hathor, Iris, and Osiris, were represented in the later dynasties by small votive statuettes, noticeable for their number rather than for their artistic qualities, never reaching the excellence or vitality of the earlier period. 

Much of the architectural enrichment was in Cavo Relievo, a peculiarly Egyptian mode of ornamentation, the outline of the figures, birds, or flowers, being sunk into the surface of the granite or basalt, and then carved within this sunk outline, leaving the ground or bed raised, these reliefs being invariably painted red, blue, green, and yellow. The frieze, which, in the hands of the Greeks at a later period, became their principal ornamental field, was used by the Egyptians in superposed bands, showing, in cavo relievo, the industrial arts and pursuits, weaving, glass blowing, and the making of pottery; ploughing, sowing, and reaping, also hunting and fishing. The composition and sculpture of these incidents was simple, refined and purely decorative, with a naïveté and unaffection so appropriate to the architectonic conditions. Mingled with these incidents were the beautiful hieroglyphs, or picture writing of the Egyptians. 

Figs. 7-13 are examples of painted decorations showing the spiral construction of lines, together with the symbolic treatment of the Lotus, the latter being regarded by the Egyptians as a symbol of fertility and of a new life, hence the profusion with which it was used in their decorative work. 

Great fertility of invention was displayed in enriching their architectural capitals with the Lotus, the Papyrus, and the Palm. A singular feature introduced during the 18th dynasty was the Hathor Capital surmounted by a small Naos. During the Ptolemaic period, B.C. 300, the Hathor Capital was placed upon the vertical bell-shaped capital (fig. 3).