Gardner's Art Through the Ages  

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"WHAT is art? We do not know. The essential nature of that mysterious, intangible, indefinable something that we call art baffles us." --Gardner's Art Through the Ages (1926) by Helen Gardner

"BAROQUE is an excellent example of the necessity for looking at the culture that is responsible for a style of art and the reasons for the character of that culture. The coming of the seventeenth century marked the decline of the Renaissance in Italy, as the sixteenth marked its maturity and the fifteenth its youth. Hence one expects to find complexity and contradiction, technical virtuosity, and theatrical realism. A secular life centered in display found its needed stimulation in a grandiloquence that surprised and overwhelmed the senses. A complacent, decadent Church, threatened with disintegration by the progress of the Reformation in northern Europe, aroused itself into reform through the Counter-Reformation, and saw in the pomp and circumstance of the rising baroque style a type of expression that could overawe with splendor. This trend was confirmed by the Jesuits, recently established in Spain, whose influence was powerful not only in missionary endeavor but also in holding adherents loyal in the face of powerful heresies. Hence the motivation of both secular and religious interests was to feed strained emotionalism with grandiloquent brilliance. One is not surprised to find Italian opera developing rapidly, and the aria, with much florid embroidery, the vogue of the day; or the rise of the viol family among instruments, culminating at Cremona in the creations of the Stradivarius family."--Gardner's Art Through the Ages (1926) by Helen Gardner

"In a general way, most of the modern painters belong to one of two main lines of descent, with many border-line cases: Seurat-Cezanne-Picasso-the cubists; Van Gogh-Gauguin-Matisse-the fauves-the expressionists. These families are composed of intensely individual members, though they represent two fairly coherent, contrasting points of view— which may be illustrated roughly, one by Matisse and the fauves and the other by Picasso and the cubists."--Gardner's Art Through the Ages (1926) by Helen Gardner

Gardner's Art Through the Ages (1926) is an American textbook on the history of art written by Helen Gardner (1878–1946).

Attention is given to the high arts and the decorative arts.


See also

Full text[1]

Front matter







All rights reserved, No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, by mimeograph or any other means, without per- mission in writing from the publisher.



The Nature of Art The Nature of Form The Elements of Form Form in the Visual Arts


Prehistoric Art

1 PALEOLITHIC ART (earliest times to about 20,000 b.c.)

2 MESOLITHIC AND NEOLITHIC ART (about 20,000-2000 b.g.)

Near Eastern Art


Early Egypt and the Old Kingdom (about 4500-2475 B.c.)

The Middle Kingdom and the Empire (2160-1090 b.g.)

4 ART IN THE TIGRIS-EUPHRATES VALLEY AND PERSIA Sumerian Art (about 4000-1925 B.c.)

Assyrian Art (about 1000-612 B.c.)

Chaldean or Neo-Babylonian Art (612-539 B * a )

Achaemenian Persian Art (539-331 b.g.)

Mediterranean Art

5 AEGEAN ART (about 3000-1 100 b.c.) 104


Geometric, Archaic, and Fifth-Century Art (about 1 100-400 b.c.) 118

Fourth-Century and Hellenistic Art (400 b.c. to the first century b.c.) 156

7 ETRUSCAN AND ROMAN ART (about 1000 b.c.-a.d. 500) 168


I \ / p ar Eastern Art


(about 3300 B.C. to A.D. 600)

9 CHINESE ART (about 3000 b.c. to a.d. 907)

10 JAPANESE ART (a.d. 552-900)

American Art

11 MIDDLE AMERICAN ART Mayan Art of the First Empire Toltec Art (about a.d. 500-1000)


Early Chimu and Nazca Art (first century b.c. to a.d. 600) Tiahuanaco Art (a.d. 600-900)


European and Near Eastern Art


14 RUSSIAN ART (tenth to eighteenth century a.d.)

15 MUHAMMADAN ART (a.d. 622 to date)


Sassanian Persian Art (a.d. 226-641)

Muhammadan Persian Art (a.d. 641-1736)

17 ROMANESQUE ART (about a.d. 500-1 1 50)

18 GOTHIC ART (about a.d. 1150-1550) Far Eastern Art


20 CHINESE ART (a.d. 960 to date) 378

21 JAPANESE ART (a.d. 900 to date) 387

African and Oceanian Art

22 PRIMITIVE ART African Negro Art Oceanian Art

American Art




Mayan Art: The Second Empire


Zapotec and Mixtec Art

4 I 3

Toltec and Aztec Art

4 i 5







Pueblo Art


Hopewell Art



Renaissance Art in Italy



Sienese and Florentine Painting Northern Italian Painting


29 BAROQUE ART (seventeenth century)

Renaissance Art in Northern , Western > and Eastern Europe

go FLEMISH ART (fourteenth to seventeenth century)

3 1 GERMAN ART (fourteenth to sixteenth century)

32 SPANISH ART (fifteenth to nineteenth century)

33 DUTCH ART (sixteenth to seventeenth century)

34 ENGLISH ART (sixteenth to nineteenth century)

35 FRENCH ART (fifteenth to nineteenth century)

36 RUSSIAN ART (sixteenth to nineteenth century)

Renaissance Art in the Americas





South American


North American











Northwest Coast Indian Art


The Plains Indian Art


Navaho Art





Nineteenth-Century Art



English Painting

French Painting

Painting in the United States

Latin American Painting and Folk Arts

Twentieth-Century Art



Painting In the United States Canadian Painting Mexican Painting

South American and Caribbean Painting






BECAUSE today and only today, the concept of one total world in- escapably thrusts itself forward, I have been motivated, in preparing this third edition of Art Through the Ages, both in the incorporation of new material and in the reorganization of the old, by a desire to present a world panorama of art; to look at the world horizontally; to present a view of Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, and Modern Art, each as a whole the world over; to show where contacts did or did not exist, and how the world of the relatively isolated cultures of antiquity has gradually become one world, with national barriers so breached that we are now talking of international styles in art.

History of art thus viewed does not organize with neat precision into the four chronological cross sections mentioned above. All cultures are not at the same stage of evolution at the same time; some are long-lived, while others are short; some are in the archaic stage, while others are at a climax. Yet whatever their relative state of evolution, the contacts which they make are highly important. Even though every scheme of organization contains inconsistencies and disadvantages, the panorama becomes particularly valu- able at a time when the world has shrunk to its present size; it helps to break down our Europocentric attitude toward art, to reorient our thinking, and to enlarge our horizons.

The Introduction I have enlarged along the same lines as in the second edi- tion, that is, I have isolated the problem of form, as a necessary preliminary for any discussion of the arts, historical or critical.

Part One presents a panorama of the arts in ancient times and shows how great cultures arose and evolved on all the continents, largely in isolation yet with some vital contacts that affected the forms of art expression.

Part Two continues the panorama through the Middle Ages when the con- tacts between Asia, Northern Africa, and Europe became more pronounced and a lively intercourse brought about mutual exchanges of ideas, motifs, and forms.

Part Three shows the Renaissance as the period when the world began to shrink at an ever accelerating rate. This was the age of discovery, explora- tion, and colonization. It witnessed the transplanting of European arts to large sections of the world, most important of which was the hitherto un- known western hemisphere, where the conflict or assimilation of European arts with the indigenous American arts transformed them into American- European styles.


Part Four reveals the world, through unbelievable advances in transporta- tion and communication, as one world in which the nations are becoming acquainted with each other, are learning from each other, and are to a con- siderable extent producing works of art which, despite national divergencies, come within an international framework.

After years of experience and experimentation in teaching history of art in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I am still of the opinion that the most effective presentation of the large amount of material involved is the chronological survey. In the first place, each culture takes its position in historical sequence. In the second place, the influences of one culture on another within an era can be clearly discerned. In the third place, the in- fluence of earlier periods on later ones can be seen; for example, the influ- ences which classical art exerted on the Renaissance and post-Renaissance periods, or the influences of the ancient Far East, of Egypt, and of the primi- tive peoples on modern art. Finally, each culture is analyzed for the charac- teristic art forms which give substance to its own individual essence in a manner known as its style.

I hardly need mention that in covering so wide a field in one volume, it has been necessary both to limit the material to the visual arts and to stress the significant movements. In general the objective has been to focus atten- tion upon works of art as art and to omit biographical and anecdotal matter, not because such material has no legitimate place, for it is frequently illu- minating, but because it is secondary and can be found easily in almost any library. Controversial questions of attribution and influence have been omitted as belonging properly to specialized books. The space thus gained has been used for analysis of the few works discussed, in the conviction that thorough study of a few works is more helpful than the recital of names and dates.

An indispensable part of the study of art is the illustration. Few works, therefore, are discussed for which there is no illustration for reference. The new system of numbering the illustrations according to the numbers of the pages on which they occur is expected to facilitate greatly ease of reference.

The bibliographies have been compiled with a well-equipped but not spe- cialized art library in mind. Hence, rare and costly books have usually been omitted, and among the works in foreign languages only a few which are particularly desirable for their illustrations have been included.

The writing of so comprehensive a book as well as the assembling and sifting of so large a mass of details make necessary the advice and coopera- tion of many individuals. Such cooperation has been given cordially and gen- erously on the part of individuals, museums, and publishers. For criticism on the manuscript of the first edition the author was indebted to Professors T. G. Allen, J. H. Breasted, W. E. Clark, Edith Rickert, Walter Sargent, and E. H. Wilkins of the University of Chicago; to Professor Grant Shower- man of the University of Wisconsin; and to Mr. R. B. Harshe and Mr. G. F. Kelley of the Art Institute of Chicago; for criticism of the second edition to Miss Kathleen Blackshear of the Art Institute of Chicago, Mr. James C.


Boudreau of Pratt Institute, Professor B. M. Donaldson of the University of Michigan, and Professor F. J. Roos, Jr. of the University of Illinois; for criticism of the third edition to Mr. C. F. Kelley of the Art Institute of Chicago, Professors G. G. Cameron and K. C. Seele of the University of Chicago, Professor Ralph Fanning of Ohio State University, and Professor James C. Boudreau of Pratt Institute.

The task of securing illustrations was largely the work of Harold Allen. This task was lightened appreciably by the generous assistance of individuals, libraries, museums, and publishers, acknowledgment of which is made with each cut. Especial help on the illustrations as well as in details of research was generously given by Miss Etheldred Abbot, Librarian Emeritus, and Miss Ruth E. Schoneman, Librarian, and their assistants of the Reference and Photograph Departments of the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries of the Art Institute of Chicago.

For the new analytical drawings of paintings and sculpture the author is indebted to Miss Kathleen Blackshear, Michaill Waskowsky, and Harold Allen; for other new drawings and maps to Harold Allen; for bibliographical research to Miss Edith Prior of the Ryerson Library and Harold Allen; for proof to Miss Kathleen Blackshear and Harold Allen.

H. G.

Publishers' Note

The text of Art Through the Ages: Third Edition was in galley proof at the time of Miss Gardner’s death. Thus the text in this edition, including the foregoing preface, is as Miss Gardner wrote it. Fortunately, her close co- workers, Miss Kathleen Blackshear and Harold Allen, were in a position to carry on and see the work through the press.


The Nature of Art

WHAT is art? We do not know. The essential nature of that mysterious, intangible, indefinable something that we call art baffles us. On the other hand, we do know definitely that from the earliest times until today hu- man beings the world over have given expression to human experience in con- crete tangible forms which we call works of art. And we know that art is essential to man’s well-being. Take away the finest of our buildings, our pottery, pic- tures, music, poetry, drama, and the dance. What kind of life would result?

Thus works of art exist and always have existed, and have been essential to man’s well-being. They are human ex- periences translated into forms that we apprehend through our senses. We see pictures and dances; we see and hear literature; we hear music; we feel the surfaces of a carving or a jar, and the texture of a piece of satin or velvet. But that is not all. Our sensory im- pressions and our perceptions lead to emotional reactions, and intelligence enters to rationalize. Sensation, emo- tion, and intelligence all enter into the process of understanding.

How, then, shall we go about under- standing? There can be no cut-and- dried formula. The very complexity of the art object requires many ap- proaches, no one of which has priority. Some people approach a painting from one angle, some from another, each ac-

cording to his temperament and habit of mind. All that matters is that a per- son shall eventually approach it from all angles, so that his understanding of it can be full and intelligent.

Hence in approaching a work of art, it is well to keep in mind its chief facets: that it is a form created by some artist; that it has a cultural or time context; a content or subject matter; and usually a function or use.

Let us examine these a little more closely. Every work of art is a form, a living structure possessed of an organic oneness that sets it apart from other ob- jects and marks it as a work of art. Who created this form? It was some artist. That is, a work of art is the objectifica- tion of a human experience. The artist is one who “selects and rearranges de- tails from life experience into concrete form.” (Thomas Munro) Thus his cre- ative activity is synthetic — that is, it consists of selecting parts and welding them into an integrated whole. The intangible quality of this oneness — - that is, whether it has an inner vitality or not — determines whether the artist has succeeded; “only that which is utterly intangible matters.” (D. H. Lawrence) A work of art may be above adverse criticism technically and at the same time be devoid of life. That statement is aptly illustrated by the Chinese saying that to paint a tiger successfully, the artist must have within himself the potentiality to be one.

The observer, the critic, on the other hand, approaches the work of art from



the opposite direction, the analytical. He sees the completed work of art, the integrated form, and in trying to under- stand it he attempts to see how the art- ist put the parts together to attain the observable results. While it is impossible for one person to relive another’s ex- perience, the intelligent critic comes as close to that experience as is humanly possible, and by training he is able to feel the quality of its inner intangible essence.

A work of art, then, is a form created by the artist out of human experience. At the same time it has a cultural con- text. It exists in time, and its form re- flects the forces of that time — social, economic, political, and religious. From this angle the form reveals a style— -a mode of the time of its creation, a mode that colors all works of art of the time so that together they express the essence of the time. Buildings, paintings, sculpture, pottery, literature, music, drama — all the arts reflect the mode of their age. Each elucidates the others. A mode or style, however, like time, is never static. It evolves, attains its maturity, and declines. So a work of art may conform to the prevailing style; it may revert to a previous style; or it may be revolutionary in that it looks forward, experiments, and embodies new elements which foretell the ap- proach of a new style.

Again, works of art have content. Even such objects as masks, pottery, and textile designs that are abstract or geometric and seem merely decorative may actually contain profound human meaning. This content bears a direct relation to the time of their creation. It was not by accident that Renaissance painters painted Madonnas, that mod- ern painters produce still life, ab- stract, or nonobjective paintings, and that the Chinese developed the land- scape scroll. It was not by accident that the design on early Chinese bronzes

and on some American Indian pottery relates to clouds and rain, or that Mayan carvings so frequently repeat the motif of the plumed serpent and the jaguar.

Another approach to a work of art is to consider its function or purpose. Probably a large majority of works of art were created to serve a definite pur- pose in a definite place. This statement hardly seems valid to one walking through a museum. A museum, how- ever, is at best an artificial, though necessary, storehouse of objects taken away from their original place and time; but when each object is traced back to its origin, the reasons for its creation and for its form become clearer. Paintings and statues belonged to cer- tain buildings, and rugs to certain palaces; Indian jars were made to hold water carried to the top of the mesa, and the tall slender Chinese vase was used to pour the wine at the rites of ancestor worship. The function of buildings we usually take for granted. But equally functional are many pic- tures, statues, and textiles, as well as much pottery and metalwork.

The Nature of Form

O F these essential approaches to a work of art, we shall isolate for discussion the first - — that of form and the ability to see form. “Form” has many meanings. Here — in fact all through this book — it is used in its widest sense: that of a total organic structure, a synthesis of all the elements of which that structure is constructed, and the manner in which these elements are related and united to create its distinctive character. “Organic,” ac- cording to Webster, means “Possessed of a complete structure comparable to that of a human being; forming a


totality, in which the relation of the parts involves relation to the whole.” “Structure,” according to the same authority, means “Something con- structed or built; the arrangement of the parts ... in a substance or body.” This is the meaning of the broadly in- clusive term “form.” The Chinese have a saying that we see with our ears. “Chesterton once observed shrewdly,” says J. B. Priestley, “that there was a great difference between an eager man who wanted to read a book and a tired man who wanted a book to read.” Reading a book, listening to music, or seeing a picture requires concentrated activity of both the emotions and the intelligence. Listen to a piece of music. You hear a succession of sounds, at times harmonious, at times discordant, which may produce a certain mood, somber or gay. But so far you have penetrated the music’s minimum sig- nificance only. It is so little in relation to what is there. You may be too in- capable, or perhaps too lazy, to pene- trate farther. If, on the other hand, you listen attentively enough to catch a melody, perhaps just a few bars, to hear it again in another key and again in its original form; or if you have noticed a second melody with which the first interweaves, and if you have dis- covered that the quality of each varies according to the instrument on which it is played — if you have heard all this and realize that these interweavings, repetitions, and variations cohere into a pattern of rhythmic movement, then you are on your way to understanding music.

So with a piece of literature. A writer uses words; he combines them into phrases, phrases into sentences, and sentences into paragraphs or verses; and by repetition, variation, and move- ment toward a climax he creates a pattern which not only conveys the content but, because of its inherent

capacity to arouse emotional response, vivifies the content, gives it a dynamic quality that is not inherent in the mere meaning of the words and the sentences. Thus music is not a mere succession of sounds, nor literature one of words alone, but a related and integrated suc- cession.

Try looking at a picture. If you see it only for its subject matter, as an illus- tration or as a historical document, or for its associational ideas or its general mood, then you have not grasped its maximum significance. Look again. Your curiosity might ask why it creates a certain mood, a certain reaction in you. Now you may see that a cer- tain color — blue for example — domi- nates; that it appears in a large area and is repeated in several small areas; that it is now light in tone, now darker. You also notice areas of yellow; and you observe that the blues and the yellows seem to play over against each other, and that each seems to enhance the brilliance of the other. Or you may notice a brightly lighted area, perhaps triangular in shape, and your eye moves from one part of the picture to another under the guidance of repeated triangu- lar areas. Each color and each light area appears and reappears in repetition and variation, like the themes in music, so related and interwoven that together they form the same kind of coherent whole that a musical composition does. Watch an artist who begins his picture by organizing his canvas into color areas with no visible representational content. Then see how a light area be- comes a house; a blue spot, a figure; and a dark-green mass, trees. But the basic color organization remains to vivify the content, to give it a life not secured by a mere imitation of nature. That is the difference between art and nature.

In these three arts — and it is equally true in all the arts — we find a basic



structure that not only conveys and vitalizes the content, but of itself de- lights the eye or the ear. And if one is to understand art, he must be able to see this structure, to see it with the art- ist’s vision . 1 “In truth I have painted by opening my eyes day and night on the perceptible world, and also by closing them from time to time that I might better see the vision blossom and sub- mit itself to orderly arrangement.” 2

The Elements of Form

W HEN an artist creates a work of art, he gives substance to his concept in tangible visible material. For this purpose the world offers him in- numerable possibilities. His choice, however, is not left to chance. Each material has its own potentialities and limitations, and it is part of the artist’s creative activity to determine whether a certain material is suitable for the ex- pression of his concept and whether he has technical proficiency in handling this material. The character of the material, and the processes and tools with which it is worked, are vital de- terminants in the character of the form: the way in which hammer and chisel slowly carve a figure from unyielding stone, or the fingers swiftly build a form from yielding clay. Nor are materials interchangeable. A theme suitable for

1 From this point, because of lack of space, we shall discuss visual form only. But we sug- gest that the reader apply the method outlined to the arts of music, literature, drama, and the dance.

2 A statement by Rouault quoted by Monroe Wheeler in Painters and Sculptors of Modem America, Thomas Y. Crowell, 1942, p. viii. On he artist’s vision see Roger Fry, Vision and Design, “The Artist’s Vision”; Leo Stein, The A-B-C of /. Esthetics , “Pictorial Seeing” and “To Make Pictures by Seeing Them”; Thomas Munro, Scientific Method in Aesthetics, ‘ ‘The An alysis of Form”; Ralph Pearson, Experiencing Pictures.

pigment could hardly be successful if carried out in stone. To see materials as a contributing element in the total form is a prime prerequisite for under- standing.

Other elements or components that artists use to create forms and which one must train one’s eye to see are line, light and dark, color, texture, areas, mass and volume, space and movement (Fig. 5A) . If an artist is working in two dimensions — - width and height — and observing surface continuity, as in painting or tiles or textiles, he will chiefly use line, light and dark color, texture, and areas. Except as an illusion, actual depth does not occur. If he is working in three dimensions * — width, height, and depth ~~ as in building, sculpture, pottery, or basketry, he works basically with mass, volume, and space in addition to the elements of two- dimensional art. The fourth dimension — movement in space — so fundamen- tal in music, literature, the drama, and the dance, is only suggested in the visual arts, though it may actually exist in sculpture.

These components provide the artist with his means for creating forms which have coherence, unity with variety, balance, and emphasis. Each element, however, has an inherent character with its own potentialities and limita- tions; and the artist chooses for his use according to the nature of the project in hand, his own individuality, and the controlling forces of his environment.


This is an elastic term. A line may be an edge, a meeting of areas. In a building, the edge where planes or sur- faces meet is, for practical esthetic pur- poses, a line. Line may be a contour, in which case it delineates an object. It may be sculptural; that is, of such a quality that it suggests mass. Or it may


be calligraphic, an element of enrich- ment of surface (Fig. 488A) 1 ; if it is, though it may serve also as an edge or a contour, its main emphasis is upon itself for its own sake, for movement or pattern. The character of line is de- pendent partly upon the implement with which it is made (brush, burin, chalk, silver-point) and partly upon the personality and the skill of the artist. It may be broad or thin, sharp or blurred, firm or wavering, tight or loose, delicate or bold, energetic or weak (Figs. 737A, 748A, 749A).

Whatever its function and character, line suggests movement in some direc- tion: vertical, horizontal, diagonal, or curved, each of which produces a cer- tain emotional reaction. We all know the uplift of the vertical (Fig. 71 3A), the tranquillity of the horizontal (Fig. 71 1 a), the dynamism of the diagonal (Fig. 760A), and the suavity of the curve (Fig. 674A). It is not only the effect of line direction of which the artist makes use, but also the relationships that he sets up among the various lines. They may repeat or parallel one another for a harmonious effect (Fig. 730A), or op- pose one another for needed contrast (Fig. 736A); they may radiate from a certain spot or converge upon it for emphasis (Fig. 407 a) . A diagonal may give the needed verve to a tranquil bal- ance of vertical and horizontal (Fig. 612A); a succession of diagonals con- stituting a zigzag may create a highly dramatic effect (Fig. 423A). Lines may be continuous or broken, and when they are broken one may still feel the continuity of the movement even though the actual line is invisible. It is seldom that only one kind of line is used in a design. More likely two or more interplay, with varying degrees of harmony and contrast, like themes in a musical composition.

1 The arabic number of a figure is that of the page on which it occurs.




These, known as “values” or by the Italian word chiaroscuro (light-dark), range from white to black, with an in- finite number of gradations between. Light may be the result of natural il- lumination, as in architecture and sculpture, where projections catch the light and depressions hold shadows, which shift according to the time of day and the weather. Artificial illumination or controlled lighting is an element of the highest importance to the sculptor and the photographer as an organizing element. The painter or the lithog- rapher may reproduce natural or arti- ficial lighting, and at the same time use it as a point of emphasis or in relation to other light areas as a means of securing movement through his picture. Values, like lines, produce an emotional effect. A diffused light with gradual transitions from light to dark evokes a tranquil or mysterious mood (Fig. 687A) ; con- trasted values suggest restlessness (Fig. 512A); highly concentrated or strongly contrasted values with abrupt transi- tions engender a dramatic mood (Fig. 566A). Again, as with the use of all the elements, what matters is the relation- ships of the areas, and the interplay of light and dark motifs.


Color is probably the most emotive of the elements. It is both a scientific ele- ment and an element of organization. Scientifically, a color is a wave of light perceived by means of the sensation which it arouses in the eye. A ray of light consists of waves of different lengths and degrees of vibration. Send a ray of light through a prism and it breaks up into its parts and produces the spectrum. When light strikes a sur- face, that surface may reflect all the waves, or colors, equally, and the eye

registers a white surface. It may absorb all the waves except the green, which it reflects. Then the eye sees that surface as green. It may absorb all the rays ex- cept the blue and the red. The surface is then violet. Individuals vary widely in their sensory reaction to light, from hypersensitivity, which at times causes violent reactions, all the way to com- plete lack of sensation. A person may be blind to one color alone, or he may be totally blind to all colors and conse- quently see the world in terms of white, black, and the intermediate grays. Thus the nature of light and the sense of sight are both involved in the science of color.

As an element for the artist’s use, a knowledge — intuitive, if not scientific — of the spectrum, its composition, and the interrelationship of its components is essential. It is convenient to arrange the colors of the spectrum in a wheel ‘(Fig. 7A). Of these colors, three are in- divisible and so are known as the pri- maries: blue, red, and yellow. If the primaries are mixed, they produce the secondaries or binaries: blue plus yel- low equals green; red plus yellow, orange; red plus blue, violet. Further mixture makes possible an infinite num- ber of colors, depending upon the pro- portion of each component.

Notice on the color wheel that red is opposite green, and orange opposite blue. Opposites are called comple- ments. If they are mixed, they soften each other; if mixed in equal propor- tions, they produce a gray, a neutral which can be vibrating and elusive, as a gray compounded of black and white is not. If complementaries are juxta- posed, each intensifies the other and produces brilliance and sharp contrast. On the other hand, colors near each other on the wheel, called adjacents, (blue, blue-green, and green, for ex- ample) produce a harmonious effect. However, it is not only the relation- ships of the colors that concern the



artist. Each color has three qualities: hue, value, and intensity. Hue is the name of the color: blue, red, blue- green, orange-red. Value is the amount of light in a hue according to a scale range varying from white to black: light greens, middle greens, dark greens. Intensity, also called chroma or satura- tion, is the color strength or brilliance: a brilliant yellow or a dull yellow.

Another attribute of color which con- cerns the artist is its warmth or coolness. Orange and its adjacents are warm; blue and its adjacents are cool; green is warm as it approaches yellow and cool as it approaches blue. Furthermore, colors appear to advance or retreat according as they are warm or cool. Red lettering on a poster looks as if it were in relief; the blue around Ce- zanne’s apples draws the eye back into space and gives the apple depth and solidity. Thus color in itself has the capacity to express depth — a capacity that is now being used in interior archi- tecture to increase spaciousness and height; for example, by the use of a re- treating color on walls and ceiling.

An additional attribute is the psychic effect of colors. We recall the cheer of yellow, if not too intense; the quieting effect of blue, the excitingness of red. Thus a dominant color alone can set the emotional quality, the mood, of a work of art.

But, as with line and with light and dark, what matters most is the rela- tionships among the colors. A design composed of adjacents will have a tran- quil harmonious effect; it may, in fact, seem weak unless a certain quality of the complementary hues contributes enough contrast to give the design virility. On the other hand, a design composed of complementaries fre- quently needs some areas of adjacents to soften the tension which results from the use of complementaries alone. Thus most color schemes present major and

minor themes, which interplay, like major and minor themes of volumes, lines, and lights and darks. The color scheme which an artist selects depends upon the idea to be expressed. For a tranquil theme he is not likely to use a dynamic color contrast, nor for a dra- matic subject, a quiet color harmony.


Every material has a texture, or structural quality, that determines the character of its surface, which is appre- hended by our sense of touch. It may be hard or soft, rough or smooth, warm or cold, grained or pebbly. But the eye too seems to share in apprehending these qualities. A fabric looks, as well as feels, rough or smooth. A rough sur- face creates light and shadow; a smooth surface means the absence of shadow and often the presence of reflected light, as in satin. Color also varies according to the texture of the surface upon which it falls. Compare three pieces of cloth of exactly the same hue: a satin, a vel- vet, and a wool. The hue will vary both in quality and in value because the different textures have different degrees of reflective power. Thus we have a



[a] Geometric Solids and Buildings Based upon Them. a. cube. b. pyramid, c. cylinder. d. sphere, e. cone.

visual equivalent of the tactile sensa- tion, and with it an enlargement of the potentiality of line and color. A painter or an engraver may use lines or motifs to create a textural effect whose pur- pose is to enrich the surface (Figs. 211A and b) or to carry movement. Another way in which texture is used is in such imitations of actual textures as are found in some realistic paintings. Such illu- sionistic reproduction of texture often serves the same esthetic functions as the nonnaturalistic textures just mentioned. Again, the important factor is the re- lationships of the areas. The builder, the sculptor, the potter, the painter, in fact all artists, make effective use of texture in playing off contrasting smooth and rough surfaces (Fig. 71 8a). In interior architecture texture is a highly essen- tial element where several materials are combined for their textural effects as well as for their functions.


These we associate primarily with geometry. Areas are two-dimensional and in shape are most often square, circular, elliptical, triangular, or amoe- boid. At times the shapes are precise, at

times only suggestive. By means of line, light and dark, and color, the artist creates areas which serve as thematic material. For example, he may base his design upon the interplay of triangles, or of triangles and amoeboid areas. Mass, with its weight and solidity, exists in space. Volume is mass given definite shape, which may be solid or hollow. Volumes are rectangular, spherical, cylindrical, conoid, or pyramidal, and serve as thematic material for the three- dimensional arts. A building, for ex- ample, may consist basically of a group of rectangular volumes (Fig. 96 a), or a piece of pottery, of a combination of cylinders and a sphere (Fig. 241 a). In using volumes the architect is dealing with actual space — not with the illu- sion of space found in painting — so that space itself becomes a primary or- ganizing element. It may be interior space created by the surfaces of the volume; or it may be external space — that is, how the volume is related to surrounding space, as a building to its environment. It may be the space de- termined by a rectangular block of stone or by a cylindrical block of wood, each of which will affect differently the sculp- tor’s organization of a sculptural figure.



[a] Architectural Construction, a. Lintel {Fig. u8a ); b. Corbeling [Fig. iioa); c. Round. Arch (Fig. 174D); d. Cantilever {Fig. 7054); e. Dome on Pendentives (Fig. 261 a); f. Dome on Squinches (Fig. sqoa); g. Concrete (Fig. 714A ); h. Steel (Fig. 7 12 a) .

Form in the Visual Arts


A building is a mass existing in space.

This mass consists of one or more volumes which, being hollow, create in- terior space, a Space for human activity. With the rarest exceptions, no building exists for its own sake. On the contrary, the human activity for which it was constructed is not only its reason for being, but a determinant of its plan and form. If, for example, it is to house large crowds — a temple, a transportation terminal, a factory — it will provide large unbroken spaces for these pur- poses. If it is to be a house, or a building filled with small business offices, it will divide the interior space into many small units.

Another determinant is its material, which prescribes the mode of its con- struction. Building materials are vari- ous: stone, brick, adobe, tile, wood,

glass, steel, concrete, plywood, plastics, to mention only the most important. Each of these has its own inherent qualities of strength, durability, elas- ticity, size, color, and texture.

A further determinant of architec- tural form is the site. It makes a great difference whether a building stands in a crowded city or in the open country; whether on flat land or in the hills; whether in a warm climate or a cool one.

Given the function, the material, and the site, how is a building constructed? Its creation begins with a plan, evolved from function, material, and site, and is the result of two activities: mechanical and esthetic. The mechanical activity is engineering, and its function is to give the structure stability by controlling and balancing the physical forces of weight, pressure, and resistance. From this mechanical angle, there are four kinds of construction: lintel, arch, con- crete, and steel (Fig. 9A).

In the lintel system courses are laid



horizontally, leaving openings for doors and windows which are covered by horizontal blocks known as lintels. As the size of the opening is limited by the size of the material — small in stone, larger in timber — and as the super- incumbent load is limited to the carry- ing capacity of the lintel, this system is generally found in buildings of modest proportions. The arch system, on the other hand, is more flexible, as it can utilize small material and make build- ing possible on a vast scale. The arch system consists of spanning an opening by means of wedge-shaped pieces of stone called voussoirs, built on a wooden supporting framework until the central wedge, the keystone, is set. The great advantage of the arch system is that the load or thrust of the superstructure does not bear down vertically only, but out- ward also, so that a much greater load can be carried than in the lintel sys- tem, provided the outward thrust is sufficiently balanced by buttressing.

In concrete construction a hollow framework is built, into which concrete in a semiliquid state is poured. When this has hardened, the framework is removed and the result is a solid, homo- geneous structure of great strength and durability.

Steel construction means erecting a framework of steel beams; this, because of the tensile strength of the material, is sufficient to hold floors, partitions, and roof, and thus has no need of supporting walls, but only of a protective sheathing. Steel is generally used with reinforced concrete - — concrete into which steel or iron bars have been imbedded in order to make strong foundations. An important extension of steel construc- tion is the cantilever — • a horizontal beam supported at one end only, yet sufficient in strength to support floors and walls. This method eliminates a multiplicity of supporting members which not only obstruct the view but

also mar the unity of the building with the external space.

Yet adequate construction alone, essential though it is, does not produce a fine building. Quality in architecture depends in no small degree upon how the artist deals with the volumes and spaces which engineering makes possible. How has he proportioned and related the volumes and the spaces? Propor- tion and relationships constitute the dominant note — breath-taking and ex- alting where the accent is upon vertical- ity, as in the RCA Building (Fig. 713A) and the Amiens Nave (Fig. 345 a); relax- ing when the stress is on the horizontal, as in the Robie House (Fig. 706 a) or Byo- doin ; tranquil and majestic where a cube and hemisphere combination, as in Santa Sophia (Fig. 259A) . The surfaces of these volumes, however, are not un- broken. For practical purposes a build- ing must have doors and windows; and as light envelops a building and pene- trates its interior, the light and shadow created by these openings play an im- portant role in breaking up surfaces into effective designs. Are these open- ings — collectively known as fenestra- tion —statically regular, or dynamically varied with arresting accents? Are they vertical or horizontal in pro- portion, and do they contain thematic material for repetition, such as a curve or a pointed arch? Is there any sculp- ture on the building to produce move- ment by its broken light and shade, and to inject additional line direction, such as the curve or the diagonal, into an otherwise rectilinear composition? Be- sides line direction, and light and dark, the color and the texture of the ma- terials contribute to the ensemble. A certain unity and solidity may result from the use of one material alone, and vivifying contrasts may result from such combinations as stone and brick, wood and stucco, marble and bronze, or steel, glass, and concrete.




Sculpture, like architecture, is an art of volume and space; but, unlike architecture, it aims at arrangements of volumes in space to be seen externally only, like the exterior of a building. In this respect a building may be sculp- tural. Most statues, on the other hand, notably those of stone or wood, are solid. Genetically, they are masses of material organized. Their organization, however, is subject to the space occu- pied by the original mass. A sculptor confronted by a block of stone or a piece of timber may retain much of the mass, and his statue will then be solid and weighty; or he may lighten the mass by taking away a considerable amount of material, even to the point of perforating the mass and thus se- curing more movement through space. The bronze-worker, on the other hand, starting with no mass at all, constructs a mass out of clay, and in the process creates both the space and the volumes organized within it.

All sculpture, whether of the stone or the clay type, is an art of mass, vol- ume, contour, and surface treatment. It is likewise an art that gains in power in proportion to its simplification, clar- ity, and monumentality. But in contrast to architecture, it is usually represen- tational, and strikingly limited to the human and animal figure, which afford the sculptor possibilities for complex arrangements.

The complexity of sculptural form admits many approaches. Its general forms, its materials and the processes of working them, its function, and its site are some of the more important. In general, sculpture falls into three classes: in the round, relief, and in- taglio. “In tire round’ 5 means a three- dimensional figure which you can walk around and see from numerous angles. Relief is sculpture in which the figures

or shapes are attached to a background from which they project. It is called high relief if they project boldly; low relief, or bas-relief, if they project slightly. The third, and less common, class is intaglio, in which the figures are sunk into the background.

Depending upon materials and proc- esses, sculpture can be carved out of hard material, or it can be modeled in soft material and then fired, glazed, or cast in metal. As for function, a vast mass of sculpture has been created as a coherent part of a building, often of the same material— -a fact that is de- terminant of its form. Again, much sculpture consists of isolated statues, though probably the majority of statues and reliefs have been made for some specific site — this again, whether out- side or inside, was a vital element in the total form. These classifications and approaches should not be taken too rigidly, for they tend to impede a com- prehensive grasp.

Let us look at sculpture in the round from various viewpoints • — first, carving and its materials. Stone is and always has been universal. It is a hard, weighty, unyielding material, and though break- able has strength and durability. It comes in many shapes of various pro- portions, which limit the final form. Its texture is variable: fine, coarse, crystalline, striated. The tools with which stone is worked suit an obdurate medium: a wooden mallet, different steel chisels and drills, and abrasives for smoothing and polishing. Carving stone is a slow, laborious process that taxes physical strength as well as judgment. A false step may ruin a work. The character of both the material and the process inevitably influences the sculp- tor toward simplification of mass and elimination of detail. Carving is a process of subtraction. “I mean by sculpture,” said Michelangelo, “that which is done by taking off. . . . The



finest artist has no concept which the marble alone does not contain within itself.”

To penetrate the block, and to ex- tricate the figure as it were, the sculp- tor draws an outline on the block and with a point cuts away large chunks of stone. He thus lays bare the main masses of the figure. Then, with chisels and drills, he defines the form more in detail; and finally he may smooth or even polish it, or certain parts of it only. Frequently he leaves the chisel marks on some of the surfaces, to se- cure contrast of texture. In carving a figure the sculptor may work in from the sides as if he were carving a relief on each side of the block. By this pro- cedure he creates a figure definitely rectangular in form, quiet, static, and monumental in effect (Fig. 13A). Or, disregarding the surfaces of the block, he may compose a figure whose parts move backward and forward or spirally through the mass of the material, and which create movement in space and a dynamic or restless effect (Fig. 13B).

Wood-carving corresponds to stone- carving, except that the material is softer and has a grain, which the carver must follow if he is to avoid splitting the wood, and which he can utilize effec- tively in his design. His chisels are sharper, though lighter, than those used in stone-carving. Because of the cylin- drical nature of wood, many wood carvings are basically cylindrical in form (Fig. 778 b).

Modeling, in distinction from the subtractive process of carving, is a process of addition, a building-up tech- nique. Clay, the usual material, is one of the most yielding mediums, is re- sponsive to a light touch, lends itself to improvisation, and invites fantasy as the fingers — the chief tool — are stim- ulated by its pliability. If the figure is of any considerable size, it must be built up on an armature. Otherwise the

soft material would collapse. A certain amount of subtractive activity is pos- sible when a sculptor, starting with a mass of clay, scoops out hollows and builds up projections, in this way pro- ducing movement inward and outward through the mass. Often one feels, if one does not actually see, traces of fin- ger marks indicative of the process by which the artist attained a certain effect and without which he could not have attained this effect — an illustration of the significance of the technical process in the total expression.

The sculptor in clay is confronted with the problem of how to make the soft clay permanent. If the figure is small, he can hollow it out enough for firing, like pottery. If it is too large for this process, he can cast it in plaster or metal, of which bronze is the most common. An almost universal method is the cire-perdue , or wax-lost, process, in which a core of clay or some crude material approximates the ultimate form. Over this a coating of wax is laid, in which the sculptor completes the form with all its details. The Wax is then covered with a coat of fine pipe clay of the consistency of cream, laid on with a brush very carefully so as to reproduce, when hardened, every mi- nute detail of the wax. Successive coats are added, and then layers of coarse plaster until a thick firm shell is formed. Vent holes are left so that the wax can be drawn off when the mass is heated. Thus a thin space is left between the core and the pipe-clay mold, into which molten bronze is poured — a process requiring expert skill, for the metal must run into every tiny detail of the mold. When the metal has cooled and hardened, the shell is broken away, the core is dug out, the surface is finished and polished, and sometimes details are added by chasing. Bronze is a rigid, tough material which enables the artist to compose open designs not practicable



[b] Michelangelo , Moses. Marble. Height c. 100 in. 1513-16. Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome. The analysis illustrates an organization of backward and forward spiraling movements confined but not dom- inated by the planes of the original block.

[a] Khafre. Diorite. Life-sized. IV Dy- nasty (2300-2750 b.c.). Cairo Museum, (Metropolitan Museum ). The analysis il- lustrates the relation of the main planes of the figure to the planes of the original block of stone.



in stone. Its somber color produces strong contours, and strong contrasts of light and dark result from its re- flective quality. It requires sharp edges in its details if they are to carry.

In creating a sculptural figure in any material, the artist is not imitating natural appearance, though nature is his starting-point. He is extracting from the figure certain arrangements of its parts — its head, torso, arms, and legs — -using sometimes only one or two of these parts, sometimes all. Like the architect, he is dealing first with re- lated volumes, chiefly cylindrical or spherical. In establishing relationships he makes use of light and dark, and line. Hollows hold shadow, like win- dows in a building; projections catch the light, and their alternation creates movement. If the surfaces are treated simply with but slight nuances, they accentuate the volume. If they are treated with naturalistic detail which results in a rapid shift of light and dark, they tend to accentuate the surface at the expense of the volume. Line, we may argue, does not exist on a round- ing surface. Yet as we walk around a statue we notice that to the eye it ap- pears to have contours, and that these contours change as we shift our posi- tion, so that there is a definitely linear quality which guides the movement of the masses. Another aspect of linear quality appears in an uplifted or out- stretched arm, for example, in that it introduces into the design, as in archi- tecture, the emotional effect of line direction.

Another element of sculptural or- ganization is texture. In all sculpture the character of the surface of the material contributes to the effect: rough granular granite, translucent striated alabaster, grained wood, rough irregu- lar clay, reflecting bronze. An infinite number of effects are inherent in the nature of the material and in the man-

ner in which the surfaces are treated. En- livening contrasts result from a combi- nation of surface treatments, such as the juxtaposition of rough and smooth areas.

Thus sculpture is an organic struc- ture — not however, as an end in it- self, but to convey some aspect of life experience. Michelangelo’s statement, “Life seems to move within the stone,” has perhaps a more profound meaning than is at first apparent. For great sculpture, far from trying to imitate visual perception, impregnates mate- rial with vitality, with a living quality which no words can define but which is emotionally appealing. It may be the living quality of representation which is heightened and vivified by the quality of the organic structure.

In relief, the third dimension of sculp- ture in the round is suggested, but not actual. Starting with the plane, or sur- face, of the material, the sculptor’s problem is to cut away enough of the mass to leave the figures projecting in such a way that they give an illusion of depth. Having drawn his design on the stone, the carver begins cutting into the material, sometimes sharply at right angles, leaving clean-cut edges; some- times with a rounding-off of the edges which softens the contours; or perhaps undercutting considerably to secure deeper shadow. The depressions made by the subtraction of material tend to hold shadow; the remaining projections catch the light. Thus line, and light and shade, are important organizing ele- ments in relief. Movement tends to be lateral and the planes, which indicate depth, to be parallel.

Intaglio is the opposite of relief. It is what one might call negative relief, in that the design is cut into the ground so that it appears in dark against the orig- inal surface of the stone. Sumerian cyl- inder seals (Fig. 8 7 a) and Egyptian mural reliefs (Fig. 68a) are examples of this kind of carving.



[a] Building a Ceramic Piece by the Coil Method . From the flat base the sides are built up of successive, ropelike coils of clay , which are then joined by the fingers. ( Harold Allen)

[b] Throwing a Clay Piece on the Potter's Wheel. As the wheel turns the lump of wedged clay is centered , hollowed , and shaped by pressure of the hands. ( Harold Alien )


Pottery (ceramics), exclusive of tiles, is akin to sculpture in the round in that it is an art of three dimensions, and to sculpture in clay in that it consists of a building-up process in the same plastic material. Being a nonrepresentational art (except for ceramic sculpture), it is close to architecture as an almost purely geometric* art. Ceramic sculpture is a border-line art between ceramics and sculpture, for it uses the materials and the processes of the one, and partakes of the representational character of the other.

Pottery is clay shaped and hardened by heat. It is one of the oldest and most universal of the arts because of its utili- tarian character: that of a container. Much pottery is utilitarian only, but much of it has also an esthetic quality so high that it sometimes constitutes one of the major art expressions of a culture — as with the Chinese, the Iranians, and the American Indians.

According to the character of the clay and the degree of firing, pottery is earthenware, porcelain, or stoneware. Earthenware, the most common, has a relatively coarse base, and is fired at low heat. Being porous, it requires treatment to render it impervious. Sometimes porosity is an advantage, as when evaporation is desired for cooling purposes. Porcelain is made of a fine clay, kaolin, to which feldspathic rock is added. Fired at a high temperature, it becomes vitreous throughout and thus is impermeable. Porcelain can be shaped thin enough to be translucent, and when struck it produces a musical tone. Stoneware is of the same nature as porcelain, but of a coarser texture, partially vitrified, and with relatively thick walls.

Whatever the character of the base, a general four-step process is applicable to all: the preparation of the clay, the shaping, the decorating, and the firing. First the potter washes and wedges the clay to give it a smooth texture and to

1 6


free it of air particles, after which he adds any other ingredient, such as the feldspar in porcelain. He is then ready to shape it. Several methods are pos- sible. If the piece is small, he may shape it with his fingers; or he may build the walls of ropelike coils of clay (Fig. 15A), which he can smooth with his fingers or some implement, or leave unsmoothed. Another method is to throw the clay on a wheel, shaping it with the hands as the mass revolves (Fig. 1 5B) . Still another method is to press or pour the clay into a mold — the process suitable for mass production. One needs to remember, however, that the original piece from which the mold is made was built up by hand-shaping, coiling, or throwing. The third step is drying to a leather-hard condition - — hard enough to handle without injur- ing the shape - — and decorating, usu- ally with glaze. Polishing produces a texture which has a decorative quality of its own.

Glazing is one of the most universal methods for securing color, other deco- rative effects, and imperviousness. Glaze is melted glass, which may be transparent or opaque, glossy or mat; and it may be colored by the addition of metallic oxide. The glaze can be poured over the surface of the vessel, painted or sprayed on; or if the vessel is small, it can be dipped into the glaze. If the base is coarse, it is sometimes necessary to cover it with slip (clay thinned to a fluid consistency), to fur- nish a base for a transparent glaze. Painting is another common method of decoration. The design may be painted on the slip and covered with the trans- parent glaze; or it may be painted over a glaze or done by the wax-painting process. In the latter method the de- sign is painted in wax, and the object is then entirely covered with pigment and heated. As the wax melts off it leaves the parts it covered in the orig-

inal white against the color. Other decorative methods consist of relief, incising, stamping, or sgraffito — that is, covering the vessel with two coatings of slip or glaze of different colors and then, by cutting a design through the outer coat, producing a two-color pattern.

The final step in pottery-making is the firing. Sometimes an extra firing is necessary at the decorative stage; often only one firing is sufficient. Much of the world’s finest pottery has been fired out of doors by primitive methods which entailed great skill in controlling the heat. Today most firing is a matter of mechanical control. A further means of decoration added after firing is lus- ter - — a thin, transparent, metallic film, which requires another firing at low temperature, and which produces an evanescent, iridescent effect.

Ceramic form must take into con- sideration three factors; first, the vol- umes of which it is composed; second, the materials and the manner of their use; and third, the function. The na- ture of the ceramic process — coiling or throwing — predicates a form based upon sphere, egg, cylinder, or cone; and such additions as handles, covers, or spouts are subordinate to the basic shape (Fig. 17A). The majority of vessels are based not upon one shape, but on a com- bination of two or more shapes (Fig. 17B); and the quality of any ceramic product is a matter of the proportions of these basic shapes and the interrela- tions of part to part — of the neck to the body, for example, or of the lip to the body and the base. Contour, as in sculpture, and color and texture also, whether uniform or in contrasting areas, are important elements in stressing the relationships of parts.

The use of materials is a source of pleasure in the enjoyment of pottery: evidence of fingers and tools shaping yielding clay, and leaving contrasting



[a] Basic Geometric Volumes Most Suit- able to the Ceramic Processes: cylinder, ovoid, sphere, cone. (, Harold Allen)

rough and smooth surfaces; the flow of glaze over the surface, frequently stop- ping before reaching the base; or coils left unsmoothed to provide a decorative element.

Pure form alone frequently is the sole source of our pleasure in pottery. In the majority of cases, however, function and the relation of function to forms — as in a building — is a determinant of quality. In general, the function of pottery is to transport, store, prepare, and serve food and drink. Thus a storage jar must have a large opening; a water bottle needs a long neck to facilitate the flow of the liquid; a shallow bowl or plate is suitable for serving, and a vessel with a handle and a spout for pouring. Size and weight also are related to function. A Chinese ceremonial tea bowl of porcelain should be small and of eggshell thinness to be satisfactory, whereas a storage jar for grain needs large size and thick walls to hold the heavy weight and to withstand rough usage. Vessels intended to hold liquids must acquire imperviousness, and this quality, which usually implies the use of glaze, has a direct effect upon the texture and color of the ceramic piece.

[b] Combinations of the Basic Geometric Volumes in Ceramic Design. (. Harold Allen)


In contrast to architecture, sculpture in the round, and pottery — which em- ploy the third dimension — painting is constructed as a flat surface with no actual depth. Though it frequently ex- presses depth and space, it does so only through illusion. A painting always re- mains one continuous surface. The ma- terials of the painter are this surface and pigment. The surface may be al- most any material, though plaster or stone, wood, canvas, paper, and silk are the most common. Pigment is color- ing matter secured from earth, mineral, and vegetable matter; or it can be made synthetically. Ground into a pow- der, it is mixed with some vehicle to reduce it to a liquid or pliant state suitable for use with brush, palette knife, finger, or spray. According to the kind of surface and vehicle, most paint- ing falls into four classes: fresco, tem- pera, oil, and water color. Encaustic, casein, and duco paintings are also met not infrequently. Each of these mediums, with its individual brush strokes, texture, and quality of color, produces an effect peculiar to itself, so that the medium and the process by



which it is worked constitute a vital element in the construction, and also in the understanding, of a picture.

Fresco is painting on damp plaster with water color. This becomes chemi- cally incorporated with the surface, and thus a part of its actual texture. The wall requires special preparation, usu- ally several coats of plaster, before the final thin coat, about one to two inches thick, is laid on. A preliminary drawing, known as a cartoon, is worked up in de- tail and is then transferred to the moist surface. The colors which a fresco painter can use are limited to those not affected by the lime in the plaster — chiefly the earth colors. The technique requires clear thinking and unfaltering workmanship, for once the color is laid on, it cannot be altered except by changes or additions made after the painting is dry. Alteration of this sort, called “dry” painting, is subject to the danger of subsequent peeling. Fresco is the most architectural of the painting techniques. Far from being an enlarged easel picture, it is subject to severe archi- tectural requirements. It is part of an interior space and hence controlled by location in the building, by scale, and by the fact that it must be seen — at both long and short range — from many angles. All this requires simpli- fication and clarity of composition carried out in bold brush strokes (Figs. 1 89 a and b, 473A-477A, 757A-761A).

Tempera is painting on an especially prepared wooden panel in pigment mixed with egg. The panel is first covered with linen, on which are laid layers of gesso (plaster of paris) which are smoothed and polished to an ivory- like finish. On this surface the painter draws his design in detail; he then puts on an underpainting, usually of green for the figures and red for any areas to be covered with gold; finally he adds the local colors in pigments mixed with egg yolk. As this pigment dries

quickly, he works with small brushes in fine strokes, a painstaking technique. The result is a smooth hard surface with luminous depth and a linear decorative quality (Fig. 484A).

Oil as a vehicle for pigment is slow in drying and allows the painter to use broader, looser strokes than tem- pera and to make subtler transitions from light to dark. Some painters have begun with a tempera panel as a base (tempera-oil; Fig. 536A) . The majority have used a canvas surface, which they cover with a ground as in tempera (in- direct oil; Fig. 5 1 oa); or they brush the pigment directly on the canvas (direct oil; Fig. 727A). A painter may use his pigment thin or thick and rely both on the canvas and on the pigment for his textures. The various oil techniques make possible a freer expression, richer color and atmospheric effects, greater solidity, and more complex spatial or- ganization. Direct oil is peculiarly adaptable, like clay in the hands of the sculptor, to spontaneous expression and improvisation.

Water color is painting on paper or silk with pigment mixed with water and some binding medium, such as gum. There are several kinds of water- color painting, of which transparent, gouache, and Chinese-ink are perhaps the most important. Transparent water color is a most evanescent medium, adaptable for spontaneous expression. The pigment is applied in thin washes, and areas of the paper — Usually white or of a light tint — are left to provide the lightest areas, a method which pro- duces a luminous or sparkling effect. The character or grain of the paper also plays no little part in the general effect.

Gouache is water color rendered opaque by the addition of some filler, such as zinc white. It has more body than the transparent water color and lends itself to richer color effects and to meticulous detail, as in Persian mini-

THR T?rU5A/TC i~\ T7

d e f

[a] Some Spatial Arrangements Possible in Painting, a. Flat plane with no depth (Fig. i 50 a); b. Depth in three parallel planes (Fig. 489 a); c. Planes receding at an angle to the picture plane (Fig. 52JA); d. Planes receding on a curved diagonal (Fig. 499A ); e. Intersecting S-curve planes (Fig. 51 3 a); f. Complex backward and forward movement of planes (Fig. 761 a).

atures. The painters of these miniatures prepared the paper by rubbing it with a crystal egg until it was smooth and glossy — a process reminiscent of tem- pera painting. Interesting effects can be obtained by a combination of the transparent and the gouache methods.

Chinese ink is a medium peculiar to the Far East. The water-color materials are Chinese ink and sized silk or paper (that made of bamboo pulp is pref- erable) sized or unsized. Chinese ink is not the ink with which we are familiar, but a solid made of carbon and glue and molded into a cake. If a particular kind of texture is desired, other ingredients are added — - pulverized oyster shells, for example, to obtain a dead finish. The Cake of ink is rubbed in water on a slab to secure a semifluid — a process requiring great skill. It is then applied to silk or paper with a brush. Like fresco, when once applied Chinese ink admits no alteration. Hence the artist must be very sure of what he wants to do and of his technical ability to do

it. Extraordinarily various effects can be secured in this medium, from bold richly black strokes, through varied tones, to a hairline of the utmost del- icacy (Fig, 380A).

The medium and the process by which it is used, it is clear, are vital elements in making a picture. Some painters limit themselves to perfecting one technique alone, some use several. Tradition, training, and the whole cultural background may determine which process a painter shall use. This is illustrated by the almost universal use of fresco and tempera in fifteenth- century Florence; of Chinese ink in Sung China; of gouache in medieval Persia; and of indirect oil in recent times, as well as of a whole galaxy of revivals and experimentations today.

Whatever the vehicle for his pigment, whatever the surface on which he works, and whatever his subject matter, the painter composes his material — that is, he builds an organic structure — out of line, color, light and dark, and



texture. Some compose in a two-di- mensional style; that is, with lines and areas of color, with light and dark, and with texture. Thus they retain the two- dimensional character of the surface. Others organize in spots of color with blurred edges and with gradual transi- tions, the emphasis being upon rela- tionships in space. This space may be shallow, with movement largely lateral, as in relief, and with the receding planes parallel to the plane of the original sur- face. Or it may be deep space with planes receding at an angle to the orig- inal surface, with movement backward and forward, often complex and inter- locking (Fig. 543A).

Thus painting is potentially one of the richest of the arts, in that it offers the artist the broadest scope in the use of elements. He may use them all if he chooses, and with infinite variety, even though his use of volume, space, and movement is illusory only, not actual. To see how he builds an organic struc- ture out of certain materials by means of certain elements and how he relates the structure to the subject matter is fundamental to understanding painting.


Drawings and Prints

In no one of the pictorial arts is the Chinese conception of expression so true as in drawing. Expression, accord- ing to the Chinese “is the result of the action of the mind traveling unhesi- tatingly through the brush.” (Tomita) So direct and spontaneous is the connec- tion between the concept in the artist’s mind and his hand that a drawing re- veals more of his personality than a so- called finished work. The fact that so many drawings are made as prelimi- nary sketches and not meant for exhibi- tion makes them even more revealing.

A drawing can be made on any sur- face, though paper is most frequently

used. The medium varies, just as in painting, and each medium has its own capacities and limitations. Pencils, crayons of various kinds, and pen- and-ink are perhaps the most usual; silver-point, though rare, has a unique character. Pencils (graphite) are of varying degrees of hardness or softness and for this reason are versatile; they are adaptable for modeling the figure or for meticulous detail. Charcoal (carbon), a soft material which perishes with wear, lends itself to broad, bold, general effects. Red crayon, also soft, has the advantage of color. These two mediums are often used for drawings by sculp- tors, to express mass and volume. Pen- and-ink is also versatile, partly because of the element of color provided by the ink, and partly because of the varying effects due to the material out of which the pens are made: quill, reed, or steel. Quill pens tend to make a soft, often very delicate, line, reed pens, a some- what harder line. Steel pens can create a multitude of effects, from a hard steely line to one of the utmost delicacy and subtlety.

Prints are impressions made from plates, and vary in kind according to the process by which the plate is made. Though the finished print is usually on paper (and the selection of the paper is important), the work of the artist is concentrated chiefly on making the plate — always, however, with the ef- fect of the print in mind. His materials are a plate of metal, or a block of wood, or a slab of stone; tools suitable for each material; paper and ink; and a press or hand tools for printing. The great ad- vantage of prints is that since many impressions can be made from one plate, they lend themselves to mass pro- duction. There are three important ways of making the plate: relief, intaglio, and planography.

The woodcut is the best example of relief. On a block of wood the artist

the forms of art

draws his design and then with knives and gouges cuts the wood away, leaving in relief the lines and surfaces he wishes to have take the ink. The block is then inked and covered with a sheet of moist paper which, subjected to pressure, takes the ink from the parts of the plate it touches — the areas in relief — leaving the untouched parts — the areas cut back — in white. In cutting the wood the carver is restricted, be- cause of the grain, to a simple direct expression in which the lines and areas are strong and bold, and transitions from black to white are abrupt Prints in several colors can be made by cutting a block for each color.

In intaglio, the second important method, the design is sunk into a plate, usually copper. Engraving, etching, and dry point are the chief examples. In engraving, the artist works with a steel graver, the burin, set in a wooden handle. Holding the tool so that its handle rests in the palm of his hand, he pushes it into the plate with enough force to cut the metal; and according to the pressure and the angle at which he holds the tool, he can make his furrow narrow or broad, deep or shallow. In cutting the metal his burin raises ridges of metal, called burr, along the sides of the furrow; this he usually scrapes away so as to make his line clean-cut. The hardness of the metal and its re- sistance to the tool tend to produce a precise, crisp line, somewhat inflexible. Graduations of line can be secured by manipulation of the burin, graduations of tone by hatchings — that is, by en- graving lines across those already en- graved.

, In etching, the copper plate is cov- ered with a protective ground of wax or varnish. In this the design is drawn with an etching needle, or any pointed tool which moves easily and lightly through the ground, exposing the metal below but not cutting into its surface.

The plate is then immersed in an acid which etches, or bites, the exposed parts of the metal, acting in the same capac- ity as the burin in engraving. But the fact that the artist can make his design in a soft material frees him from the restrictions forced on the woodcutter and the engraver by their mediums and thus makes etching the most facile of the graphic arts in its process and the most capable of subtleties of line and tone.

In both engraving and etching the printing process is the same. The ink is thoroughly worked into the engraved or bitten furrows and the surface is cleaned. A sheet of moist paper is passed over the plate, and together the two are put through a press, where the ink is absorbed from the furrows and thus transferred to the paper.

Dry point is a process that lies be- tween etching and engravings It is similar to engraving in that the design is cut upon a metal plate by a steel needle; but it differs from engraving in that the burr is left on the plate. The rough surfaces, holding the ink, pro- duce soft, furry lines, richly black. As the needle cuts but lightly into the plate, it can produce a much more deli- cate and flexible line than the burin in engraving.

The planographic process differs from relief and intaglio in that the printing surface is not cut or bitten, but retains its original surface or plane; a chemical action is utilized to make the plate. Lithography is such a process. On a special kind of stone (hence the name), which has been cut and polished, the design is drawn with a greasy crayon, or with a brush and specially prepared ink. The stone is then given a chemical treatment which does not affect the drawing but which prepares the rest of the surface to take up moisture. This surface is then moistened. An inked roller is now passed over the stone. The



moistened surface repels the greasy ink, which only the lines of the drawing re- tain, just as the relief lines retain the ink in the process of printing woodcuts. Then paper is pressed against the inked stone. Linear and tonal values of great range and subtlety characterize litho- graphs, because of the freedom possible in making the original drawing and the nature of the materials used.


A textile is anything woven. Like pottery, textiles are ancient and uni- versal because of their function — that of a covering. The materials of the weaver are fibers: vegetable (cotton, linen, jute, and hemp) ;' animal (wool, hair, silk) ; mineral (gold, silver, as- bestos),* glass; synthetic (nylon, rayon, celanese). These fibers differ greatly. Linen fibers are long, cotton fibers are short; hemp fibers are coarse and tough; silk fibers are fine and lustrous. The first step in processing fibers is spinning them into threads. Here again they vary in capacity, from those, such as linen and silk, that can be spun into the finest threads through the cottons and wools to the coarsest, such as hemp. Now the fiber is ready for the weaver. His tool is the loom. A loom may be vertical or horizontal, and consists fundamentally of two parallel beams, held firmly apart. On these is strung the warp, through which is interlaced the weft (woof, filling) . This weaving proc- ess involves three fundamental steps: (i) shedding -— raising the warp threads to make a shed, through which (2) the weft is thrown or shot, and (3) batten- ing — beating down the weft threads against the woven fabric. A great variety of weaves results from the man- ner in which the weft is inserted; for example, plain cloth, tapestry, tWill, satin, and damask. Any weave can be enriched with additional weft, as is

found in embroidery, brocades, and pile fabrics.

Textiles are primarily functional, and function determines what fibers shall be used and how. One kind of fiber and process of weaving will be used when a fabric, such as a blanket or a carpet, is to provide warmth or is to have hard usage — to be walked on, for example. Another kind of fiber and another weave will be used to make a light delicate fabric for coolness, or for hanging in soft folds.

Textile form is two-dimensional. In the weaving process, the artist makes and organizes his surface at the same time; and in doing this he uses the or- ganizing elements that are two-dimen- sional: line, areas of color and texture, and light and dark. Texture is one of the most important elements — the actual “feel” of a fabric as well as its visual quality. The smooth lustrous character of satin or linen, for example, appeals equally to the senses of touch and of sight. Even color, as we have seen, is somewhat dependent upon tex- ture, for one hue will have different values in different weaves. Intricate patterns, sensed by both the touch and the eye, can be woven in one color alone; and richly complex designs re- sult from combining several weaves and colors. The artist can also produce patterns by painting or stamping a design upon a piece already woven, a process used largely today in machine- made fabrics.

Batik is a painting process in which the artist draws his design on cloth — usually white cotton cloth — and covers with wax the areas that he wishes to have remain white. He then dips the cloth into a pigment, which the un- painted areas absorb. Then the wax is melted off, leaving the areas it covered white. A similar process has already been noted in the decoration of ce- ramics.



Metalwork consists of a very large group of objects made of gold, silver, copper, bronze, brass, pewter, iron or steel, aluminum, chromium — to men- tion the more important metals. All metals share, each to a varying degree, hardness, tenacity, and thus durability; elasticity for manipulation; opaque and reflecting surfaces. They also share, in varying degrees, capacities upon which depends their use as materials for the artist: capacities for fusibility, ductil- ity, and malleability. Being fusible, a metal can be molded, and cast. Being ductile, it can be drawn into wires or threads. Being malleable, it can be beaten or hammered into sheets, at times of incredible thinness — gold, for example. These sheets can be beaten into shape over molds; or can be cut into flat patterns and shaped; or can be perforated into patterns. The malle- ability and ductility when heated, es- pecially of iron, give the artist a very plastic material, which he can hammer, weld, turn and twist into innumerable shapes, and thus provide a light, open design, such as a gate or a grille, which affords visibility and at the same time protection because of its strength. For ornamentation, chasing or engraving is perhaps the simplest method; repousse is also common. Repousse consists of beating a sheet of metal into a mold of resistant material in such a way as not to break the metal, and thus leave a pattern in relief on one side and in intaglio on the other (Fig. 1 1 7a). An- other decorative process is damascening — inlaying in a metal base shapes or figures of other metals of different color and texture (Fig. 306A). Another is plating — covering one metal wholly or in part with another metal. Still another is enameling, for the purpose of introducing a wider range of hue and texture.


Two important enameling processes are cloisonnd and champleve. In cloi- sonne enamels the design is outlined by soldering strips of thin gold about a thirtieth of an inch wide, called cloisons, to a metal base, usually gold. The cells formed by the cloisons are then filled with enamel, a vitreous com- pound, colored or uncolored, trans- lucent or opaque, which when subjected to heat fuses with the metal base. A second coat of enamel is sometimes added to fill any concavities, frequently covering the cloisons. This must be ground away until the surface becomes perfectly smooth, showing all the cloisons and polished to a glasslike finish — a laborious process, yet one upon which depends much of the rich ef- fect (Fig. 271A). In champlev6 enamels the design is drawn on a metal plate in a fine line and the metal is cut away to a depth of from one-sixteenth to one-thirty-second of an inch, leaving a narrow raised metal ridge to indicate the outline of the design. The de- pressions are usually roughened (to hold the enamel more securely) and then filled with enamel, usually opaque 3 which is fused and polished as in the cloisonne method (Fig. 359A) . In gen- eral, there is more boldness and vigor in the champlev6 process, more deli- cacy and elegance in the cloisonne, for greater facility is possible when work- ing with cloisons than with the more rigid lines left by cutting away the metal field.

Metalwork, because of the nature of the medium, is adaptable both for ir- regular hand-wrought shapes and also for the meticulously precise shapes made by the machine. In both, the visual evidence of the manner of work- ing the raw material is a part of the pleasure derived — the strokes of the hammer in wrought silver, the slight irregularities of the tractable iron, and the machinelike precision of the steel



implement. With, its rigid form and hard, precise edges, whether hand- wrought or machine-made, metalwork stands in direct opposition to ceramic objects made of the most pliant of medi- ums and shaped, even on the wheel, by the slightest pressure of hands or fingers. As in ceramics, texture is an important visual element in all metalwork, and frequently a maximum of effect is due to an opposition of a smooth, highly re- flective surface to one worked in re- pousse or chased. In addition, the strong contrasts of light and dark due to this reflective quality, and emphatic lines and edges, are visual elements used by the artist for the expression of proportion and relationships of parts, and of the movement of repeated and contrasted shapes. Color too is an im- portant element, as one can see in a gold object, which, by its power to re- flect, shows many other hues besides the orange-yellow that we ordinarily associate with it.


If in this Introduction we have isolated and stressed the observation of form as an organic structure, it is be- cause most of us are prone to disregard actual seeing. “We understand and be- lieve what we are told in print, but we see very little directly with our eyes .” 1 Yet seeing form is a sine qua non of understanding. Form may be simple, easily observable, or it may be subtly complex. As Alfred H. Barr says of painting (though his statement is appli- cable to all the arts): “Some of them [pictures] may take a good deal of study, for although we have seen a million pictures in our lives we may never have learned to look at painting as an art. For the art of painting, though it has little to do with words, is

1 W. R. Lethaby, Form in Civilization, Oxford University Press, 1922, p. 17.

like a language which you have to learn to read. Some pictures are easy, like a primer, and some are hard with long words and complex ideas; and some are prose, others are poetry, and oth- ers still are like algebra or geometry. But one thing is easy, there are no foreign languages in painting as there are in speech; there are only local dialects which can be understood in- ternationally, for painting is a kind of visual Esperanto .” 2 Although under- standing involves the use of the artist’s vision, it is well to recall again what was said at the beginning of this Intro- duction: that a work of art is more than an observable form. For form rises out of its environment. Every age has its attitudes and modes of thinking which, together with the contemporary social, economic, political, and religious forces, are factors which determine to a large degree both subject matter and style. Every artist belongs to a social unit. How the members of that unit live and work, how they are governed, how they think, what they believe, and how they give outward expression to that belief — in all this the artist, like every other individual of the group, is rooted; and even though he be a rebel against it, he cannot entirely escape it. Both the content and the form of his expression are largely determined by it. This environment, however, is not static. Every age, in fact every work of art, exists in time, takes its place in a sequence that is always growing, chang- ing, evolving. Furthermore, most works of art were and are created with a definite function to perform, often in a definite location. Hence if we are to grasp the total, the maximum, signifi- cance of a work of art, it is necessary to relate and synthesize all approaches. But we must always realize that in the last analysis it is that intangible, un-

2 Alfred H. Barr, What is Modem Painting? Museum of Modem Art, 1943, p, 3.


provable, but felt element of quality as a living force that is the final basis for judgment.


Abell, Walter, Representation and Form, Scribner, 1936

Barnes, Albert C., The Art in Painting, 3rd ed.

rev., Harcourt, Brace, 1937 Blossfeldt, Karl, Art Forms in Mature, Weyhe, 1929 Brooklyn Museum, The Art and Technique of Ceramics, Museum, 1937 Casson, Stanley, The Technique of Early Greek Sculpture, Oxford University Press, 1933 Doerner, Max, The Materials of the Artist, trans.

by EugenNeiihaus, Harcourt, Brace, 1934 Durst, Alan L., Wood Carving, Studio, 1938 Focillon, Henri, The Life of Forms in Art, Yale University Press, 1942

Franklin, Christine Ladd, Colour and Colour Theories, Harcourt, Brace, 1929 Fry, Roger Eliot, Vision and Design, Brentano’s, 1924

Gardner, Helen, Understanding the Arts, Harcourt, Brace, 1932

Gill, Eric, Sculpture, Saint Dominic’s Press, Ditchling, Sussex, Eng., 1924 Guillaume, Paul, and Munro, Thomas, Primi- tive Negro Sculpture, Harcourt, Brace, 1926 Hildebrand, Adolf, The Problem of Form in Painting and Sculpture, Stechert, 1945 Hooper, Luther, Hand-Loom Weaving, Pitman, 1920

Kepes, Gyorgy, Language of Vision, Theobald, Chicago, 1944

Kronquist, Emil, and Pelikan, A. G., Simple Metalwork , Studio, 1940

Laurie, A, P., The Painter's Methods and Materials, Lippincott, 1926

Le Corbusier, Charles (pseud, of Charles E. Jeanneret-Gris), Towards a New Architec- ture, Harcourt, Brace, 1927 McMahon, Ames P., The Art of Enjoying Art, McGraw-Hill, 1938

Moreau-Vauthier, Gharles, The Technique of Painting, Putnam, 1912

Munro, Thomas, Scientific Method in Aesthetics, Norton, 1928

Opdyke, George H., Art and Nature Appreciation ^ Macmillan, 1932

Pearson, Ralph M., Experiencing Pictures, Har- court, Brace, 1932

— How to See Modem Pictures, Dial

Press, 1925

Read, Herbert E., The Anatomy of Art, Dodd, Mead, 1932

■ — — Art and Industry, Plarcourt, Brace,


Reath, Nancy A., The Weaves of Hand-Iwom Fabrics, Pennsylvania Museum, Phila- delphia, 1927

Rindge, Agnes M., Sculpture, Plarcourt, Brace,

' " 1929

Robins, William P., Etching Craft, Dodd, Mead, 1923

Sargent, Walter, The Enjoyment and Use of Color, Scribner, 1923

Stein, Leo, The A-B-C of Aesthetics, Liveright, 1 927 Thurston, Carl H. P., The Structure of Art, Uni- versity of Chicago Press, 1 940 Venturi, Lionello, Painting and Painters, Scribner, 1945

Weitenkampf, Frank, How to Appreciate Prints, rev. ed., Scribner, 1932

Wengenroth, Stow, Making a Lithograph, Studio,


Youtz, Philip N., Sounding Stones of Architecture, Norton, 1929

[a] The Acropolis. Athens. This rocky hill stands about 200 feet above the plain. In the background are the slopes of Mt. Hymettus. ( E . L. Highbarger , Evanston, Illinois)


ancient art


OUT of an apparently world-wide, prehistoric, Neolithic base arose the great civilizations of ancient times. These we see in the Near East (in Egypt, the valley of the Tigris-Euphrates, and Persia); around the Mediterranean (in Crete, Greece, and westward to the Pillars of Hercules); in the Far East (in India, China, and Japan); and in the Americas (in Middle, South, and North America).

Within each area there were many regional contacts and exchanges of ideas, motifs, and modes of expression. In the Near East and Mediterranean areas, Egyptian motifs and forms appear in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley and in Persia; and among the cultures of this valley and Persia forms were inter- changed in toto. Egypt reached out to Crete and vice versa. Cretan art is basic in Greek art, and motifs from the Tigris-Euphrates Valley appear in Greek ornament. Greek art, in turn, spread both east and west; and the Romans carried the Greco-Roman forms all the way around the Mediter- ranean and northwest into Spain and France. In the Far Eastern area, the independent civilizations which arose in India and China were brought to- gether by the rise and spread of Buddhism, which was later transmitted to Japan. In Middle America, the Maya and the Toltecs exerted mutual influ- ences on each other and on their neighbors; in South America, the coastal Chimu and Nazca and the highland Tiahuanaco compromised their differing art forms.

Over and above these regional interactions were injected those from afar, the most notable of which were those between the Near and the Far East. A direct contact appeared in Sumeria and India; bronze and glazed-tile techniques in China quite clearly derive from Persia; the silk trade flourished between China and the Roman Empire; Hellenic forms spread, in the wake of the conquests of Alexander the Great, into India and influenced Buddhist sculpture; and the nomads of central Eurasia spread the so-called animal style from China to western Europe. In the Americas, habits of mind and visualization, not to mention definite motifs, similar to those of the Far East point at least to a common ancestry in prehistoric times. But because there was relatively little exchange of goods, the assimilation of outside influences played only a minor role in the development of these great civilizations of antiquity. For the most part they evolved indigenously — each dependent on the materials at hand, each expressing its own culture in its own idiom.


(earliest TIMES TO ABOUT 30,000 B.C.)

1 yi THEN in the long development of VY human life did art first appear, and why? What was its character? Was it childishly crude, or was it in any way comparable to those accomplishments which the world has looked upon as its greatest? Did it reveal any grasp of those fundamentals which underlie all great art expression?

Until recently the life story of man was thought to have been brief, perhaps a few thousand years at most. The re- searches of the past half-century, how- ever, have shown that, instead of a few thousand years, vastly remote ages — a million years or more — and an amaz- ingly slow evolution lie behind man of today. This growth we can read only in human remains and in extant objects made by man until we reach the inven- tion of writing, only four or five thou- sand years ago. From that point we are guided by the written document as well.

In 1879 a Spaniard who was inter- ested in the problem of the antiquity of man was exploring a cave on his estate at Altamira in northern Spain, search-

ing for further examples of flint and carved bone, for he had already found such relics in this cavern. With him was his little daughter. Since the cave was dark, he was working by the light of a lamp. The child was scrambling over the rough rocks. Suddenly she called out, “Bulls! Bulls!” pointing to the ceiling, so low that he could touch it with his hand. To satisfy the child, he lifted his lamp and there saw on the uneven surface numbers of bison and other animals naturalistically painted in bright colors. When the discovery was published and the painting de- clared to be the work of men who lived long ages before, people shook their heads. And, for a time, the skeptics had their way. “Impossible,” they said. “The work is too good and the color too fresh; some erratic person of recent years has done this for some unknown purpose.” Slowly, however, the belief began to grow among a few that all these things were revealing ages of far greater antiquity than man had ever dreamed of. Slowly skepticism broke down, and further great discoveries



have yielded enough evidence for us to catch a glimpse of man and his activities in this remote age.

When, then, in this long evolution of human activities did art first appear? And under what phase of art ex- pression?

[a] Flint Fist Hatchet. L. 7^ in. British Museum, London.

[b] Solutrean and Early Magdalenian Flints, a. Laurel-Leaf Point; b. Willow- Leaf Knife; c. Point or Graver.


Europe at the time of earliest man 1 offered a physical environment greatly different from that today. Already three glacial epochs had passed, and the warm moist climate of the third inter- glacial age provided man a comfortable habitation. We see him, a hairy, rugged, strong-jawed man, without clothing, possessing a small stone hand ax and fire, living a life of self-defense against the wild elephant, the hippopotamus, the wolf, and the rhinoceros . 2 His pred- ecessors during long millenniums had made two vital discoveries: the control of fire and the use of stone for tools. The former, man had first observed,

1 For the earliest human remains, see G. G. MacGurcly, The Coming of Man, University Society, 1932, Chaps. V-VI.

2 Eight vivid life-sized dioramas of prehis- toric men and their environment are on ex- hibition in the Chicago Natural History Museum. For reproductions and descriptions see the pamphlet Prehistoric Man by Henry Field, Chicago Natural History Museum, Chicago, 1933. See also Henry F. Osborn, Men of the Old Stone Age, 3d ed., Scribner, 1924, for reconstructions of both human and animal types.

perhaps, as lightning cleft a tree and started flames in the dry leaves or as red- hot lava burst from the crater of a vol- cano; the latter, he gradually adopted to replace his wooden implements so that he could protect himself better, obtain his food more easily, and com- bat animals larger than hare and rab- bit. The early stone implements, such as the scraper and the hand ax, or fist hatchet (Fig. 30A), which evolved after ages of experiment in chipping stone, seem purely utilitarian. They are not hafted, but are grasped by the hand for clubbing or for crude cutting. Grad- ually there appears in these tools some- thing more than a capacity for better striking and a sharper cutting edge — a feeling for proportion and symmetry. Here we can recognize that of two flints which cut equally well one is more pleasing than the other because of a quality in the form that has nothing to do with the utility of the tool yet un- mistakably enhances the object to the eye. Such a feeling for form, for a balance between the what and the how , we recognize as a fundamental art im- pulse.


3 *

This sensitivity to form reveals itself increasingly in the late Chellean and the Mousterian ages , 1 the ages of the Neandertal hunter. The climate was becoming cool as the fourth glacial age approached. The animals migrated or adapted themselves to the changing conditions. Now the mammoth and the woolly rhinoceros, the reindeer and the arctic fox, became abundant. Man sought shelter in overhanging cliffs, and while contending with the beasts for cave shelters discovered that fire at the mouth of his cavern protected him not only from marauding animals but

1 By "prehistory” is meant human history before the invention of writing. It includes the Stone Age and in some localities the Bronze and Iron ages, for the discovery or introduction of metals and the invention of writing vary widely in different localities. The following table outlines the main epochs:

A. Eolithic (Dawn of the Stone Age)

X ,000,000-500,000 B.G.

Java and Peking men

B. Paleolithic (Old Stone Age)

500,000-20,000 B.C.

x. Chellean (Chelles, a town near Paris)

Piltdown and Heidelberg men

2. Mousterian (Le Moustier, a site in the Dordogne Valley)

■ Neandertal man

3. Aurignacian (Aurignac, a small village in the French Pyrenees)

Cro-Magnon man (a small cave in the Dor- dogne Valley)

4. Solutrean (Solutrd, a site in east-central France)

5. Magdalenian (La Made- leine, near Les Eyzies in the Dordogne)

C. Mesolithic (Middle or Transi- tional Stone Age) 20,000-12,000


Warm , third inter- glacial

Cold ,

^ fourth glacial

D. Neolithic (New or Late Stone Age) 12,000-3000 b.c.

E. Bronze 3000-1000 B.c.

F. Iron 1000 B.C.-A.D.




from the damp cold as well. The increasing variety and quality of his implements — axes, knives, scrapers, points — aided him not only in pro- curing and preparing food but also in skinning and dressing pelts for clothing for himself and, with the appearance of family life, for his family.

In addition to his growing sensitive- ness to the form of his tools is a re- sponse to the quality of his material, evidence for which Dr. MacCurdy finds in tools made from rock crystal and topaz . 2 Color has made its appeal, and our hunter appears to have decked his body and his skin clothing with ornament. Even in the face of an energy-consuming climate, then, latent impulses that are fundamental in the arts were finding expression.

In the meantime a great migration, probably from Asia, brought a new race, the Cro-Magnon , 3 up the Danube, or along the northern coast of Africa into the habitable parts of Europe, for Africa and Europe were still land-con- nected. Though the glaciers were rela- tively small in extent, the climate was extremely cold, yet dry and not so tax- ing as the damp cold of the Mousterian times. Game was abundant and extraor- dinarily varied — -mammoth, reindeer, bison and wild cattle, horse, ibex, bear and rabbit, ducks, geese, and ptarmi- gan. The newcomers were hunters, and lived, like their predecessors, under shelving rocks and in the entrances to caves. They clothed themselves with skins, which they had learned to sew together with bone needles. To the comfort thus secured they added the note of embellishment, as we infer from a necklace (Fig. 32D) made by some

2 See MacCurdy, op. cit., p. 108 and Frontis- piece.

3 The cultures known as Aurignadan, Solu- trean, and Magdalenian belong to the larger unit known as Cro-Magnon, whose people stand in marked contrast to Neandertal man and dose to the modem human type.



[a] Harpoons. Of reindeer horn. L. c. 6 in. Magdalenian. [b] Dart- Thrower. Of rein- deer horn. L. 10% in. ( Piette ) [c] Baton with Fox’s Head. Of staghorn. L. c. 14 in. Magdalenian.

hunter who had a decided feeling for the relationship of the parts. With ameliorated climatic conditions and a better physical and mental endowment than Neandertal man, Cro-Magnon man made rapid and marked advances Culturally, and particularly in the arts — reaching in the Magdalenian culture a climax of prehistoric art.

The old tools carried on, but were far in advance of the Mousterian in quality of form and in precision and

laurel-leaf points and willow-leaf knives of the Solutreans (Fig. 30B), most skillful of the Cro-Magnon stoneworkers, we find a refinement in shape, proportion, and character of the curve, and a rhyth- mic movement over the surface made by the flakings. A new process in stone- working, pressure against the flint with a small piece of bone, enabled the craftsman to produce a tool that was as effective for use as it was pleasing to the eye. New materials were derived from

beauty of cutting. In the thin, sharp

[d] Necklace of Stag Teeth , Fish Verte- brae, and Shells. Paleolithic.

the hunt — bone, ivory, reindeer, or staghorn. From these, with his sharp stone points, the craftsman not only fashioned bone javelin points, needles, harpoons (Fig. 32 a), arrow-straight- eners, batons, and dart-throwers or throw sticks but decorated them, some- times with lines and conventional pat- terns, sometimes with the animal form (Fig. 32B). Around a reindeer horn



[a] Bison with Turned Head. Carved in reindeer horn. From the rock shelter La Madeleine , Dordogne. Magdalenian. As the figure is broken , its function is uncertain.

an ibex has been carved in such a way that the figure is not “applied” to the surface but is an integral part of a cylindrical object and in no way inter- feres with the javelin resting firmly against the crotch. Note, for example, how the horns snugly encircling the stick emphasize this cylindrical shape. To feel such a relationship between the cylindrical core and the animal form requires no mean intelligence and Sensitivity. Likewise the baton in Figure 320 reveals a highly imaginative quality in the relationship between the piece of horn and the head of a fox, while the cross markings not only enable the hand to hold the baton more securely but furnish a rhythmic move- ment over the surface.

On stone, ivory, and horn, on both flat and curving surfaces the hunter-

[b] Charging Mammoth. Engraved on a piece of ivory tusk. (De Mor tilled)

artist engraved many figures — some, linear or geometric ornament; a great many, animals, 1 In the Bison with Turned Head (Fig. 33 a), one is impressed partly by its striking vitality and partly by the formal beauty expressed by the simplest means. The head is so turned that it is entirely framed by the mas- sive bulk of the body, and its pattern involves a vivid play of curve and countercurve and a surface contrast obtained by the use of incised lines as a decorative convention to indicate the mane. Figure 33B shows an infuriated mammoth charging forward. There is a largeness, a strikingly direct statement of a few essentials, expressed by a line so sure that it is convincing and so economical that it incorporates all de- tails without specifically stating them. The animal is in profile, with only two

1 Many of these engraved pieces are frag- ments and thus their purpose is unknown.



legs showing, and there is no shading, no background. The whole figure is sensitively adjusted to the space which it fills. In the Grazing Reindeer (Fig. 34A) a momentary pose is expressed with great naturalism. This keen- visioned hunter had observed the action of every part of the animal as it bent its head to browse, and with phenomenal memory he transferred the vision, with a sharp flint point, to the piece of horn. If the scratches beneath the reindeer are in- tended to suggest landscape, it is a unique example of such representation. In the Deer and Salmon (Fig. 35A) we have what is rare: a conscious grouping of several figures. The movements of each animal and the forward move- ment of the group are portrayed with a few essential lines. Even the back- ward turn of one head, which may represent the animal calling to the herd,

[b] Woolly Rhinoceros. Drawing at FonU de-Gaume. L. c. 25 in. Aurignacian ,

helps the artist to integrate the head and the antlers with the other figures without overlapping — which seems definitely to have been avoided, as one notes in the placing of the salmon. These fish may symbolize a stream, and the two lozenges above the stag may be the engraver’s signature. In the Herd of Reindeer (Fig. 33c), a visual impression is forcibly expressed by em- phasizing, through distortion and repe- tition, the most characteristic feature, the antlers.


So far the manifestations of the art impulse in early man appear in his tools, weapons, and small personal be- longings. To see his more monumental expression in painting and sculpture let us penetrate several caverns of France and Spain, subterranean water channels varying in length from a few hundred to some four thousand feet and now choked, at places almost impass- ably, 1 by deposits, stalactites, and

1 For an interesting account of a recent dis- covery of sculpture and also a vivid picture of the perils incident to the exploration of subter- ranean caves, see Norbert Casteret, “Discover- ing the Oldest Statues in the World,” National Geographic Magazine , August, 1924, p. 123.



stalagmites. Far inside these caverns, far beyond the sheltering entrance where the Cro-Magnon hunter lived, the hunter-artist, in utter quiet and darkness, with the help of artificial light engraved and painted on the walls many pictures, chiefly of animals. 1 For light he used a tiny stone lamp, filled with marrow or fat and supplied with a wick, perhaps of moss. For drawing he used chunks of red and yellow ocher, and for painting he ground these same ochers into powder and mixed them with some medium, perhaps animal fat. With a large flat bone for a palette, with brushes which he could make from reeds or bristles, and with scrapers for smoothing the wall and sharp flint points for en- graving, his tools were complete. The chalk drawing of a Bison (Fig. 35®) is a simple complete statement based upon a keen vision of the peculiar charac- teristics of the specific animal, the essen- tials of which are expressed by a bold continuous line. The horns are in front view, perhaps because the memory pic- ture triumphed over the visual illusion, or perhaps because of the formal rela- tionship thus made possible between

1 For a picture of the Cro-Magnon artist at ’■work see Charles Knight’s reconstruction in Osborn, op. cit Pl. VII.

the horns and the hump — that same feeling for shapes and their interrela- tions which we have been noting in flints, dart-throwers, and engravings.

In the Woolly Rhinoceros (Fig. 34B) is the same visual grasp of the animal form, equally convincing and monu- mental. Here the contour is broken and more varied, and is accented at points as if to suggest the mass of the figure, while short lines indicate hair and serve as rudimentary shading.

The Reindeer of Figure 36 a has been completely painted and modeled nat- uralistically in light and dark. It

[b] Bison. Incised and drawn on a cave wall. Aurignacian. (After a drawing by Breuil)



[a] Reindeer. Cave f Font-de-Gaume, France, c. 15,000 B.c. ( Cartaillac and Breuil)

was first incised on the wall, which had been somewhat smoothed by the scraper, and outlined in paint; then the details were added, and the figure was modeled in various tones. It seems natural, almost realistic. Yet note the character of the line of the back, and the beauty of line as line in the horns. Through the painted figure, as through the chalk drawings, there runs an in- explicable something, whether the fig- ure is at rest or in movement, a life rhythm (for lack of a more precise term), which makes it not a stuffed animal but a vitally living creature. In the Bellowing Bison (Fig. 3 7 a), for in- stance, how the painting makes one realize that single measured movement which controls every part of the body I Noteworthy also is a rudimentary at- tempt, in the hind legs, at three- dimensional drawing.

There is great variety in these pri- meval paintings, variety both of kind and of pose — mammoth, bison, rein- deer, horse, boar, wolf; standing, walk- ing, browsing, running, crouching. The majority are isolated figures, often su- perimposed, inexplicably, one on an- other, and with no relationship to each other or to the wall space, such as was

evident in the engravings and carvings. A notable exception is the Procession of Mammoth at Font-de-Gaume. Each painting reflects the keen observation of the hunter-artist, and especially an extraordinary memory for instantane- ous poses, whose accuracy has been proved and hardly surpassed by the motion-picture camera of today. Yet this observation was of the selective type. It saw and recorded only those essential aspects which interpret the appearance and the character of the animal, its grace or awkwardness, its cunning or dignity.

But why were these paintings hidden in dark caverns in the heart of the mountain? And why do they represent almost entirely the game animals? Some scholars explain them as ex- pression only, an outlet of the art im- pulse for its own sake in terms of the artist’s own environment as a hunter. Others, with more probability and by analogy with practices of primitive peoples of today, see in them a magic purpose. These obscure isolated caverns may have been sacred places, and the bison painted on the wall may have been intended to bring success in the hunt, as the ibex carved on the dart-



thrower may have been believed to make the arm more sure and powerful in bringing down the game. At the same time, admitting the magic pur- pose, has not the art impulse found its outlet? Is there not combined in these paintings the same dual attainment of effective function and satisfying form that we noted even in the early flints?

In southeastern Spain Paleolithic paintings of an entirely different, and not yet entirely explicable, nature have been discovered. They are but a few inches in size and consist of a whole group of figures, both human and ani- mal. Hunting, fighting, and dancing scenes are expressed with great vigor and With an exaggeration of movement that is in distinct contrast to the im- posing dignity and serenity of the paint- ings at which we have been looking. They give evidence of an entirely oppo- site point of view toward form, for now it is not the visual perception of the ob- ject that the hand records, but a mental concept of it. These painters put to- gether, quite unnaturalistically, symbols for the different parts of the body, symbols which convey the artist’s idea with great conviction; for example, the contrasts of dynamic movement in Figure 38A.


The animal carvings on the throw sticks (Figs. 32B and c) foreshadow the capacity of the Paleolithic artist as a true sculptor. In the Cap-Blanc Frieze of Animals life-sized horses in procession, carved in relief ten or twelve inches deep, testify to the same sureness of vision as the paintings, and present the same naturalistic rendering. So also do the Clay Bisons modeled on the floor of the cavern of Tuc d’Audoubert. In the few extant examples of the human figure, however, a different approach appears. The Willendorf Statuette (so called from the cave in Austria where it was found) shows a concentration upon the repetition of bulbous shapes, with which the arms are integrated. In the small Head of a Woman , carved from bone, details are subordinated to the basic oval. Thus in sculpture, as well as painting, two divergent views 1 of representation are presented. Both of these basic but paradoxical concepts have occurred with varying degrees of dominance in the art expressions of all peoples.

1 See Roger E. Fry, Vision and Design, Coward- McCann, 1924, “The Art of the Bushmen,” for a discussion of these two contrasting attitudes.


[a] Hunters . H. c. 4 in. Caves of Eastern Spain. ( Obermaier and Wernert)


The art of the hunter-artists is the art of a roaming hunter culture in which men first gave expression to their emotions as artists by infusing pro- portion, symmetry, quality of line, and decorative fitness into their objects of the hunt, of daily life, and of personal adornment. In their cave paintings of animals they proved themselves men

of sure eye, able to grasp essentials and express them with an economical and forceful naturalism. In some of the paintings and carvings, however, es- pecially those of the human figure (which, as far as we can tell, had no magical significance), the artist’s feeling tends away from the visual impression toward a mental conception and thus toward a more abstract kind of repre- sentation.



(ABOUT 20,000-2000 B.C.)

AS the ice of the Paleolithic Age melted in the increasing warmth, the reindeer migrated north, the mammoth and the woolly rhinoceros disappeared, and the hunter-artists vanished. Why and where? These are still, unanswered questions. What we do know is that the ice age gave way to a transition period known as the Mesolithic. Europe became geographi- cally, climatically, and biologically the Europe of today. Man still roamed as a hunter but seemed entirely devoid of the art impulse that manifested itself so vigorously in the Paleolithic Age. His tools were crude. The only art ob-



[a] Scandinavian Daggers. Of [b] Ground and Polished Stone Axe Heads. American stone flaked by pressure. L. n\ in. Museum of Natural History , New York City. ( Ameri - Neolithic. {After Muller ) can Museum of Natural History )

jects to warrant attention in a brief sur- vey are the painted pebbles of the Azilians, which are of interest chiefly, perhaps, as possible examples of an early form of writing.

Cultural evolution seemed to mark time. Then, about 10,000 b.c., there appeared changes which profoundly affected life — the domestication of animals and the cultivation of grain; the appearance of pottery and textiles and, late in the period, of metal. With grain, and the appearance of the farmer, permanent homes and village life re- placed the nomad and his cave dwell- ing, and abodes developed into the comfortable homes of the Swiss lake villages. ' . - ' ....


New industries required new tools, which continued to be made chiefly of stone. Some of these, fashioned by the old method of chipping and flak-

ing by pressure, attained a climax of stonecutting in their beauty of shape and proportions, in the precision and rhythm of their flaking (Fig. 39A), But a new method of toolmaking, that of grinding and polishing, appeared, by means of which man could obtain a smooth surface and a fine cutting edge, and by attaching a wooden handle supply himself with a tool comparable to those of modern times (Fig. 39®) .

Some of the demands made by per- manent, more secure, and better- equipped homes were met by pottery and textiles. The idea of clay fashioned into a shape and hardened by fire may have been suggested by the attempt to protect a basket from fire by smearing clay on it before placing it over the flames. Neolithic pottery was made by hand, for the potter’s wheel was ap- parently unknown. It was simple and rugged, sometimes pleasing in shape and proportion, with decoration — concentric lines, spirals, zigzags, dots, chevrons, the basic universal motifs —

well adapted to the shape and often strengthening the structural lines and surfaces (Fig. 40A) . Only a few pieces of textiles Have survived, but many ob- jects, such as spinning whorls, loom weights, and bundles of fibers, are evi- dence of the weaving of cloth and of baskets. These latter articles, together with tools and implements, not only supplied the home but constituted ob- jects of trade. For commerce had arisen, and with the interchange of goods came interchange of ideas, more definite social groupings, and a great accelera- tion in man’s development in compari- son with the long eons of time consumed in his early advances.


With the growth of communities, social organization, and trade and in- dustry, monumental stone structures appear. Dolmens ( dol , table, and men , stone), tombs or monuments to the dead, consisted of several stones set on end with a covering slab, hence the name. Single megaliths, menhirs (men, stone, hir, long), at times seventy feet high, were set up on end individually, or were arranged in long rows, as at Carnac in Brittany. Their purpose, though not clear, may have had to do with a cult of the dead or the worship of the sun. Sometimes they were ar- ranged in a circle known as a cromlech , the most imposing of which is Stone- henge (Fig. 41 a). This circle consists of

an outer ring of huge monoliths capped with lintels roughly cut just as they came from the quarry and laid without mortar. Inside this is a line of smaller stones; then a broken ring of five pairs of huge monoliths, each pair with its lintel; and again an inner broken circle of smaller stones, inside of which is a large slab that may have served as an altar. In the arrangement there is a feeling for order and symmetry, and a rhythm that is varied by alternating the large and small concentric circles. Such a structure is not properly speak- ing architecture. But it is the nearest approach to it that we find in western Europe until Roman times. 1


Europe gives us the best picture of prehistoric art because it is there that excavation and research have been most intensively pursued. In other geo- graphical areas, however, evidences of Paleolithic and especially of Neolithic culture are coming to light, as in China, Africa, and America. And though these studies are too recent and too incomplete to warrant conclusive findings, it seems fairly certain that we can see spread over large areas of the world in prehistoric times a culture in which are evident many of the charac-

1 For recent studies and excavations of Stone- henge, based upon air photography, see “Stone- henge” article, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 14th ed.


teristics seen in Europe. Neolithic cul- ture, varying widely in extent of time in different areas, seems, as has been said, to have been a world-wide base from which evolved the great cultures of antiquity, each conditioned by all the varying geographical, social, eco- nomic, and religious forces peculiar to itself.


Neolithic life was the result of great changes. Though man still hunted, he adopted a more settled kind of life be- cause of the development of agricul- ture. He began to build a home, to make pottery and textiles, and to erect monumental structures of stone. He learned new methods of making stone tools, so efficient that they have been used down to the present time. His esthetic impulse seems feeble, in con- trast to the brilliant, vital expressions of his Paleolithic predecessors, though his pottery shows interesting adapta- tions of simple motifs to ceramic deco- ration, and his stone structures give evidence of a feeling for orderly rela- tionships. He perhaps was marking time, slowly assimilating and evolving ideas and methods that were to produce great art in succeeding ages.


Avebury, John Lubbock, Baron, Pre-Historic Times, 7th ed., Holt, 1914

Boyle, Mary E., In Search of Our Ancestors* Little, Brown, 1928

Breasted, James H , Ancient Times, 2d ed. rev., Ginn, 1935

Brown, Gerard B., The Art of the Cave Dweller, R. V. Coleman, 1928

Burkitt, Miles C., Our Early Ancestors, Macmillan, 1929

Ghilde, Vere G., The Dawn of European Civiliza- tion, Knopf, 1925

The Most Ancient East, Knopf, 1929

[a] Stonehenge . Triliihans, pairs of up- right monoliths carrying stone lintels . Salis- bury Plain, England . ( Harold Allen )

Frobenius, Leo, and Fox, D. C., Prehistoric Rock Pictures in Europe and Africa, Museum of Modern Art, New York City, c. 1 937 Kuhn, Herbert, Die Malerei der Eiszeit, Munich, 1922 (Particularly valuable for tire illus- trations)

MacCurdy, George G., Human Origins, a vols,, Appleton, 1924

Osborn, Henry Fairfield, Men of the Old Stone Age, 3d ed., Scribner, 1918 Parkyn, Ernest A., An Introduction to the Study of Prehistoric Art, Longmans, Green, 1915 Peake, Harold J. E., and Fleure, H. J., Hunters and Artists, Yale University Press, 1927 (The Corridors of Time, Vol. II)

Piette, Edouard, Hart pendant Pflge du renne,

. ■■■ Paris, 1907

Raphael, Max, Prehistoric Cave Paintings, tr. by Norbert Guterman, Pantheon Books, 1945 Sawtell, Ruth O., and Treat, Ida, Primitive Hearths in the Pyrenees, Appleton, 1927 Sollas, William J., Ancient Hunters and Their Modem Representatives, 3d cd. rev., Mac- millan, 1924

Spearing, Herbert G., The Childhood of Art ; or, The Ascent of Man, rev. ed., Holt, 1930 Swindler, Mary H., Ancient Painting, Yale Uni- versity Press, 1929



Early Egypt and the Old Kingdom

(ABOUT 45OO-2475 B.C. 1 )

F ROM the top of the Great Pyramid we look out over the undulating floor of a vast desert plateau through which cuts a narrow valley of luxuriant green, of fields and palms fringing a winding river. Above blazes a glorious sun in a cloudless sky. This is Egypt (Figs. 43A, 44A, 49A).

Of this environment several facts persistently confronted the Egyptian: the brilliant sun, the Nile River, and the great geographical contrasts of his land — the barrenness and stem majesty of illimitable deserts; the rich fertility and delights of the valley with its trees, grains, flowers, and birds, all gifts of the sun and the river. So insist- ently did these facts of environment impress themselves on his mind that

1 There is considerable difference of opinion among scholars on the question of Egyptian chro- nology and of the spelling of Egyptian names. In Chapter 3 of this book, the chronology is that of J. H. Breasted; the spelling follows that of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago

they early became dominating forces in his attempt to account for his inex- plicable world. Evil and beneficent spirits animated all things. In the daily spectacle of the sun he envisaged a mighty god Re (Ra), or Amun-Re, sailing across the sky each day in his bark, and back to the east by night along a river of the nether world. In the annual rise of the Nile he saw the resurrection of Osiris, who after a tragic earthly life and death became god of the dead. Just as Osiris entered upon a new existence in another world and just as nature with the rise of the Nile burst into new life, so to every Egyptian lay open the opportunity for a similar experience of revived life after death. This hope constituted one of the most powerful influences in Egyptian civi- lization and Egyptian art.

While Paleolithic man of western Europe was coping with the rigors of a glacial age his relative in North Africa was enjoying a more leisurely life in a land of abundant rain and luxuriant vegetation. Then, with a change of climate in northern Africa which brought about desert conditions, Stone Age man with his animals gath- ered about the oases or migrated to the abundant waters of the Nile Valley.

[a] Egypt and the Ancient Near East

Along the river he built his hamlets, tamed the animals, and began to plant grain. Before 3000 b.c. he had evolved a system of picture writing, invented a calendar, worked out a system of irri- gation, and had discovered metal — perhaps accidentally as the molten drops of copper separated from the rock in his campfire in Sinai.

Tiny states began to emerge along the river and slowly coalesced into two kingdoms, Upper and Lower Egypt, which were finally united about 3400 b.c. by a king called Menes. At the head of the political and social system we see a supreme pharaoh, who prob- ably owned all the land; a group of suppressed nobles received their ap- pointments from him. The mass of the people were (with possible exceptions) slaves. The chief economic basis was agriculture, though commerce was

carried on with the Beduins of Sinai and with the Aegean lands. Toward the end of the Old Kingdom the highly efficient government of the pharaoh weakened. The landed nobles, who were gaining power, began to lay the foundations of a feudal state.

A vivid picture of Egyptian life comes from the tombs, for the pro- vision for life hereafter was one of the chief concerns of existence in this world. The Egyptian believed that there was a force called the ka which was the counterpart of the body. It came into being with the body, continued through life with it, was in all features like it, though invisible, and at death accom- panied it into the next world. As the ka and the body were coexistent, the body must be carefully preserved through mummification, and the ka through offerings of all kinds. Thus to



[a] Egypt at Low Nile. At the top of the steep bank is the cultivated area with palm trees; in the background rise the cliffs of the desert plateau. ( Author )

secure necessities and luxuries for the spirit land, which was but a reflection of this world, it was necessary to paint or carve them upon the tomb walls, or to place in the burial chambers small models, each of which, with the proper incantation, would function normally in the hereafter. It is these beliefs that motivate most of Egyptian art — its pyramids, sculpture, painting, and fine goldwork.


Recall for a moment the Egyptian landscape: stern, vast, and of generally horizontal lines, both in the valley floor and in the strata and crests of the cliffs. No gently curving hills or jagged picturesque mountains relieve the mo- notony. A contrastingly luxuriant val- ley, a thread of an oasis, twists through

the rocky desert plateau. Considering this setting, the social organization within it, the importance to himself of the Egyptian’s religious ideas, and the abundant supply of stone, what forms and purposes would one expect his architecture to embody? Apart from the palaces and houses, temporary and flimsy though comfortable enough in the warm climate, it is not surprising to find massive enduring tombs and temples of stone as the dominant archi- tectural expression.

In the Old Kingdom, the desire to create a permanent safe abiding-place for the dead led to the erection of tombs, of which the pyramids , 1 or royal tombs,

1 The pyramid field extends for about 50 miles an the western bank of the Nile south from the Delta, in the vicinity of the Old King- dom capital, Memphis (Fig. 4.3A); for Lower Egypt was the center of civilization in the Old Kingdom.



[a] Pyramids of Khafre and Khufu. Giza. IV Dynasty (5900-2750 b.c.). (Hoyningen- Huenefrom Sieindorjf’s Egypt, J. J. Augustin^ Publishers)

are the climax. A distant view of the Pyramids of Giza (Fig. 49A) reveals their position on the desert plateau safe above the highest level of the Nile. They rise with unbroken line and sur- face from the plateau base to an apex, comprising a form of great simplicity and dignity. Contrast for a moment the fagade of a Gothic cathedral (Fig. 349B) with its multiplicity of verti- cal lines, each pointed arch, statue, pinnacle, buttress, and tower contribut- ing to the soaring quality and to the broken light and shade. Notice how different is the feeling of unrest and exaltation there experienced from the quiet repose that comes from the unity of the unbroken line and surface of the pyramid.

Such a structure, simple geometric form though it is, was not conceived in a moment, but was the result of a long evolution. As far back as we can trace the Egyptian, he buried his dead in a pit over which he heaped up the sand, holding it in place with stones and twigs. By slow process this pit and sand heap grew; the actual chamber below the ground became rectangular and was faced with wood, brick, and finally stone. At the same time the mound above was covered with brick or stone, which followed in a general way the lines of a sand heap and thus attained a shape that looks like a low truncated pyramid, called a mastaba (Fig. 46A). Finally, some king who was ambitious to erect a still mightier tomb began to



[a] Typical Mastaba. a. entrance; b. chapel; c.. false door; d. shaft down which the sarcophagus was let into the burial chamber below; e. serdab for the statue. L. 40-50 ft. Mastaba is an Arabic word mean- ing a bench or terrace.

body. The chapel became complex, as time went on, with additional rooms and corridors which were covered with reliefs that vividly picture the everyday life of the Egyptian, for the benefit, as has been said, of the ka.

These reliefs represent the production of grain; the raising of cattle; the mak- ing of jewelry, vases, and pottery; hunting on the desert or in the papyrus swamp; processions of offering-bearers; and banquet scenes. Thus they provide the dead with both the necessities and the pleasures of life. The scenes are arranged in horizontal zones and the figures are carved in very low relief and painted in flat colors which are partly naturalistic and partly governed by a color scheme that creates a pleasing wall decoration apart from the subject interest.

Figure 47 a represents a harvesting scene. In the upper rows the harvesters are cutting the grain, leaving a high stubble just as they do in Egypt today; below, men with staves are driving the donkeys back and forth oyer the threshing-floor, tying the grain in great bags, and loading it on the don- keys 5 backs or tossing the bundles into the granaries. The figures are drawn with very little overlapping except in the case of the animals, where depth is

pile mastaba upon mastaba, forming a step pyramid; and then, by filling in the steps, attained the pure pyramidal form. 1 * *

The mastaba was a solid mass except for the chapel, a reception room for the ka where offerings were made, and the serdab or cellar, a tiny secret cham- ber built in the heart of the structure to contain a statue of the deceased that could represent him in the spirit world if anything should happen to the actual

1 For a graphic illustration of this develop-

ment, see James H. Breasted, Ancient Times, new

ed., Ginn, 1935, P- 74 *

suggested by repeating the silhouette. The figures of the men, so full of life and movement, are drawn according to an Egyptian formula — the head and legs in profile, the torso and the eye in front view.

This conventional method of treat- ing the figure, which persists in both reliefs and painting throughout the entire course of Egyptian art, we can see more clearly in a rare wooden panel from a mastaba, that of Hesire (Fig. 48A). Though a single figure is represented, it is not placed in the cen- ter of the panel; yet the balance is maintained by the staff and the writing



[a] Work in the Fields. Reaping , threshing, and stacking. From the mastaha of Ti, Saqqara.

utensils • — which Hesire holds in his left hand; the horizontals of feet, baton, girdle, and shoulders happily balance the otherwise insistent verticals. Look more closely at the figure itself. To appreciate its high quality we must frankly accept the conventional way in which different parts of the body are drawn from different points of view. This was not because the Egyptian could not execute a profile, as we shall see, but simply because this conven- tional method of drawing the figure, established early in Egypt, held a more powerful grip upon the artist than did a naturalistic rendering. Possibly, ac- tual rather than visual truth appealed more strongly. The artist knew that a man had two arms, although in a pro- file he could see but one, and his in-

stinct bade him indicate the fact rather than record the visual image. In the case of Hesire , the feeling of distortion is not disconcerting, so skillfully has the artist united the parts and so deco- ratively compelling is the entire panel. In this relief we feel the proud bearing of a noble and also the strength of a man of determination. Note the in- dividualized face with its high cheek- bones and firm mouth, the careful modeling about neck, shoulders, and knees; the firmness and strength of the carving, especially in the kilt and the wig, which produce a broken texture to contrast with the relatively smooth surfaces of the rest of the figure.

How the artist went about his work we have learned from some of the tombs w 7 here the walls have been left

unfinished. He planned his decoration with the help of guide lines to pro- portion both the spaces and the figures; then he sketched the latter in, made an incision along the lines of the pre- liminary sketch with a chisel, and cut away the background, leaving his de- sign in relief. If the stone was too uneven to offer a good foundation for


[a] Panel of Hesire. Wood. H. c. 4 ft. c. 2800 b.g. Cairo Museum.

painting, he covered it with a thin coating of fine plaster. His pigment he mixed with some binding medium, probably a gum, and applied it to the dry stone or plaster, with brushes made of reeds, in flat even tones, using no light and shade. Whatever modeling was done was done by the contour line made in the preliminary sketch and by the chisel. Proportions were not a mat- ter of the artist’s individual preference but were determined for him by tra- ditional canons, as were the forms of both men and animals. Sculptors’ models he copied and mastered, too often with mechanical hardness. All Egyptian art was determined by con- vention; and when great art appeared it was because the artist’s ability and personality were so superior that they transcended the restrictive traditional influences.

We wonder that painting rather than painted reliefs was not used more fre- quently in these finely decorated mas- taba chapels. It is as though the Egyptian scorned the brush as in- ferior to the chisel. What he could do in the field of painting is illustrated by one rare example, the Geese of Meidum (Fig. 50 a). On a border are painted two pairs of waddling ducks and feeding geese. The birds fill the panel with a symmetrically balanced composition that is both naturalistic and abstract: naturalistic in that the painter has ob- served the birds and their character- istic movements keenly; abstract in that he has filtered these observations into a decorative pattern without loss of the essentials of the form and move- ments of the birds. There is no back- ground, except for some sparse herbage, and no natural illumination which would give rise to the use of light and shadow to indicate volume in the fig- ures. On the contrary, the painter has seen in the fowl flat areas of light and dark color which he has marked off



[a] Pyramids of Khufu and Khafre . Restored . Giza . (Hoelscher)

with firm lines and repeated with effec- tive variation — all of which contrib- utes to the decorative quality of the panel.

However, the pyramid and not the mastaba is the most characteristic structure of the Old Kingdom. Most important are the great Pyramids of Giza , of which that of Khufu, or Cheops (Fig. 45 a), is the largest. With the ex- ception of the galleries and burial chamber (Fig. 52B) it is solid masonry of limestone which was roughly cut in the quarries in the eastern Nile cliffs directly across the river and floated over at high Nile to the base of the plateau where the tomb was to be built. There the masons finished cutting the stones and marked them with red ink to in- dicate the place of each in the struc- ture. Then they were laid course upon course by great gangs of slaves who dragged them by sheer human labor up the temporary ramps. 1 The angles

1 An unfinished pyramid in the foreground of

Figure 49A shows these ramps.

left by the decreasing courses were filled with casing stones of a pearly- white limestone, cut with such nicety that the eye can scarcely detect the joinings. Thus the pyramid presented a perfectly smooth surface from founda- tion to tip. 2

Nicety of engineering is also apparent in the fact that — without modern sur- veying instruments and machinery, and with only a knotted rope for laying out the huge base and only human labor to drag stones of two-and-one-half tons into place — so accurate is the work that the most delicate modern instru- ment can detect only about one-half inch of error in the measurement of one side. Yet it is not alone huge size, successful mechanical engineering, and skill in stonecutting that constitute the art of such a structure, but its formal engineering as well — the proportions, and the simple dignity of the form, so

2 A few of these casing stones can still be seen at the base. The ragged condition of the pyra- mid is due to the depredations of the Muslim builders of Cairo.



[a] Geese of Meidum. So called because the panel was found in a tomb

consistent with its function and so adapted to its geographical setting. 1

On the east side of the Great Pyra- mid are three small pyramids belong- ing to members of the royal family, while clustered about are rows of mas- tabas of the great nobles who, having been associated with the pharaoh in life, wished to continue in this place of honor even in the tomb. The pyramid of the pharaoh, however, is the domi- nating structure of the whole cemetery (Fig. 49A) , just as he himself had been the dominating power of Egyptian life.

The middle pyramid of the triple group at Giza, the Pyramid of Khafre, is somewhat smaller than that of Khufu, indicating an economic and political waning in the power of the pharaoh. This pyramid is important, however, because from the remains surrounding it we can study all the additional struc- tures, which, together with the pyramid itself, comprise the pyramid complex. To do this let us look first at the

1 The massiveness, solidity, and weight of the Pyramid of Khufu is better realized when one recalls some dimensions (in round numbers): base, 775 ft., covering 13 acres; height, 450 ft. (originally 480 ft.) ; the flat space now on the top, 30 ft. square. According to Petrie the structure contains about 2,300,000 blocks of stone, each of which averages in weight 2$- tons. These stones are chiefly limestone except about the burial chambers, where very finely cut granite is used.

mastaba-shaped structure in the right foreground of Figure 49 a. This building is near the town in the valley, at the base of the plateau on which the pyra- mid stands. In order to provide for the spirit of the dead, offerings must be placed at the tomb frequently. The hot climb up over the sandy hill led to the erection of a covered causeway from the valley up to the little chapel ad- joining the eastern side of the pyramid. For as the spirit land lay in the west, the spirit must come toward the east to receive the offerings. Hence tombs were built on the western bank, and the chapel was on the eastern side of the pyramid. The beginning of the cause- way presupposed some kind of entrance or vestibule. To provide that is the function of the building in the valley.

Thus we have seen that a pyramid complex consists of (1 ) the pyramid itself, within or below which was the burial chamber; (2) the chapel adjoining the pyramid on the eastern side, where the offerings were made and ceremonies performed, and where were kept in store chambers the linen, grain, honey, oil, and other offerings of food and drink, together with the rich ceremonial vessels (Fig. 55B) for use in the daily rites; (3) the covered causeway leading over the cliffs; and (4) the valley tem- ple, or vestibule of the causeway, down in the valley.


chapel near Meidum. IV Dynasty {2goo~2yyo b.c.). Cairo Museum.

The valley temple of the Pyramid of Khafre is built on the lintel system; that is, the upright supports are bridged over with horizontal beams, or lintels. Here supports and lintels are huge red- granite monoliths, finely proportioned, skillfully cut and polished, and entirely devoid of decoration. Alabaster slabs cover the floor, and seated statues, the only embellishment, are ranged along- side. This interior, protected from the hot sun by the great blocks, must have been cool and dim. It is lighted by a few rays filtering in from above, slant- wise, This is because the pillars of the central aisle are higher than the side walls, and the roof over the central part is therefore at a higher level than that over the sides. In the vertical space left between these two levels are slits in the stone, through which the light comes, forming an embryonic clerestory (Fig, 52c), a structural feature that became characteristic of early Chris- tian churches. With its plain, simple dignity, it is a remarkably impressive room, harmonizing with the simple massive tomb to which it led.

Leaving Giza and traveling up the river to Abusir, let us look at the chapel and valley temple of the Pyramid of Sahure (Figs. 52A, 53A), much smaller in size and built about a hundred years after that of Khafre. Here we see some- thing not found at Giza — columns,

in place of rectangular pillars, and wall paintings. From the natural forms of his environment the Egyptian found in the palm tree, with its tall trunk and spreading leaves, an inspiration for the design of his columns. The elegance of this design, in no way hampering the column’s function of support, together with the bright colors on the walls, lends an air of splendor which con- trasts sharply with the austere sim- plicity of the Valley Temple of Khafre.

As we have seen in the case of the latter and of the mastabas, sculpture in the round also played its part in the tomb architecture of the Old Kingdom. Its function was bound up with the de- sire either to perpetuate or to serve the dead. Should a carefully mummified body by any chance perish, then a statue as nearly like the original as possible could represent the body in the world to come. Hence we are not surprised to find portraiture early developed, 1 As for its form, both material and style are in complete harmony with the simple, geometric, grandly monumental structures of which it is an integral part. Though wood, clay, and bronze were used, stone was the primary material — the

1 As with the pyramids, a long evolution in carving must be presupposed for the high ac- complishment of the Old Kingdom sculpture, though we have only incomplete evidence of it


[a] Pyramid of Sakure. Restored. Abusir. c. 2735 b.c. a. pyramid, chapel, and upper end of causeway; b. valley- temple.

[b] Section of the Pyramid of Khufu. a. entrance; b. grand gallery ; c. King’s chamber; d. Queen’s chamber.

[g] Valley-Temple of Khafre. Section showing the clerestory. {After Hoelscher)

limestone and sandstone of the Nile cliffs, the granite from the dikes at the cataracts, and diorite from the desert.

The statue of Khafre (Fig. 13 a) illus- trates the style. Located in the valley temple of the pyramid, it is one of the row of statues which served as hostages for the real body. The rectangular masses of the statues, in complete har- mony with the surrounding rectangular space, served to break the severe sim- plicity of unadorned surfaces. We see the pharaoh seated on his throne, on which is the intertwined lotus and papyrus, symbol of united Egypt. He faces directly forward, with no turn in any part of the figure. About his head are the protecting wings of the hawk, symbol of his semidivine station as son of the sun god. He wears the simple kilt of the Old Kingdom and a linen headdress which covers his forehead smoothly and falls in plaited folds over the breast. The false ceremonial beard is partly broken off.

As a portrait the statue is charac- terized by aliveness, yet it is permeated with a feeling of imperturbable calm



[a] Pyramid of Sahure. Restored. Abusir. Colonnaded hall of the chapel, c. 2735 b.c. ( Bor char dt )

that conveys the impression not of an individual but of something greater — the enduring power of the pharaoh, the abstract conception of the dignity of kingship. This impression derives from several contributing factors: the charac- ter of the form, the summary nature of its carving, and the distinctive quality of its material. The figure is carved from diorite, a stone so hard that it will turn a steel tool. The large planes are cut generally parallel to the planes of the block of stone, and there is no movement from side to side. Further- more, the figure, the bird, and the throne compose, with a feeling of in- evitability, into a unity of architectural quality.

Standing figures present the same for- mal qualities, even in a group such as the Menkaure ( Mycerinus ) and His Queen in the Boston Museum. In Ranofer (Fig. 54A) we see a figure facing directly forward with left foot advanced and arms held dose to the side. By simplifying the

contour, the wig adds to the compact- ness of the figure, which is massive and rather angular. The firmly placed erect head, in fact the whole figure, is per- meated with an intense vitality. As in the Khafre , the individual traits of the man are submerged in the generalized features. The erect head and the whole bearing denote a person of the noble classes.

The vivacity of many of the Old Kingdom statues is enhanced by the use of rock crystal for the eyes, and of color, which not only covers the entire surface but adds details not carved in the stone, such as hair, brows, and jewelry. In the case of female figures the flesh is of a yellowish tone because the Egyptian woman led a more se- cluded life than the man, whose tanned skin is usually painted a dark reddish color. Thus while the color is partly naturalistic it is, even more, decora- tive, for it is laid on flat and strongly differentiates the parts of the figure.



[a] Ranofer. H. c Of limestone , painted nasty {2750-2625 Cairo Museum.

painted ; with rock crystal. Found in a tomb at Saqqara, b.c.) Louvre , Paris.

In the Sheikh el-Beled Scribe (Fig. 54B) we find lively expres- sions of the lower classes whose function was to serve the king in the spirit world. Both are more highly individualized than the kings and nobles. The Sheikh is a self-satisfied fellow, perhaps a middle-class overseer. He stands erect and in frontal pose, but lifts one arm to hold his staff. Here the sculptor is working in wood and by making the arms of separate pieces, which he appar- ently did not dare to do in stone, he could use a freer pose. Again, because of the cylindrical character of wood, we note a basic cylindrical form in the figure. Originally, the wood was cov- ered with linen tightly glued on, to furnish a surface for painting.

As we turn to the Scribe } which is carved from stone, we see the same four-sided organization as in Khafre. Here is a keen alert servant with a spare face, square jaw, and thin lips — a shrewd man with a sense of humor. He sits cross-legged, Eastern fashion, with his pen in his hand (as is indicated by the position of the fingers) ready to take down what his master will dictate. Legs, back, and arms are blocked out in large masses only; chest, shoulders, and head alone are individualized. Yet the expression of momentary expec- tancy — an abstract idea — which fills the entire figure has been caught and transformed into the permanency of stone in a manner that is large, and truly sculptural.


[a] Head of a Hawk. Gold. H. 4 in. Cairo Museum. (Fechheimer)


[b] Ceremonial Vase. Restored. Of gold and lapis lazuli. H. c. 2 ft. c. 2750 b.c. ( Stoedtner )


The dignity and the vitality of Old Kingdom building, carving, and paint- ing repeats itself in the creations of the various craftsmen. This was particularly true in the work of the stonecutters, who furnished vessels for household use, in the products of the goldsmiths, who provided the jewelry so necessary in Egyptian costume, and in the fine cer- emonial objects for the tomb ritual.

The stonecutter had inherited a tra- dition dating far back into prehistoric times. With the invention, before 3000 b.c., of the stone-pointed drill with shaft, fly wheel, and crank for turning and, somewhat after 3000 b.c., of the tubular drill of metal, he was enabled to produce vessels of astonishing qual- ity. Such hard stones as porphyry, diorite, and hematite were used where

the variegated color of the stone adds a decorative quality. Among the softer stones alabaster was widely used, not only for its attractive ivory color but also because its veining could be uti- lized as a decorative element, and the stone could be worked to a transparent thinness. The vessels are generally sim- ple and rugged in shape, and they vary in size from a tiny jar for unguent to great storage jars, bowls, and plates a foot in diameter. Ornament is rarely found, for the craftsman depended for his effects upon shape and proportions, and upon the material for its own in- trinsic weight, color, and texture. It is an indication of the craftsman’s sensi- tivity that we find a small unguent jar made from delicate alabaster and a large storage jar from heavy porphyry.



[a] Map of Thebes, showing the most im- portant temples and tombs. The dwellings have dis-

The goldsmith, with an abundant supply of material, developed many ways of working it. He could cast, chase, solder, hammer, or plait it with amazing technical skill. A hawk’s head (Fig. 55A) was originally attached to a bronze body by rivets still left just be- low the neck. Here the goldsmith has hammered the metal into shape, prob- ably over a mold, soldered the parts together, and inserted eyes cut from red jasper. Like the painter of the Geese of Meidum (Fig. 504) , he had observed his bird form well, and with an amazing economy of modeling has given ex- pression to the essential form and char- acter of the hawk.


By the beginning of the Old Kingdom those conventions had been established which controlled, with but one impor- tant break at the time of the Empire, the long course of Egyptian art. The builders of the Old Kingdom were primarily tomb-builders, and their stone mastabas and pyramids are still massive, static, and enduring, thor- oughly in harmony with their site and function. Into them fitted the imposing portrait sculpture that was required by religious belief, conventional in

form and conception, but filled with an intense vitality. Paintings and painted reliefs, chiefly in the chapels of the tombs, were based upon conven- tions which evolved from mental rather than visual concepts of the world. They were finely chiseled, gaily decorative, and teeming with eager life. The stone- cutter and the goldsmith provided additional evidence of sensitivity to material and effective design in cre- ating objects of daily use and personal adornment, objects which partake of the sobriety and dignity of the pyra- mids and the statue of Khafre.

The Middle Kingdom and the Empire

(2160-IO9O B.G.)

T HE tendency toward the decline of the pharaoh’s power, with the corresponding gain in the power of the nobles, had plunged the country into a period of struggle and disorder. Out of this eventually arose a feudal state, at the head of which still stood the pharaoh; but he maintained his power by balancing the nobles one against another. Economically it was a period


of great prosperity. Agriculture was developed by building canals and re- claiming the land; commerce was car- ried on not only in the south but also with Asia and the Aegean Islands. And now Egypt became a military power. Athirst for conquests, it ex- tended its boundaries not only far south into Nubia but east to the Euphrates. Thus on the monuments we see military subjects: weapons, chariots, and the horse, which, coming with the pre-Indo-Europeans from the grasslands of central Asia, finally reached the Nile Valley about 1700 b.g. The wealth that came from the booty taken in these wars made possible the development of the capital city, Thebes, into a great metropolis with magnificent palaces, tombs, and tem- ples ranged along both banks of the river (Figs. 43 a, 56A).

A considerable change had taken place in thought and religion. The Egyptian could now look back over his own history for centuries. In the light of the futility of man’s greatest efforts the fresh and vital faith of the Pyra- mid age gave way to pessimism, which is reflected in the portraits of the age (Fig. 70A) and in its literature.

“Follow thy desire while thou livest,

Celebrate the glad day!

Rest not therein!

For lo, none taketh his goods with him,

Yea, no man retumeth again, that is gone thither.” 1

A broadening horizon of thought and the growth of the idea of world empire fired the imagination of a young king ( I 375~ 1 35^ b.c.), who, applying the

1 James H. Breasted, A History of Egypt from the Earliest Times to the Persian Conquest, Scrib- ner, 1909, p. 206.

principle of political power to the realm of religion, conceived the idea of one god and creator, whom he called Aton, an old name of the sun god Re. He then broke both politically and re- ligiously with the powerful though cor- rupt priesthood at Thebes, took for himself the name Akhnaton, which means “spirit of Aton,” and set up a new capital at a place that he called Akhetaton, meaning “Horizon of Aton” (now known as Amarna). Something of the spirit of the new faith we feel in the hymns that Akhnaton wrote:

The Splendor of Aton

“Thy dawning is beautiful in the hori- zon of heaven,

O living Aton, Beginning of life!

When thou risest in the eastern hori-

. zon of heaven,

Thou fillest every land with thy beauty;

For thou art beautiful, great, glitter- ing, high over the earth;

Thy rays, they encompass the lands, even all thou hast made.

How manifold are all thy works!

They are hidden from before us,

O thou sole god, whose powers no other possesseth.

Thou didst create the earth according to thy desire,

While thou wast alone:

Men, all cattle large and small,

All that are upon the earth.

That fly with their wings,

The countries of Syria and Nubia, The land of Egypt.

Thou settest every man in his place, Thou supplies! their necessities.” 1

Egypt by this time, however, was too crystallized by the traditions of thou-

1 Ibid., pp. 371 ff., where a complete transla- tion is given in parallel arrangement with one of the Hebrew Psalms, which it approximates to an amazing degree.



[a] Tomb of Seti I. Section and Plan. Thebes, Valley of the Tombs of the Kings. XIX Dynasty \i%o-i 205 b.c.). (Benoit)

sands of years, too enthralled by its nobles, military leaders, and particu- larly by the powerful priesthood of Amun, to accept an idea so contrary to tradition. Akhnaton, by nature not a practical man of affairs, became en- tirely absorbed in the religion of Aton. The result was that, through upheavals at home and invasions from without, the Empire dwindled while its ruler pursued his monotheistic ideals. At his death the power at Thebes was restored and after a period of decline the Em- pire was reorganized by Seti I (1313- 1292 b.c.) and Ramesses II, the Great (1292-1225 b.c.), but it was never firmly re-established.

Life in “Hundred-Gated Thebes” and at Amarna, too, was luxurious and magnificent. The enormous wealth of the pharaoh enabled him to erect a palace with decorations that repro- duced for him the outdoor world in which he delighted. On the floors and walls, which were painted or decorated in glazed tiles, were represented ducks swimming in the water and the animal life of the marshes (Fig. 75A); across

the deep-blue background of the ceiling flew flocks of birds, and butterflies. The furniture was superbly designed and skillfully constructed (Fig. 76B) . Mag- nificent gold and silver vessels, blue faience lotus cups, glass vases of vari- ous colors, rich jewelry (Figs. 76A, 78A and b, 79A) • — all these tell of a mag- nificence quite in contrast to the sterner dignity of the Pyramid age.


As the Old Kingdom was pre- eminently the period of the pyramid- builder, so the Middle Kingdom and the Empire were that of the temple- builder. This was not because burial no longer demanded the elaborate care shown earlier. An even more scrupulous attention was given to the protection of the body, but in a different way. Rob- beries and neglect had shown the futility of the pyramid for perfect preservation; and while pyramids continued to be built by the earlier pharaohs of the period, they were small, and made of



[a] Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. Deir el-Bahri. XV III Dynasty (1580-1350 b.c.) (Hoy- ningen-Huene from Steindorjf’s Egypt, J, J. Augustin, Publishers)

brick. Today they are little more than mounds, though their substructures have yielded rich finds of jewelry and other mortuary equipment.

The nobles no longer sought a locality for burial near that of the king, but hollowed out their tombs and chapels in the cliffs bordering the Nile. The pharaohs themselves, perhaps following the example of their retainers, chose for their burial site a wild, desolate valley west of the cliffs at Thebes now known as the Valley of the Tombs of the Kings (Fig. 56 a ), where deep in the rocky hills they carved burial chambers which were reached by long corridors, some- times extending five hundred feet into the hillside 1 (Fig. 58A) . The entrances were carefully concealed; and because of the impracticability of making offer- ings at the actual tombs, the mortuary

1 The Tomb of Tutankhamun, discovered in the valley in 1922, is a rock-cut tomb of this type.

temples, which correspond to the chapel abutting the eastern side of the pyra- mid, were separated from the tombs and built on the eastern side of the cliffs along the bank of the river. In each case the temple was on the axis of the tomb, and hence in the same rela- tive position as the pyramid chapel. These temples were dedicated to the gods, and each provided the king who built it with a place for worshiping his patron god during his lifetime, and then served as his mortuary chapel after death. Hence they became elab- orate and sumptuous, befitting both the kings and the gods of a mighty em- pire.

The noblest of these royal mortpary temples is Deir el-Bahri , 2 the temple of Queen Hatshepsut (Fig. 59A). The site

  • Deir el-Bahri, meaning “The North Monas-

tery,” is the modern Arab name of the locality, from a monastery, now destroyed, that was built on the site.



[a] Frankincense Frees Deir el-Bahri. ( Naville )

is a sloping bay in the western cliffs (Fig. 56 a), above which tower rocks weathered into columnar shapes, the vertical lines of which contrast happily with the long horizontals of the plateau edge; the rough surfaces afford deep shadows and a more broken mass of light and shade than is usual in Egypt. The temple rises from the valley floor in a series of colonnaded terraces con- nected by ramps to the cliffs in which were cut the sanctuary and the shrines. Notice in the distant view how effec-

tively the long horizontals and verticals of the colonnades and their rhythm of light and dark repeat the pattern of the cliffs above — • an intentional rela- tionship between the architectural de- sign and its natural setting.

Consistency and a reserved taste, both in the general plan and in every part, give this temple striking unity and quiet dignity. In the colonnades, for example, the pillars are either sim- ply rectangular or chamfered off into sixteen sides rather than of the more



elaborate lotus or papyrus form, and are sensitively proportioned and spaced. The great amount of sculpture that adorned the temple is very definitely an integral part of the entire design. The statues in the round, perhaps two hundred in number — sphinxes guard- ing the approach, statues of the queen flanking the doorways and the pillars or kneeling along the procession path — are purely architectural in their sim- ple masses, as are the painted low reliefs (Figs. 6oa and b) which cover all the walls. The bright color and the gardens, however, added a vivacious note for in Hatshepsut’s day the terraces were not the barren places they now are, but luxuriant gardens filled with frankincense trees and strange rare plants brought here from the faraway land of Punt. “It was a gorgeous way up which the procession of Amun passed. ... In its brilliancy of color under the Egyptian skies the long vista must have been a magnificent reiteration of a claim to almost superhuman power.” 1

1 “The Egyptian Expedition 1930-1931,” Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin , March, 1932, Sec. II, p. 14.

[a] Temple of Amun. Karnak. Central aisle of the hypostyle hall. The columns are 66 ft. high , and the capitals 22 ft. wide at the top. XIX Dynasty [1350-1205 b.c.). See Figs. 64A and b for an idea of the original appearance and the plan.

[b] Two Types of Col- umn Derived from the Papyrus Plant, a. Pa- pyrus; b. Papyrus Cluster Bud Column; c. Papyrus Flower Column. (Bor- chardt)



[a] Temple of Horus. Edfu. View from the side showing the pylon and the open court. Though later in date, it preserves all the characteristics of the typical pylon temple. {Gaddis and Seif )

The Egyptian temple to the gods we shall illustrate by a small temple at Edfu (Figs. 62 a, 63A), because it is in an ex- cellent state of preservation and, though later in date than the Theban age, illus- trates clearly the fundamental plan of a pylon temple, which did not change es- sentially over many centuries. To one approaching, the dominating feature is the great fa§ade, or pylon, which is simple, massive, with sloping walls and generally unbroken lines. The broad surface too is unbroken, except for the doorway with its overshadowing cor- nice, the four grooves to hold the great fiagstaffs, and the low reliefs. A round molding finishes both the top and the sides. Passing through the doorway, we . enter an open court surrounded on three sides by a colonnade. Beyond rises a roofed hall, the hypostyle hall, where the cool dimness contrasting with the bright sunshine of the open court, together with the rhythm of the

massive shafts, inspires a feeling of solemnity. Still farther on lies the sanctuary, low, dark, mysterious, and secluded. A girdle wall, beginning at the pylon, surrounds the structure. This temple at Edfu shows us the general arrangement of a typical pylon temple (Fig. 63B), which always includes a pylon, an open colonnaded court, a hypostyle hall, a sanctuary — sometimes surrounded by smaller chambers for the storage of the temple treasures and for the use of the priests — and a girdle wall.

This plan clearly evolved from ritu- alistic requirements. Egyptian religious practices were not congregational, as were the Greek, the Buddhist, and the Christian. Only the pharaoh and the priest could enter or view the sanctuary; a chosen few were admitted to the hypostyle hall; the masses, only into the open court; and the girdle wall shut off the entire site from the outside


[a] Temple of Horns. Edfu. View from the top of the pylon showing part of the open court , the hypostyle hall , the sanctuary , and the girdle wall. [Gaddis and Seif)

world. The passage, which became pro- and the Romans brought other ideas gressively mysterious, from the large into the Nile Valley, sunlit court to the small secret unseen It is not surprising to find that the sanctuary, naturally inspired a feeling Egyptian temple, like the pyramid, is of solemnity and awe. From this essen- simple and massive when we recall tial plan, once evolved, the conserva- again the geographical conditions of

tive Egyptian did not deviate for the country — that narrow strip of

hundreds of years, even after the Greeks luxuriant river valley bordered on both

[b] Plan of a Typical Pylon Temple, a. pylon; b. court; c. hypostyle hall; d. sanctuary; e. girdle wall; f. colossal statues of the pharaoh; g. obelisks; h. avenue of recumbent animals.


[a] Temple of Amun. Kamak. Section of the hypostyle hall , central part. From a model in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. (. Metropolitan Museum)

lil Wpl« 

[b] Temple of Amun. Kamak. In process of building for c. 2000 years to the 1st cent. b.c. Ramesses I, Seti I, and Ramesses II, all of the XIX Dynasty ( 1350 - 1205 b.c.), built the great hypostyle hall. {Bae- deker)


[a] Temple of Amun. Luxor. Right: central colonnade of an unfinished hypostyle hall. Center and left: double colonnaded court. XVIII Dynasty {1580-1350 b.c.). ( Gaddis and Seif)

sides by vast sterile deserts; a land- scape of predominantly horizontal lines; and over all a continuously clear sky and overwhelming sunshine. Protection from the heat demanded thick walls with few apertures, and covered colon- nades. Thus the temple in its outline presents a group of simple geometric volumes — pyramidal and rectangular — with great areas of unbroken wall space. The approach is along a broad avenue bordered on both sides by statues of recumbent animals with metal disks between their horns. In front of the massive pylon stand two obelisks (Fig. 63a) nearly a hundred feet high, covered with hieroglyphs, their glittering metal tips catching and re- flecting the sunshine. On each side of the doorway stands a colossal statue of the pharaoh, harmonizing in its simple

massiveness with the massive pylon; in the grooves rest the huge wooden staffs that carry the flags floating above the cornice. The walls are covered with low reliefs, painted in bright colors, en- riching the surface but not destroying the solidity of the walls. The great door of cedar of Lebanon is inlaid with shin- ing metal. Surrounding and framing the whole structure are the rich green masses of palms and the brilliant sky. A magnificent and awe-inspiring sight.

The two most famous temples of the Empire are Luxor and Karnak (Fig. 64B) . If we look at these closely, we shall see that they are merely complex arrange- ments of the simple plan of Edfu; for it became the custom for each succeed- ing pharaoh to add to his glory by building on an additional hypostyle hall or pylon to what was already a



[a] Temple of Amun. Luxor. Colossal statues of Ramesses II in the great court. H. c. 23 ft. c. 1230 b.c. (Steindorjf and Seele)

complete temple. One fact only, which Edfu does not illustrate, needs to be mentioned. In the hypostyle hall of Karnak (Fig. 64A) the central rows of columns are higher than the side rows, which means that the roof over the center is higher than that on the sides. The wall space connecting these two levels is filled with perforated stone windows. Here is a fully developed clerestory, the beginning of which we saw in the valley temple of the Pyramid of Khafre (Fig. 52c).

The decorative motifs that the Egyp- tian used in the embellishment of his temples were taken chiefly from the lotus, the papyrus, and the palm. The palm we saw used in the colonnade of the Pyramid of Sahure (Fig. 53A). The lotus was popular with the Egyptians, who used it as a decorative motif in all their arts — not so successfully, how- ever, in the capitals, for its spreading

petals militate against the needed feel- ing of solidity in an architectural sup- porting member.

The papyrus plant (Fig. 6 ib), now extinct in Egypt but in early days plen- tiful, produced a flower whose feathery petals formed a bell-shaped mass. The columns forming the central row of the hypostyle hall of Luxor (Fig. 65A) have capitals the shape of which has been suggested by the papyrus flower, and the columns of the colonnade in the background are based on a cluster of papyrus buds. The stems of this cluster are tied tightly below the buds, whose swelling contours form the capi- tal. Were it not for this broad band to hold the stems firmly together, the shaft would give one a feeling of inse- curity by seeming incapable of per- forming its function of support. The shafts of both the flower and the bud type contract at the base, as does the


67 ‘

[a] Rock-cut Temple of Ramesses II. Abu Simbel, Seated statues of Ramesses 66 ft. high, ( 1 Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago)

stem of the plant; for when conven- tionalizing his plant forms, the Egyp- tian closely observed nature. In design, proportions, and workmanship, these colonnades at Luxor are among the noblest to be found in the pylon temples.

This becomes more apparent when we turn to the hypostyle hall of Karnak (Fig. 6 1 a). Here, according to the usual convention, the columns of the central aisle are of the papyrus-flower type; those of the side aisles are of the pa- pyrus-bud type. But compare the latter with the bud type at Luxor. At Karnak , only the general contour of the cluster has been retained, producing a heavy, ungainly shaft. It is as if the architects, in haste to complete this mighty hall, were depending upon bulk and scale to create an effect. And indeed they were partly successful in their attempt, for notwithstanding the shabby workman- ship, a certain overwhelming impres-

siveness results from the mere number and size of these mighty shafts . 1

Equally impressive, and architec- turally fitting, is the colossal sculpture used at the entrance and in various parts of the temple — masses of stone as simply geometric as the pylon itself but at the same time portraits, imper- sonal to be sure, of the pharaoh (Figs. 66a, 67A).

The tombs of the nobles as well as the temples were decorated with reliefs which related to the life of the deceased. The zonal arrangement, characteristic of the Old Kingdom, con- tinued; but the grouping became more

1 It is interesting to note that the Egyptian did not use cement in these gigantic structures, but depended upon the huge weight of the stones to hold them in place. For the technical methods of lifting these stones to such heights, see Somers Clarke and Reginald Engelbach, Ancient Egyptian Masonry , Oxford University Press, 1930.



[a] Wild Bull Hunt. On the pylon of the Temple of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu, Thebes. XX Dynasty ( 1198-1167 b.c.). ( Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago)

complex, with more overlapping. The figures not only are expressive of emo- tion but are more curvilinear, in con- trast to the angularity of the Old Kingdom reliefs. This is partly due to the elaborate pleated linen garments which supplanted the simple kilt and straight garment of earlier ages. All these changes are indicative of a turn toward nature on the part of the sculp- tors, instead of implicit following of traditional modes of representation.

The naturalistic tendency seen in these reliefs received powerful impetus from Akhnaton’s revolution. The new faith, with its conception of a sole creator of all life, turned men’s atten- tion to nature and lifted art expression above traditional convention. But re- action in art as well as in religion set in after the failure of the revolution.

The priests of Amun had triumphed. Not only did they attempt to eradicate the heresy by destroying the works of art created by the Amarna artists, or at least by removing from them all references to the hated Aton, they also shackled the artists even more securely than before. For it was the priests who controlled both subjects and methods of representation. Even under these restrictions, a brief period of high at- tainment was reached by the Egyptians before their art was strangled by crys- tallizing conventions, as we see in the Wild Bull Hunt (Fig. 68a), in which the king is spearing bulls in the swamps along the river (indicated by fish in the corner). Above a base of spearmen and archers moving with vigorous rhythmic swing, the zonal arrangement gives way to the large panel of the



[a] Osiris and Goddesses. XIX Dynasty (1350-1205 b.c.). Temple of Seti , Abydos.

pharaoh in his chariot and three ani- mals carved with bold vigor, the chariot group in terms of the old convention, the animals with extraordinary visual reality, and all tied together in a com- positional unity. Note here that the ground is not cut away, leaving the figures in relief, but a deep groove is chiseled along the contours, giving the effect of a heavy line.

The wall decorations in the Temple of Seti I at Abydos (Fig. 69A), on die other hand, illustrate the crystallized convention. The figures are highly con- ventional in form, but the carving is very sure, with graceful sweep of con- tour and softly rounded relief which casts delicate shadows. With no in-

terior modeling and no feeling for structure (note that both hands are the right one), the figure has become a highly stylized convention — affected, stilted, entirely lacking in the vivacity of the Old Kingdom reliefs. Yet the entire wall space, with the sensitively related panels, the beauty of the carv- ing, and the color laid on flat in large areas, stands as a superb piece of mural decoration.

The portraits of the pharaohs and the nobles reveal a naturalizing tend- ency; the individual, with his idio- syncrasies and emotions, is emerging from the Old Kingdom generalizations and abstractions. In Amenemhet III (Fig. 7 Ga) we see not only the warrior



[a] Amenemhet III. Obsidian, H. c. 5 in. XII Dynasty ( 2000-1788 b.c.). MacGregor Collection, Tamworth. (Journal of Egyp- tian Archaeology)

and the ruler, but the individual man who lived and thought intensely. In the strong mouth, the drooping lines about the nose and the eyes, and the shadowing brows, we discern ' a man who, though still powerful, has lost faith. The head is carved in obsidian (note its reflective quality), a stone so obdurate that it must have put to the test the most accomplished skill in cut- ting, grinding, and polishing,' yet so large and powerful is the characteriza- tion that the diminutive size becomes colossal in its impressiveness. :

This trend toward naturalism was accelerated by the Amarna sculptors, as one sees in the numerous -portraits and reliefs of king, queen, and princesses. In the portraits of Akhnaton (Fig.’ 70B) we do not feel primarily the ruler "or even the official class to which this man be- longs. What is significant is a thoroughly human characterization which em- phasizes, in the pose of the head, the

Akhnaton. Painted sandstone. H. c. 8 in. 1375-1358 b.c. Staatliche Museum , Berlin. ( Grantz )

long neck, the drooping mouth and lids, and in the air of almost effeminate delicacy, the essential elements of his character, which was primarily that of the dreamer and idealist.

For the expression of individual charm, the head of Jfofretete (Staatliche Museum, Berlin), wife of Akhna- ton, stands pre-eminent. In the long slender neck, the sensitive mouth, and the delicate modeling one feels an aris- tocratic, queenly bearing combined with a simple, unaffected grace. A use of color that is more conventional than naturalistic differentiates and relates the parts, and places emphasis upon the recurrent themes of cylindrical masses and curves.

When we compare these heads with those of Khafre (Fig. 1 3A) and Ranofer (Fig. 54A) , we observe a striking differ- ence. We miss the vivacity, the alert- ness, and the serene grandeur of the earlier work, in which individuality is



[a] Reconstructed Town Houses at Amama. The conical objects in front of the houses are corncribs with steps for filling from the top. (Journal of Egyptian Archaeology)

subordinated to generalization. In its place we find that the chief aim of the artist has been to express the significant characteristics of the individual, his emotions, and his inner life.

The domestic architecture of the Em- pire, 1 though but scantily preserved because of the perishable materials of which most of it was constructed, ap- pears to have presented to the eye as simple geometric masses and unbroken lines as the temples (Fig. 7 IA )* Because the windows were few and small, a central hall rising above the other rooms afforded a clerestory for lighting. The flat roof was utilized for an open loggia,

1 For domestic architecture see “The Town House in Ancient Egypt” by N. de G. Davies, Metropolitan Museum Studies, Vol. I, Pt II,

19528-29; Henri Frankfort on private houses in Amama, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology , Novem- ber, 1922, pp. 144-49; and the Medinet Habu publications of the Oriental Institute of the Uni- versity of Chicago relating to the palace of Ramesses III.

or for a garden when the houses were packed close together in the crowded city. In a royal palace such as that at Medinet Habu there was every comfort and luxury, including a private bath with each room, as well as a grandly impressive audience hall reminiscent of the temple hypostyle hall. In this audi- ence hall an important note is the roof, which is vaulted rather than made of lintels as in the temple hall. 2 The walls, largely unbroken because of few win- dows, the ceilings, and the floors were elaborately painted and must have been very gay.


The wall paintings of the palaces and the tombs were the chief field of the painter, and in this respect his work was tied up with that of the builder and the

2 The Egyptian understood the arch, but used it chiefly in substructures.



[a] Wall Decoration in the Tomb of the Noble Khnumhotep. Beni Hasan. Detail of the right side showing the noble harpooning fish in the papyrus swamps, c. igoo b.c.

[b] Tomb ofNakht. Thebes. XVIII Dy- nasty (1580-1350 b.c.). ( Metropolitan Museum , New York City)

sculptor. In the Old Kingdom painting functioned more as an accessory to re- lief than as an independent art. In the Middle Kingdom and the Empire, how- ever, the painters began to omit the relief and to paint directly on the wall, partly because the walls of the tombs excavated in the cliffs were too coarse and rough for carving and partly be- cause of the greater ease and freedom of the brush in comparison with the chisel. The rough walls were covered with stucco and plaster, on which the figures were drawn in firm outline with the help of squaring for propor- tioning, and the enclosed space was filled in with flat color. This was not true fresco, for the pigments were mixed with some binding medium, such as gum, and applied to a dry surface. The purpose of this painting was tomb and palace decoration, and in the tomb it served a magic purpose also.

There were many stock subjects, such as hunting and banqueting scenes. In Figure 72 A, for instance, the noble- man is out in the papyrus marsh in his reed boat, harpooning fish. His figure is expressed in the conventional way, as was proper for one of his station. In the river scene below, however, there is a freedom of action that reveals the capacity of a conventional figure to express all kinds of movement. Notice the wave line, a convention to express water, and the oval- topped area in which are shown the two speared fish. This represents a side channel of the main stream flowing into the distance through papyrus plants. To express distance or depth, the painter places the distant part above the near, as if he were laying out a ground plan.

This combination of several aspects of a figure or a scene without regard to visual appearance is an early example of the same attitude toward visual ap- pearance found in the work of many other peoples: the Maya, the North-


(Fig. 72B). ( Metropolitan Museum, New

west Coast Indians, the Chinese bronze- workers, and some modern painters, notably Picasso.

Figure 72B gives us a glimpse into a tomb 1 the decorative scheme of which is based on a system of a dado, four zones, and a border, with a zigzag ceil- ing pattern which copies the ceiling decoration of an Egyptian house (see also Figure 77A) . The zonal arrangement is ordered into a symmetrical balance about the false door, which was pro- vided for the spirit to pass through in order to receive the offerings presented by the kneeling figures and heaped up in the lower zone (Fig. 73 a). Like that of the human figure, the drawing of the objects is not based upon visual per- ception from a consistent point of view but upon traditional conventions. Of these objects — loaves of bread, onions, grapes, fowl, quarters of meat, lotus,

1 For fine color reproductions of this tomb, see N. de G. Davies, The Tomb of Nakht at Thebes, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1917.

papyrus — some are seen in profile, some in front view, some from above; but all are combined into a pattern of subtly varied symmetry and great esthetic power through the repetition with variation of shape, motif, color, value, and texture.

On one of the side walls the zonal arrangement is broken by the large figures of the noble and his wife and by the vivacious scenes of agriculture and stock-raising. On the opposite wall (not seen in the illustration) is a Banquet Scene (Fig. 74B), where six guests are seated upon mats near a blind harper. They wear long thin garments, wigs held by fillets, and on the crown of the head a conical object containing perfumed unguent; they have wreathed lotus flowers about their heads or hold the flowers in their hands; all wear elaborate collar-necklaces and large disk earrings, one of which a little serving-maid is adjusting. There is greater freedom of pose and variety of



[a] Fowling Scene. From, a Theban tomb. XVIII Dynasty {1580-1350 B.c.). British Museum, London. {Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago)

[b] Banquet Scene. From the tomb of Nakht, Thebes. XVIII Dynasty {1580-1350 b.c.),



[a] Painted Floor Decoration. Detail. From the palace of Akhnaton. Amama. (Petrie)


movement here than in Old Kingdom work, and a suavely flowing line that has a beauty of its own. The figures overlap and are related composition- ally — line, shape, and color repeating, varying, and contrasting. This is also true in a Fowling Scene (Fig. 74A) in which the noble is standing in his boat and driving the birds from a papyrus swamp with his boomerang. In his right hand he holds three birds he has caught; his hunting cat, on a papyrus stem just in front of him, has caught two more in her claws and is holding the wings of a third with her teeth. His two companions, perhaps his wife and

little daughter, are enjoying the lotus they have gathered. The water and the figures are represented by the usual Conventions, but cat, fish, and birds show a; trend toward a naturalism based upon visual perception.

As in sculpture, this tendency toward naturalism received great impetus from Akhnaton. In his own palace at Amarna the floor decoration of one room repre- sented a. pool of water surrounded by the appropriate zones of life and vege- tation (Fig. 75 a) . In the center was the pool, with birds, fish, and aquatic plants; bordering this was the marsh- land, with birds flying about; beyond,


[a] “Perfume Spoon.” Wood. Louvre , Paris.

[b] Cedarwood Chair. Decorated in em- bossed golf claws of ivory. Cairo Museum. {Howard Carter)

the meadowland with tall grasses through which calves were running. AH the forms, both plant and animal, were painted with a new freedom. An illu- sion of nature, however, did not domi- nate; for the Egyptian’s never-failing sense of design grouped the scenes into an orderly arrangement by enclosing

them with firm lines and a conventional outer border, so that representation and decoration were happily blended. Here at Amarna we see the painter, like the sculptor, reaching out spontaneously into a new field of visual exploration, but he was still too deeply imbedded in traditional forms to break the shackles permanently.


The magnificence and ostentation of the Empire was bound to be reflected in the furnishings of the palace and in the adornment of the king and the nobles, and all of it is seen in the mor- tuary equipment from which the ex- tant examples have come. Magnificent furniture, which probably had been used in the palace before it served the tomb, was found in the tomb of Tut- ankhamun. 1 A relatively simple chair (Fig. 76B) illustrates particularly well die functional, structural, and esthetic excellence of the design. It is made of cedarwood with carvings and orna- ments of gold which combine such in-

1 The discovery of this tomb in 1922, one of the most startling archaeological discoveries of modem times, revealed for the first time the almost unbelievable magnificence of royal burial equipment in the Empire. For the his- tory of the discovery, and illustrations and de- scriptions of the equipment, see Howard Garter and A. C. Mace, The Tomb of Tut-ankh-amen, London, 1927-33, Vols. I— III.



[a] Painted Decoration of a Tomb Ceiling , which probably copies that of some palace.

scriptions and symbols as the sun disk, the uraeus, royal birds with the two crowns, the symbol of millions of years, the life sign, and the names of the pharaoh into a design of architectural quality.

In addition to furniture, there was a demand for great quantities of smaller articles for household equipment and personal use which employed many craftsmen working in various materials — stone, wood, ivory, glazed terra cotta, glass, metal, and semiprecious stones. The stoneworker brought the Old Kingdom traditions of his craft to a point of technical virtuosity, as is seen in the elegant alabaster vases from Tutankhamun’s tomb. The design in- corporates elaborate seminaturalistic handles, though the object is all cut from one piece of stone. The body of the vase is worked to a translucent thinness. Wood was particularly de-

sirable for carving such small toilet articles as the cosmetic receptacles of a cosmetic-loving people. In these re- ceptacles one sees how the Egyptian relied for his designs upon the human, plant, and animal life with which he was familiar. The “Perfume Spoon” of Figure 76A combines into a functional and esthetic unity a duck and a girl swimming. The duck forms the recep- tacle, with the opening between the wings, and the girl, the handle, both forms being united by the girl’s arms and by the repetition of the heads.

Glazing had been known by the Egyptian from prehistoric times and had early been used to cover tiles for wall decoration. It had then been ap- plied to various objects, but in the Em- pire period it reached a climax both in its technical development and in the variety of its uses — beads, pendants, scarabs, amulets, vases, figurines, and

7 8


[a] Glass Vase. Dark blue with dragged pattern in light blue, yellow, and white. H. 3^ in. Metropolitan Museum of Art , Mew fork City. {.Metropolitan Museum)

architectural decorations. The blue color, particularly deep and pure, the craftsmen obtained from copper by a long process that required great skill in

the preparation of the material and patience in tending the furnaces during the long even roasting, for no mechan- ical devices were known to regulate the

[b] Necklace with Pectoral. XII Dynasty {2000-1 y 88 b.c.). Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mew York City. {Metropolitan Museum)


body and dragged back and forth by a

Glass was not the common, inexpen- sive medium among the Egyptians that it is at present, for the blowpipe was not invented until about the first century b.c. It was therefore necessary to mold the hot glass over a copper and paste core that could later be removed — a slow, laborious process. Such a vase as that illustrated in Figure 78A was made in this way. It is deep-blue in color. For decoration, threads of light-blue, yellow, and white glass were Wound about the still hot neck and

hooked instrument, forming the zigzag that is known as the “dragged pattern.”

Metalworkers and lapidaries were in demand because of the great amount of gold used in furniture and in many small articles, and particularly because of the importance of jewelry in the Egyptian costume — crowns, collar- necklaces, necklaces with pendants, armlets, bracelets, ornaments and clasps for all parts of the clothing. The lavish use of gold became especially evident upon the discovery of the Tutankhamun

[a] Effigy of Tutankhamm upon the First Coffin . Gold over wood inlaid with glass, faience, and lapis lazuli. Cairo Museum. ( Howard Carter)

tomb, notably in the concentric gold coffins (Fig. 79A), which are magnifi- cent examples of the goldsmith’s craft. Such too are the diadem found on the head of the king, and the collar-neck- laces. The latter are elaborate examples of a popular form of jewelry. The chain and pectoral, or pendant, was also popular. The chain in Figure 78B con- sists of drop beads arranged in pairs in a fourfold unit of blue-green feldspar, lapis lazuli, carnelian, and gold, with a gold clasp ingeniously designed with a dovetail groove and a tongue. The pectoral is an openwork gold plate en- graved on the underside and inlaid on the upper side with turquoise, lapis lazuli, and carnelian. In the center die kneeling figure of a man is holding palm branches on which rests the royal cartouche, flanked on each side by a royal falcon; the intermediate space is filled with the uraeus and the sun disk, from which hangs the sign of life. The

birds are united skillfully to the central design by the uraeus, the life sign, and the claws braced against the palm branches, and all parts are held to- gether by the firm base. The blues of lapis and turquoise are well balanced, and the whole design is unified by the careful distribution of the red carnelian.


The Egyptian Middle Kingdom and the Empire were ages of great produc- tivity and accomplishment in all the arts. Wealth fostered magnificence and display on a colossal scale. Great tem- ples were the symbols of the age, in particular the pylon temple, grandly simple in mass and contour, gigantic in size, a solid and enduring mass of stone decorated with sculpture which, whether as colossal statue or low painted relief, was supremely archi- tectural. This impressive manifesta-



tion, in. its plan, its elevation — in fact in every respect — was a form de- termined by ritualistic requirements and royal pride, by stone, and by the local setting. Portrait sculpture, still important, became more individual- istic than in the Old Kingdom, and less freshly vivacious. Painting contin- ued to function as decoration for tombs and palaces.

The wider outlook upon life that characterized the Empire, and notably the influence of Akhnaton’s religious revolution, led the artists along a path that a few had already begun to dis- cover— the path of nature. For a brief time visual perception gained on mental concepts, and the fresh point of view inspired artists with new cre- ative power. Freedom of pose, variety of movement, and freely flowing curves supplanted stiffness and angularity.

But the Egyptian, by nature con- servative, soon fell back upon the con- ventions, which now had become empty forms — highly decorative, but arti- ficial rather than vital. Craftsmen in wood and stone, gold, glass, and ceram- ics contributed to the magnificence of tomb, temple, and palace furnishings and to personal adornment. When not flamboyantly elaborate, the furniture, jewelry, and alabaster and ceramic ob- jects reveal great technical skill, fertile imagination, and an innate sense of design that adapted the forms of na- ture admirably to utilitarian or decora- tive ends.


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Griffith, Lippincott, 1905 Childe, Vere G., The Most Ancient East, Knopf,


Clarke, Somers, and Engelbach, Reginald, Ancient Egyptian Masonry, Oxford Uni- versity Press, 1930

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by A. S. Johns, 6th ed., Putnam, 1926

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World, London, 1931

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[a] Copper Relief from the Temple of Ninkhursag. British Museum, London. (British Museum)



Sumerian Art

(ABOUT 4OOO-I925 B.C.)

AS we leave the Nile Valley and travel eastward into Asia to the Valley of the Two Rivers (Fig. 43A), in which arose another civilization con- temporary with the Egyptian, we look in vain for tombs, temples, or palaces. “Standing on the summit of this mound one can distinguish along the eastern skyline the dark tasselled fringe of the palm-gardens on the river’s bank, but to north and west and south as far as the eye can see stretches a waste of unprofitable sand. To the south-west the flat line of the horizon

is broken by a gray upstanding pin- nacle, the ruins of the staged tower of the sacred city of Eridu . . . and to the north-west a shadow thrown by the low sun may tell the whereabouts of the low mound of al ‘Ubaid; but otherwise nothing relieves the monot- ony of the vast plain over which the shimmering heat-waves dance and the mirage spreads its mockery of placid waters. It seems incredible that such a wilderness should ever have been habitable for man, and yet the weath- ered hillocks at one’s feet cover the temples and houses of a very great city,” 1

1 C, L. Woolley, Ur of the Chaldees, Scribner, 1930* P- 13 -



Why this condition of complete ruin? Of the two rivers that form this valley, the western, the Euphrates, is quiet and majestic, but it is almost unnavigable because of cataracts in the north and sandbars in the south. The eastern river, the Tigris, rising in the moun- tains to the northeast, is more rapid, and forms the highway of commerce for the valley. Like the Nile in Egypt, both rivers, flooded during the season of heavy rains, bring down vast quan- tities of rich alluvium, forming an amaz- ingly productive soil. But these floods prove equally destructive, for they not only change the courses of the rivers but soon reduce buildings made of nonresist- ing material, such as the Babylonians used, to heaps which the sands blowing in from the desert convert into rather natural-looking mounds.

The valley divides naturally into two parts, the lower of which is gen- erally called Babylonia. 1 It is an ex- traordinarily fertile region of flat river bottoms. The upper part, Assyria, is more barren, and stretches up into the plateau country along the higher reaches of the Tigris. Taken as a whole, this valley, in contrast to Egypt with its secure isolation and its peaceful and strangely uniform civilization, is open on the west to the Arabian Desert and on the east, north, and northwest to highland plateaus, and is thus ex- posed alike to peaceful wanderers and warring invaders. The story of the val- ley is one of conflicting groups, racially differentiated; of infiltration, conquest, absorption. Out of this shifting com- plexity arose four 2 outstanding cultures:

Strictly speaking, “Babylonia” is not ap- plicable until Babylon became the capital under Hammurabi about 2100 b . c .

2 Probably also the Hittite (at its climax about 1500 b.c.), at present obscure though emerging through the work of archaeological expeditions in Anatolia and through the recent partial decipherment of the Hittite writing.

the Sumerian (with Semite elements), the Assyrian, the Chaldean, and the Achaemenian Persian.

Our earliest glimpses of the peoples of the Valley of the Two Rivers take us into the Neolithic age, perhaps into the same cultural stratum that we find in Egypt. In that age metal was dis- covered and a system of writing de- vised, at a time roughly contemporary with the same developments in the Nile Valley. By what people or peoples these advances were made, we do not know. At the dawn of historical times we find in the lower Tigris-Euphrates Valley the Sumerians, who may have migrated into the valley from the eastern plateaus. They were an agricultural peo- ple, and eventually built strong walled towns, such as Ur and Lagash. Then in from the western deserts drifted Semite nomads, who turned from grazing to agriculture, absorbed much of the Su- merian culture, and built their own cities farther north — Kish, Akkad, Babylon. Though the Sumerian culture largely prevailed, the ruling power swung back and forth between the two peoples, the Semites producing two of the mightiest kings, Sargon (active 2750 b.c.) and Hammurabi (2123-2081 b.g.), under whom Babylon became the capital of the first Babylonian Empire.

Owing to control of the floods by irrigation, this lower part of the Valley of the Two Rivers was now a rich agri- cultural land. Next to adventure, trading was the major activity of the com- munity. Religious beliefs and practices centered about great nature gods; Anu, god of the sky; Enlil, creator and ruler of the earth and “lord of the storm,” who sent both beneficent and destruc- tive floods; Ea, lord of the depths and as lord of waters a healing, benevo- lent god; Nannar or Sin, the moon god; Shamash, the sun god; and Ishtar (Venus), goddess of love and fertility. In contrast to the Egyptian, the Su-


[a] %iggurat at Ur. Reconstructed. H. 32 ft. 2300-2180 b.c. (Joint Expedition of the British Museum and the University Museum , University of Pennsylvania )

merian took too gloomy a view of a future world, “the place whence none return, 95 to give elaborate attention to burial. Though personal burial equip- ment, especially that of royalty, was sumptuous, the tomb and its decoration provide neither monumental architec- ture nor an intimate picture of life. It was the present life that mattered ~— the palace for its enjoyment, and the temple to propitiate the gods for material prosperity. The god was an earthly ruler and a great landowner; Nannar, for example, was king of Ur and as such had a court with a huge organization covering every activity from that of high priest and minister of war to that of director of donkey trans- port. Thus the temple and its adjuncts were a huge mundane establishment, and the priesthood became an impor- tant factor in the business life of the country, the priests rented land and bartered in wool, cattle, herds, fruits, perfumes, and the products of the craftsmen.


Poverty in building materials faced the Sumerian. His country provided him with little wood and no stone — only the mud of the river bottoms. Brick, both baked and unbaked, had to supply his need, except for a small amount of imported stone. Thus when building on a large scale with this small material — - too small to span any con- siderable distance as could the stone lintels of the Egyptian — * the Sumerian was compelled to adopt the arch as his basic structural principle.

An early example of building is a small temple to tne mother goddess (Ninkursag, near Ur) . It stood on a spacious platform and was gaily color- ful. It was built of brick with wood lintels sheathed in copper. Stone steps led to the doorway, which was guarded by lions to ward off malevolent spirits, and was flanked by friezes of animals, birds, and men carved in white shell or


[a] Standard. Detail. 3500-3200 b.c. Baghdad Museum. (Joint Expedition of the British Museum and the University Museum) University of Pennsylvania)

stone set in black. The platform, the guardian figures, the friezes, the vivid color — these we shall meet constantly in Babylonia, Assyria, and Persia.

Above the doorway of this temple was a large copper panel decorated with a design composed of a lion- headed eagle with outstretched wings clutching the backs of two stags (Fig. 81 a). The significance of this design, found frequently in the valley, is not known. The heads of the animals are in the round, the bodies in high relief, the wings in low relief. The stags are treated naturalistically, in contrast to the conventional treatment of the wings; thus a variation in texture is added. Copper was a material in the use of which the Sumerians showed great skill.

The use of figures of engraved shell set in a dark ground is well illustrated by a Standard (Fig. 84A), a triangular box on a pole, probably used cere- monially. Here the figures are laid in

lapis lazuli with an occasional dash of red, and vividly picture Peace and War. In the upper zone the king and his chariots are seen; in the middle and lower zones, his attendants and cap- tives. In general, the design forecasts the great series of narrative reliefs of Assyria and Persia.

The most characteristic structure of the Valley of the Two Rivers is the ziggurat, a tower of several stories be- longing to a temple, and undoubtedly the dominating feature of every Su- merian city of any consequence. The Ziggurat at Ur (Fig. 83A) may be taken to illustrate the type. It consists of four stages decreasing in size and height upward, the lowest, fifty feet high, forming a massive base. This stage is broken on one side by a triple stair- way of one hundred steps each branch of which converges upon an entrance leading directly to the shrine, thus cen- tering interest upon the focal point, both architectural and religious, and


[a] Stele of Urnammu. 2300 b.c. University Museum , Philadelphia. {Joint Expedition of the British Museum and the University Museum , Uni- versity of Pennsylvania )

also providing a fine setting for the elaborate pageantry connected with the ceremonial rites. The structure is a solid mass of earth and crude brick with a thick facing of baked brick laid in bitumen, with pitch-dipped reed mats laid between every few courses. 1 The walls have a decided batter (an inward slope) and all the surfaces and lines are slightly curved, giving the mass compactness and relieving it of the illusion of sag found in long un- broken lines. 2 The stages were differ- entiated not only in size and propor-

1 The mound made by the ruin of this zig- gurat is known locally as A 1 Mughair, “Mound of Pitch.”

2 See remarks on the Parthenon (pages 126-27), in which these variations from regularity were first scientifically studied.

tion but also in color, which seems to have been used symbolically. Above the white court rose the black lower stage suggesting the underworld; a red middle story, the earth; and the blue shrine with gilded dome, the heavens and the sun. 3 Added to these large, strongly contrasted areas of color was the greenery of the trees and gardens, which seem to have been planted on all the terraces. 4 Thus a ziggurat must have been colorful and imposing.

8 The color is very problematical. That color was used is not questioned. But the actual hues found may have been ancient restoration, and the symbolism, is uncertain. The statements above follow Mr. Woolley’s suggestions.

4 Such were the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon; the Tower of Babel at Babylon was a ziggurat similar to that at Ur, only larger,



[a] Gudea. Diorite. H. 3% ft. c. 2430 b.c. Louvre , Paris.

The %iggurat at Ur belonged to the Temple of Nannar, the moon god, god and king of Ur. The temple occupied one side of the Sacred Area and about it were grouped, rather irregularly, temples of Ningal, the moon goddess, and those of minor related deities, to- gether with various secular structures belonging to the court of the god . 1 A large court, on a terrace ten feet above the Sacred Area level, surrounded by storerooms and chambers, leads to a spacious upper terrace, where rises the massive ziggurat. Platforms and ter- races, so characteristic of buildings in this valley, are easily explained as pro-

1 For an air view see Frontispiece to C, J. Gadd, History and Monuments of Ur, Dutton, 1929, and the National Geographic Magazine, August, 1928.

tection from recurring floods. Not so evident is the origin of the ziggurat. If the Sumerians migrated from the hill country, the tower with an altar on its summit may well be the “Mountain of God,” or the “High Places” where they were wont to worship, created artifi- cially in their new homes on the plains.

With a few exceptions, the sculpture of the Sumerians consists of reliefs which served a decorative and narrative pur- pose in a building, or of reliefs on monu- ments, such as the Stele of Urnammu, one zone of which (Fig. 85A) shows a group of figures crisply cut in fairly high re- lief and simply organized into a bal- anced group. The scene represents King Urnammu pouring a libation into a vase containing date-palm leaves. The god Nannar, seated on the right, holds a pickax, a measuring rod, and a build- er’s line, symbolizing his order to the king to build him a temple. In the frag- mentary zone below, the king is seen with the builder’s tools carrying out the divine orders. The figures are clothed in the heavy woolen garments charac- teristic of the costume of the valley. Al- though there appear here some of the conventions noted in Egypt, as in the shoulders, there is an extraordinary vitality in these figures — vigor and largeness in the modeling, and tech- nical excellence in the stonecutting. The fact that the objects and the seated and standing figures just fill the space adds to the decorative effect.

Sculpture in the round, which is com- paratively rare — probably because of the lack of stone — is best illustrated by the statues from Tello (Lagash). Figure 86 a, carved from diorite which must have been imported from a considerable dis- tance, represents' Gudea, priest-king of Lagash. He is seated in frontal position, with hands tightly clasped in the atti- tude of devotion, He wears a woolen cap, the fleece kilt of the priest-king, here covered with inscriptions, and a


[a] A Cylinder Seal and the Impression Made When It Is Rolled over Soft Clay. H. c. 1 in. The impression shows a hero fighting a bull , and a being, half man half bull, fighting a lion . The inscription names the owner, the scribe Lugal-Lam. Reign of Sargon of Akkad. 2341- 2300 b.c. Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. (Oriental Institute)

long woolen mantle which falls away from the right shoulder, leaving the arm exposed. The squat proportions, pos- sibly due to the proportions of the block of stone, add to the compact massiveness of the figure. The parts are like reliefs carved on the four-sided matrix, and so closely knit together that one is always aware of its control. Details are cut with sharp precision, as in cap, eyebrows, eyes and mouth, and fingers, and thus introduce a broken texture to contrast with the subtly modeled surfaces in the face and the exposed arm. An interme- diate texture motif is seen in the folds of the drapery, the fingers, and the feet. Taken as a whole, the statue is permeated with a tense vitality, like the statues of the Old Kingdom in Egypt. Like them, it reveals a capacity to in- fuse stone with a living quality and at the same time retain the intrinsic qual- ities of stone.

Great skill in stone carving in minia- ture size we see in the cylinder seals. The seal consisted of a cylindrical piece of stone, usually about an inch and a half high, pierced for the attachment of a cord (Fig. 8 7 a). They were made of various colored stones, both hard and soft, such as obsidian, agate, carnelian and jasper, lapis lazuli, and alabaster.

and were decorated with a design in in- taglio, so that when the seal was rolled over the soft clay a raised impression was made, as in the use of sealing wax today. With this impression the Su- merian sealed, signed, and identified his letters and documents, widely were written on clay tablets. In a Seal of King Sargon (Fig. 88a), on each side of the central group is a mythological figure, perhaps Gilgamesh, one knee bent upon the ground, holding a vase from which issue two streams of water. In the center, back to back, are two bulls that lift up their heads to drink and with their horns ingeniously hold the inscrip- tion containing the name of Sargon; below is the conventional wavelike representation of a stream. The scene refers to water as the gift of the gods. In this seal we perceive the organi- zation of the figures into a carefully related balanced group, tied firmly together by the wave lines of the river, with pleasing contrasts of texture in both smooth and rough areas. The mod- eling, particularly in the bulls, shows a powerful naturalism and at the same time no hesitation on the part of the engraver to use conventional forms in horns, hair, and water. Upon recalling the very small curved surface upon



[a] Seal of King Sargon I. 2750 b.c. Red jasper. H. in. Collection de Clercq, Paris.

[b] Harp. Reconstructed. Bull's head of gold foil and lapis lazuli with inlaid eyes. 3500-3200 b.c. University Museum, Phila- delphia:.

which the design is engraved in intaglio, we realize the extraordinary skill in carving, every line of which, strong and unfaltering, was graved by hand. Later importation of the drill brought deteri- oration in the quality of seal-cutting.


This amazing technical skill is also apparent in the products of the metal- workers and other craftsmen. Thanks to sumptuous royal burial equipment, al- though it involves the ghastly rite of human sacrifice, we glimpse the gor- geousness of personal adornment* the richness and at times impeccable taste in furniture, implements, and utensils.

Among the metals, copper seems to have been especially prized, and the craftsmen reveal an understanding of various processes of working it: casting, repousse, and engraving. Such figures as those in Figure 81 a were made by building up a wooden core, covering it with bitumen, in which the modeling was done, and then hammering thin plates of copper over it.

With gold the Sumerians were lavish, if we are to judge from the equipment of the Royal Tombs at Ur. Here is a Cup (Fig. 89A) of masterly proportions and


[b] Gold Helmet. 3500-3200 b.c. Baghdad Museum . (Figs. 88B-89B, Joint Expedition of British Museum and University Museum , University of Pennsylvania )

[a] Gold Cup. 3500-3200 B.c. University Museum, Phila- delphia.

strong contour, its surface hammered into flutings which emphasize both the surface direction and the contour; a delicately engraved herringbone pattern and double zigzag finish both the lip and the base. In a gold helmet (Fig. 89s) are found repoussd and en- graving of a quality hardly to be sur- passed either in technical excellence or in design. The hair is treated conven- tionally, making a beautifully varied pattern of wave lines, spiraling, and sharply angular braiding which covers the entire surface.

The combination of gold with other materials is illustrated in a harp (Fig. 88b) of wood inlaid with a geometric pattern of shell, lapis lazuli, and red stone. The sounding box terminates in a bull’s head of gold, the eyes, beard, and horn tips of which are of lapis, giv- ing a dashingly bold effect. The sloping end of the box is filled with four zones containing figures of engraved shell set in a dark ground, which represent ani- mals playing human roles.


The Sumerian-Semite age, culminat- ing in the first Babylonian Empire, 1 was a heroic age that is summed up in the Babylonian Gilgamesh epic. The people were farmers and traders, interested in the here and now, and they worshiped great nature gods who dwelt in their cities as god-kings. With only one plenti- ful material — ■ brick — - they built gay colorful palaces and temples, with the monumental ziggurat towering over all. Their sculpture, not abundant because of lack of stone, has great vitality. Both their statues in the round and their carved cylinder seals show a combina- tion of naturalism and convention. They were lavish in their use of gold and were expert technically in using gold, copper, lapis lazuli, and shell. Vitality perme- ates all their products, whatever the material used.

1 There is a great dearth of works of art from Babylon of the first empire, the Stele of Ham- murabi (Louvre) being the chief monument.


[a] Palace of Sargon II. Restored. Dur-Skarrukin ( Khorsabad ). 722-705 b.c. [Place)

Assyrian Art

(ABOUT 1 000-6 12 B . C.)

T URNING to the upper Tigris- Euphrates Valley (Fig. 43 a), we find the Semite settlements of Ashur dominated by the kings of Sumer and Akkad and harassed by the tribes of the surrounding highlands, especially by the Kassites, a pre-Indo-European people from the northeastern plateaus who were drifting into the valley, bringing with them the horse (about 2000 b.c.); and by the Hittites of Anatolia, who in- vaded the valley about 1925 b.c. This latter people, but little known until re- cent times, comprised a loosely united federation of mountaineers who wor- shiped the great mother goddess. At their capital Hatti (the modern Boghaz Keui), at Carchemish, Tell Halaf, and other sites, they built massive fortress- palaces with bold architectural sculp-

ture at the entrances. 1 We see gigantic ponderous basalt statues of deities stand- ing on the backs of animals; the “Great Mother” seated on a pedestal adorned with monsters as elemental as the rock itself; reliefs of ceremonial processions and hunting scenes filled with move- ment; and over the surfaces of some of the figures, though entirely subservient to the dominating planes, plays a wealth of decorative detail. 2

At the hands of these invaders the Babylonian Empire of Hammurabi de- clined and fell. But the people of Ashur, toughened by the buffetings, gradually pushed outward to subdue, incorporate, and organize into a powerful empire,

1 Sec the Frontispiece to Max, Freiherr von Oppenheira, Der Tell Halaf, Leipzig, 1931, for a reconstruction of the palace entrance.

2 There seems to be a definite and important influence of Hittite art upon the Assyrian, in its vitality, its uses of architectural sculpture, and its composition and subject matter, the details of which are still to be worked out.

[a] Palace of Sargon II. Facade ( detail of Fig. goA ) . [Place)

centered at Nineveh, not only western Asia to the Mediterranean Sea but Baby- lonia and Egypt as well. Very quickly this empire flowered (885-6x2 b.c.), and with equal rapidity it fell in turn to new invaders, the Semitic Chaldeans from the western desert and the Ira- nians from the northeastern plateau.

The Assyrian state was essentially military. Its ferocity is reflected in the purely Assyrian sun god from whom it took its name, Ashur, a savage, aloof deity rather than a royal city dweller like the nature gods of Sumeria. There is a tingling energy about the Assyrian and a grim cruelty, whether he is fight- ing, hunting, or indulging in luxurious indolence. Tense, forceful movement, in marked constrast with the calm, re- fined monumentality of Egyptian art, characterizes the expression of the alert and warlike Assyrian.


Sumerian forms are basic in Assyria, but are adapted to meet the demands of a different type of civilization. This is clear in the buildings and their sculp- tural decorations, As for materials, stone, though near at hand, was not easily procured and hence was limited in its constructional use to foundations and substructures, but it was lavishly employed for reliefs; brick served for the superstructure. The temples follow the Sumerian type seen at Ur, with platform, open courts, and dominating ziggurat. The palace is more charac- teristically Assyrian — the here and now on a grand scale.

Sargon’s palace at Dur-Sharrukin (Khorsabad), for example, is a vast rambling structure of stone and brick



[a] A Guardian of the Gate. From the palace of Ashurnasirpal II. Metro- politan Museum of Art , New York City. ( Metro- politan Museum)

covering about twenty-five acres of ground, palace and temple combined (Fig. qoa) . There are two entrances to the platform, one by a ramp for vehicles, the other by a monumental double stairway leading directly to the main entrance. A great many small rooms are grouped about two open courts: one, reached by the main entrance, a center for the affairs of state and the royal living-quarters; the other, toward the rear, for the domestic service. At the left is the temple, at the back of which rises the ziggurat.

The palace facade (Fig. 91 a) shows a massive crenelated wall broken by huge rectangular towers flanking an arched doorway, about which stand, like guardian sentinels, colossal winged bulls with human heads. Around the arch and on the towers are friezes

of brilliantly colored glazed tiles. The whole effect is sumptuous and grandly impressive. Dazzling brilliance seems to have been an objective, to judge from the words of an Assyrian king: “The splendid temple, a brilliant and mag- nificent dwelling . . . I made its interior brilliant like the dome of the heavens; decorated its walls, like the splendour of the rising stars, and made it grand with resplendent brilliancy.” 1

The colossal bulls, or lions, at the entrance (Fig. 92A) serve both to ward off enemies, visible and invisible, and to provide an impressive and fitting archi- tectural decoration. They are partly in the round and partly in high relief, and combine the front view at rest with the

  • Inscription of Tiglath-Pileser I (1100 b . c .)

quoted in P. S. P. Handcock, Mesopotamian Archaeology, Putnam, 1912, p. 142.


[a] A Winged Being and the King’s Arms- bearer. From the palace of Ashurnasirpal II, Nim- rud ( Kalhu ) .gthcent. b.c. Metropolitan Museum of Art , New York City. (. Metropolitan Museum)

... ;

[b] A Median Bring- ing Horses to King Sar- gon II. 722-705 B.G. Metropolitan Museum of Art , New York City. (Metropolitan Museum)

with, lotus motifs (an influence from Egypt) and with the more characteris- tically Mesopotamian rosette and palm- ette. The brick walls were sheathed below with limestone and alabaster reliefs — literally miles of ceremonial, military, and hunting scenes arranged in zones. Above were brightly colored paintings. The reliefs of Ashurnasirpal (Fig. 93A) contain large firmly planted

side view in movement, contriving the latter by the addition of a fifth leg. Thp gigantic size, the bold vigorous carving, the fine sweep of wings, and the pattern- ing of the surface by the conventional treatment of details — all these contrib- ute to their impressiveness and archi- tectural fitness.

On the interior these palaces were paved with stone slabs (Fig. 94A) carved



[a] Paving Slab from, the Palace at Nineveh. Alabaster, c. joo b.g. British Museum , London. ( Mansell )

figures which just fill the space) single figures endlessly repeated, often without defined relationships, though at times they are balanced about a tree of life. The thickset figures with carefully curled hair and beard are sheathed in heavy fringed robes and bedecked with jewelry. They stand in profile, though both shoulders are seen and the eye is front view. They are cut clearly and firmly in parallel planes with little mod- eling except in the exposed limbs, where the exaggerated muscles form a vigorous pattern. Details are engraved rather than modeled, and inscriptions are cut across both background and figure. Something clear, definite, and majestic imbues these quiet colossal figures.

In the age of Sargon II and Sennach- erib the relief is higher (Fig. 93B), more rounding, with a tendency toward nat- uralism. (Contrast the servant’s hand with those in Fig. 93A.) In this design the

figures overlap, are composed into a unit, become pictorial with landscape setting and movement, and reveal a greater interest in narration than in decoration. There is more modeling, especially in the horses’ heads, and a beautifully varied patterning of the sur- face through differing conventions used for mane, trappings, hair, and cloak.

In Ashurbanipal’s palace are many banquet and hunting scenes, and though the wall as a whole suggests episodes rather than decorations, there are some magnificent expressions of animal life. Hunting was one of the chief pastimes of the Assyrian. On horseback, in char- iot, and with hunting dogs, he sought the wild asses on the plateau, or — the most-prized prey — the lion. In Figure 95B the king, mounted, is spearing one lion; another lion, wounded, fiercely attacks a riderless horse. These friezes express movement and intense vitality.


a] Bronze Bowl. 8th

ml. B.G. British Mu -

mm, London.

most contains gazelles moving to the right; the middle, various animals with the direction of movement uncertain; the outer, bulls moving toward the left. The figures are naturalistically con- ceived, and have conventional details such as manes and wings. The effect is highly decorative, and in no small meas- ure reminiscent of the Sumerian animal friezes.


Among the craftsmen of Nineveh, the metalworker had skill in handling and designing his material, if we are to judge from a shallow bronze bowl decorated in repoussd with concentric rows of ani- mals about a central rosette (Fig. 95 a). One notes here a pleasing gradation in scale in the three borders. The inner-

King Ashurbanipal Hunting Lions. 668-626 b.c. British Museum , London. I m Museum, Mew York City) r , .. .

[a] Ishtar Gate. Restored. Babylon. 0o6-jjg b.c. ( Koldewey )



In Assyria we find an architecture of worldly magnificence — huge palaces of innumerable rooms around open courts. They are built of stone and brick with flashing surfaces of brilliantly colored tile, and have colossal, grandly impres- sive sculpture at the doorways. On the interior walls are seen an endless suc- cession of reliefs picturing incidents of war, the hunt, and a luxurious life — a grandiloquent repetition of scenes to satisfy the vanity of the monarch. It is a grimly realistic, though stylized, art, teeming with movement and vitality, as forceful as its creators were ener- getic, especially in the depiction of ani- mal life. Here are not the static ele- gance, the abstractions, the sensitivity to relationships, found in Egyptian art, but a brusque power in expressing . everyday events, many of them violent, lived and perceived intensely; and often in a form that is architecturally fitting.


or Neo-Babylonian Art

(612-539 B.C.)

AT the fall of Nineveh, two kingdoms jL~\ were established, the Chaldean in tire south, and the Medo-Persian on the eastern plateaus. Nebuchadnezzar, the Chaldean, built Babylon anew so that it surpassed Nineveh in the splendor of its palaces, temples, and Hanging Gar- dens. This is the Babylon of which the Greek traveler Herodotus wrote, and the city of the Hebrew captivity. Com- merce and business flourished. The sci- ence of astronomy made advances. The Chaldeans divided the circle into 360 degrees, laid out the signs of the zodiac, and knew at least five planets. But the power and magnificence of Chaldean Babylon was short-lived, for in 539 b.c. it opened its gates to Cyrus the Persian.


[a] Lion of Procession Street. Restored. Glazed tile. Babylon. L. 7 ft. 606-539 b.c. (Stoedtner)


Until recently nothing but a mound marked the traditional site of Babylon. Among the buildings since excavated the Ishtar Gate (Fig. 96A) illustrates best the chief contribution of the Chaldean builder — ceramic architectural decora- tion. The general design of the gate, which is double, conforms to the types we have found in Sumeria and Assyria. Glazed tile we found in the shrine on the summit of the ziggurat at Ur. At Khorsabad its use had been extended widely, but the surface of the bricks, even when figure work was used, was flat. The Chaldean builders added re- lief. On the Ishtar Gate> for example, rose, forty feet above the pavement, tier after tier of animals in relief in brilliant enameled tile. From the Ishtar Gate to the Temple of Mar duk led the Procession Street, along which processions passed on festal days. The walls bordering this street were decorated with sixty huge

lions (sacred to Ishtar) molded in relief and glazed in white and yellow or yellow and red against a ground of turquoise or dark-blue, with the usual rosette motif in the border (Fig. 97 a).

Near the Ishtar Gate rose the huge Palace of Nebuchadnezzar with its terraced gardens, and at no great distance the great ziggurat of the Temple of Mar duk (the “Tower of Babel”) with its Hang- ing Gardens. Indeed this main gateway of Chaldean Babylon, together with the adjacent palaces and temples with their brilliant gleaming surfaces flashing in the sunshine of rich tropical gardens, must have impressed those who saw it with their gorgeous magnificence . 1

1 The process of making enameled reliefs is not known. The enamels used by the Chaldeans are opaque and hard, and indicate great ability on the part of the craftsmen to keep the colors from flowing into each other. Probably each brick was molded and enameled separately ac- cording to its place in the design. See Koldewey and Andrae on this (bibliography at the end of this chapter).



[a] Stairway to the Royal Audience Hall, Persepolis. ( Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago)

Achaemenian Persian Art

(539-331 B.C.)

T HE end of the Assyrian power and the establishment of the Chaldean had been brought about by the com- bined efforts of the Semitic Chaldeans and the Medo-Persians — Iranian (a branch of the Indo-European) peoples who had migrated from the northern grasslands and gradually built up an empire on the mountainous plateaus 1

1 We know almost nothing of the peoples of this plateau before the Persian flowering in the sixth and fifth centuries b.c. From the time of the Stone Age village of about 4000 b.c., with its remarkable painted pottery, recently discovered by the Oriental Institute of the Uni- versity of Chicago, to the time of the Achae- menidae there is almost a complete gap, which current expeditions hope to fill.

east of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. The Medo-Persians appear to have brought with them a conception of re- ligion formulated by their great prophet Zoroaster (Zarathustra), which recog- nized the conflict of Good (Ahura- mazda, Ormazd) and Evil (Ahriman), the ethical value of right conduct, and the final triumph of good.

About 550 b.c. Cyrus, a Persian vassal of the Median Empire, threw off the yoke and with his powerful archers and daring horsemen swept over western Asia, swiftly conquering from the Per- sian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea. Before his armies Babylon fell in 539 b.c. Still further conquest added Egypt to the Persian Empire, which was thor- oughly organized and enjoyed a re- markable period of prosperity under Darius. It was a humane, intelligent rule, though no rights of citizenship


[a] Subjects Bringing Gifts of Animals, Spears, and Vessels to the King. Detail from the stairway to the royal Audience Hall, Persepolis. ( Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago)

were extended to the people. The king’s word was the one law. Though the earlier emperors were rulers with a con- science and a feeling of responsibility for their rule, their followers became luxurious Oriental despots. Decline set in, and the decadent state fell before the armies of Alexander the Great in 33 1 B - G -


The present chief source of our knowl- edge of Achaemenian building is Per- sepolis 1 (Fig. 43 a), apparently a royal

1 Persepolis is now being excavated and restored by the Oriental Institute of the Uni- versity of Chicago. See Asia, September-Octo- ber, 1933 and National Geographic Magazine, October, 1933, for excellent illustrations.

suburb of the Persian capital, built chiefly by Darius and Xerxes. Upon a huge platform stood a group of palaces and audience halls approached by a great double stairway, with an entrance flanked by colossal human-headed bulls. Stone was plentiful in this mountainous country. Hence the platform, the great monumental stairways with their thou- sands of feet of carvings, the gateways, and the columns of the great audience halls were of stone, though brick was used in walls and wooden lintels for roofing. The most noticeable thing — not found in the architecture of the val- ley and sharply differentiating Persepo- lis from Khorsabad — is the use of the column on a grand scale. The audience hall {apadana) is a characteristic build- ing, a vast hall filled with columns to hold the roof, built on a terrace, and



[a] Capital from the Palace of Artaxerxes at Susa. H. of column c. 6 y ft. Louvre, Paris.

( Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago)

approached, as was the entire Persepolis group, by a broad monumental stair- way (Fig. 98 a) . In the hall the king held audience, surrounded by his bodyguard and court, receiving both local subjects and representatives from the vast Per- sian Empire, who are pictured in the reliefs on the stairway (Figs. 98A, 99A). The total impression is one of magnifi- cent, stately ceremonial. The slender fluted columns are peculiarly Achae- menian; the Iranian love of the animal figure, in whole or in part, as a decora- tive motif, is illustrated in the capitals, which are composed of the foreparts of two bulls placed back to back above a group of volutes (Fig. 1 ooa) . The wooden lintels were covered with brilliant color and gold, and the walls sheathed with enameled tiles.

How many of these forms the Persian possessed before the building of Per- sepolis we do not now know. He seems

to have appropriated motifs and forms from the various peoples with whom his conquests brought him in contact: from Babylonia and Assyria, from Ionia and Egypt. Yet so thoroughly adapted are these forms that the Hall of One Hundred Columns of Xerxes, for example, is an entirely different entity from the Hypo- style Hall at Karnak.

Sculptured friezes play an important part at Persepolis for both decorative and narrative purposes. The spacious double stairways which formed so im- pressive an approach to the audience halls were decorated with friezes and panels in low relief, separated by mold- ings and finished with crenelations. Figure 99 a shows a detail of the great procession of royal guards and repre- sentatives of various parts of the empire bringing tribute and gifts to the king. The evenly spaced single figures, broken into groups by conventionalized trees and varied by the occasional use of ani- mal forms, have the decorative quality of the Sumerian (Fig. 84A) and the early Assyrian (Fig. 93A). Tire accomplished cutting of the stone, both in the suavely rounding surfaces and in the crisply chiseled details, is in itself an element of beauty. About all these sculptures, aside from their decorative and narra- tive elements, there is a serenity, a something apart from reality, quite dis- tinct in feeling from the dynamic natu- ralism of the Assyrian, which may be, as M. Grousset has suggested, a reflec- tion of the “abstract spiritualism” of the Iranian faith.


The Iranians, like other members of this group of civilizations, were skilled metalworkers. They excelled in gold, to judge from an armlet (Fig. 102 a) whose decoration consists of two winged monsters, the bodies and hind legs of which are indicated in relief; the wings,


[a] Bronze Rod-holder. From Luristan. L.

in. yth to 5th cent. b.c. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. {Boston Museum)

[b] Winged Ibex Vase Handle , Silver. Achaemenid Persian. PI. c. io in. Berlin. {Iranian Institute , New York City)

breasts, and necks are covered with cloisons that were once filled with col- ored stones cut to fit the depressions. The animal forms are highly conven- tionalized, so that their simplified out- line forms a bold, vigorous design peculiarly fitted to the medium.

In some of the Luristan bronzes 1 also we find a vivid grasp of the essentials of an object expressed by means of con-

1 A great number of small objects made of several kinds of bronze have been excavated recently in the mountains of Luristan, a province of western Persia near Kermanshah. Though they include objects of personal adornment such as long pins, weapons, and ceremonial objects, a great number are from harnesses and chariots. Scholars differ widely as to their dates.

ventions that are extraordinarily dec- orative. In Figure ioia notice how a rhythmic movement is carried by the circle motif. The small circles in the terminals of the tails expand into those formed by the wings, and then into the. slightly elliptical shape made by the long necks, which terminate in serpent heads. Other examples of Iranian metal- work display a vivid naturalism, as in the Winged Ibex Handle (Fig. ioib).

At this point it may be well at least to mention the highly important metal- work of such nomadic peoples as the Sarmatians and the Scythians, who roamed the steppes of central Eurasia. It shows an affinity with Sumerian and Persian art, and may have a common



[a] Armlet. Gold. H. 5 in. c. 400 b.c. British Museum, London. [Dalton)

dance. Interlocking fighting animals (Fig. 1 02B), objects terminating in ani- mal heads, and fantastic figures com- posed of parts of different animals were used repeatedly. Color was sometimes added by the use of enamel or cut stones. “Their art,” says Roger Fry, “is the exact antithesis to a descriptive art. Itwas not by cataloguing the observable facts about an animal that they pro- ceeded, but by some intimate intuition of what might be called the dominant rhythmic character of the beast.” No other people “has had so intimate a feeling for the rhythms of the living animal; none has known as they did how to reduce the complexity of natural form to so simple and yet vital a state- ment .” 1

[b] Sarmatian Gold Ornament , Lion- griffin killing a horse. From Siberia. Her- mitage, Leningrad. (M. I. Rostovtzeff, The Animal Style in South Russia and China, Princeton University Press )

origin with them. Over this vast area extended, after Neolithic times, a cul- ture whose great vitality found expres- sion in a style of equal vitality and of extraordinary esthetic excellence. It was an art confined to the making and em- bellishing of objects of everyday life among nomadic hunters, and its chief theme was the animal figure. The ma- terials were mostly bronze and gold, which local mines provided in abun-


Achaemenian art was a kingly art of great splendor — splendor of scale, of materials, and particularly of color. Its most important buildings of stone, brick, and tile were built to house in befitting magnificence a thoroughly human — though absolute — monarch. Spacious stone stairways with elaborate carvings and forests of decorative stone columns combined to give this regal impression. The sculptured friezes of Persepolis re- veal accomplished stonecutting and great decorative beauty and are per- meated with a feeling of serenity in contrast to the greater intensity of the Assyrian. The Iranians were also skill- ful in gold, silver, and bronze metal- work, in which they made great use of the animal form, at times rendering it

1 The Arts of Painting and Sculpture, London, 1932, p. 66. This art — its origin and its re- lationship with Sumerian, Persian, Greek, Far Eastern, and west-European art — has recently been the subject of much scholarly research, and the term Urasian animal art is now being ap- plied to it. See Michael Ivanovich Rostovtzeff, The Animal Style in South Russia and China , Prince- ton University Press, 1929, pp. 100-06.


quite naturalistically and at times, es- pecially in the Luristan bronzes, giving

it a highly conventional form.


Andrae, Walter, Coloured Ceramics from Ashur, and Earlier Ancient Assyrian Wall-Paintings , London, 1925

Baikie, James, The Glamour of Near East Excava- tion, Lippincott, 1928

— The Life of the Ancient East, Mac- millan, 1923

Breasted, James H., Ancient Times, 2d ed. rev., Ginn, 1935

Childe, Vere G., The Most Ancient East, Knopf,


Cossfo, Manuel Bartolome, and Pijoetn, Jose,, Summa Artis , Vols. I-X, Madrid, 1931-46, Vol. II

Encyclopedic photographique de Pari, Vols. I— III, Paris, Edition “Tel,” 1935-38: Vols. I— II

Gadd, Cyril J., History and Monuments of Ur, Dutton, 1929

Garstang, John, The Hittite Empire, Long & Smith, 1929

Grousset, Rene, The Civilizations of the East, tr. by C. A. Phillips, 4 vols., Knopf, 1 931-34: Vol. I

Hall, Harry R. H., The Ancient History of the Near East, 8th ed. rev., Macmillan, 1932

— La sculpture babylonienne et assyrienne

au British museum, Paris, 1 928 Handcock, Perry S. P,, Mesopotamian Archaeology, Putnam, 1912

Harcourt-Smith, Simon, Babylonian Art , London, 1928

Jastrow, Morris, The Civilization of Babylonia and Assyria, Lippincott, 1915 Koldewey, Robert, The Excavations at Babylon , Macmillan, 1914

Martin, Richard A., Ancient Seals of the Near East, Chicago Natural History Museum, 1940 Pottier, Edmond, Tart hittite, 2 pts. in 1 vol., Paris, 1926-31

RostovtzefF, Michael Ivanovich, The Animal Style in South Russia and China, Princeton Uni- versity Press, 1929

Sarre, Friedrich P. T. a Lie Kunst des alien Persian, Berlin, 1922

Schafer, Heinrich, and Andrae, Walter, Die Kunst des alien Orients, Berlin, 1925 Woolley, Sir Charles Leonard, Dead Towns and Living Men, rev. ed., Oxford University Press, 1929

— The Development of Sumerian Art,

Scribner, 1935

- — : — — ; The Sumerians, Oxford University Press, 1928

Ur of the Chaldees, Scribner, 1930

Zervos, Christian, L'art de la Mesopotamia, Weyhe, 1935

See also the General Bibliography, pp. 791-92




O NE of the important legends of the Greek peoples was that of King Mirtos. So important was it that, like many legends, it seems to be based on a kernel of historical truth. Before the year 1900, however, nothing had been found to substantiate the story. Al- ready Heinrich Schliemann had proved that the Homeric tales of Troy were based on historical fact. As a child Schliemann had been told the story of the Trojan War and of the great walls that protected the ancient city; and in spite of opposition he strongly main- tained his belief that those walls must still be standing. Not until middle life, however, when he had finally amassed a fortune, was he free to follow his dream. He then went to the locality which his knowledge of the Iliad led him to believe was the site of Troy, and there found nine cities built one on the remains of another. There were ancient walls and signs of a great conflagration, and Schliemann proclaimed that he had found the actual city. Subsequent exca- vations proved that the site was correct. He continued his excavating at My- cenae, whence sailed the proud chief- tains to avenge the capture of Helen, and his success was even more star-

tling. Massive fortress-palaces, elabo- rate tombs, great quantities of gold jewelry and ornaments, cups, and in- laid weapons — all revealed a pre-Hel- lenic civilization of high culture and wide extent that is now called My- cenaean.

But Mycenae, after all, did not prove to have been its center. Sir Arthur Evans had long considered Crete a po- tentially fertile field for investigation. Under Turkish rule excavation was im- possible, but when in 1898 Crete was free from the Turkish regime the oppor- tunity came, and about 1900 work be- gan. In a short time, Evans’s faith was rewarded far beyond his expectations. His spade did not dig very deep before it uncovered the palaces of the old kings. Sea kings they were. No fortified walls protected their palaces, for the broad reaches of water around their island served in the place of walls. Their ships plied to the three continents to which their island was gateway (Figs. 43 a, 1 2 1 a ) . Of these sea kings, whose power extended over the islands of the Aegean and over parts of the mainland, the greatest was Minos.

It was a proud people who ruled from these luxurious palaces, to judge from



[a] Palace of Minos. Knossos. Colonnaded hall . Restored, c. 1500 b.c. (Evans)

The Prince (Fig. 107B), an alertly alive athletic figure. It was also a gay people, fond of festivals and the circus (Fig. x 09A) . All their art is permeated with an aliveness quite distinct from the grave sobriety of Egyptian art — except for the work of the Amarna artists, with which it has an affinity of style.

Who were the people who developed this civilization, 1 * * * the first on the north- ern side of the Mediterranean Sea? We do not know their origin. In Neolithic times they were there. Early they had

1 Several names are used for this civilization, “Aegean” being the most inclusive. It is fre- quently called “Minoan,” after its most famous king and most brilliant age, though strictly speaking the term is anachronistic if used before

1500 b.c. At present there seems to be a tendency

to apply “Cretan” or “Minoan” to that aspect

of the civilization which definitely belongs to the island of Crete, “Helladic” to that of the

mainland, and “Cycladic” to that of the islands.

bronze and a system of writing, not yet deciphered. The climate of Crete is mild and sunny but, though the winter rains make production easy in the fertile places, the land is not primarily agri- cultural. Its location in the Mediter- ranean makes it the gateway to three continents. Thus the Cretans became a seafaring people, traders and colonizers, bartering their own wares, notably their pottery and metalwork, around the Aegean, in Asia, and in Egypt, where — to judge from the number of representa- tions of it in Egyptian tomb paintings — their pottery seems to have been popu- lar. Their religion consisted of nature worship with rites performed not in great temples but, though sometimes be- fore little shrines in the palaces, chiefly in caves, gorges, and groves. “Spiritual devotion in such surroundings, 5 ’ Mr. Forsdyke suggests, “must have led . . .


[a] Palace of Minos. Knossos. Plan of the domestic quarter , with dotted lines to indicate the drainage system, ( British School Annual )

to an intimate and emotional under- standing of life and beauty in all the works of nature.” 1

At the time of its climax, under King Minos, the Cretan civilization had spread to neighboring islands and to the mainland, to Mycenae, Tiryns, and Troy, where, however, conditions were somewhat different from those on the island. Warlike Achaean Greek nomads were beginning to filter in, which neces- sitated fortifications. As the invaders be- came more numerous and more power- ful, there was a restless shifting about, with frequent conflicts between the bar- barian invaders and the inhabitants. Such a conflict we see in the Homeric tale of the siege of Troy. Finally, the last great wave of invaders, known as the Doric Greeks, swept across to Crete, burned Minos’s palace at Knossos, and

1 E. J. Forsdyke, Minoan Art, Oxford Univer-

sity Press, 1931, p. 29.

by 1 100 b.g. had taken possession of the Aegean world. The Cretan culture, already giving evidence of decay, con- tinued for some time, and made definite and valuable contributions to the second civilization to arise in historical times in Europe — the Hellenic. 2


The demands for building were simple and limited. There was no de- mand in Crete for tombs, temples, halls of justice, nor even for fortresses. Only a palace for the king and his retainers was necessary — one that was large, comfortable, gay, with ample staircases and courtyards for pageants and shows. Such was the Palace at Knossos (Fig. 1 o 6 a) , a large rambling structure built around open courts. There were gaily decorated living-rooms of all kinds; bathrooms, and a drainage system; audience halls with finely paved floors; workshops and long corridors which led to magazines where, in huge jars, were stored wine, oil, grain, and honey. Everything spoke of luxury, wealth, and splendor : gold cups and ornaments; pottery cups of eggshell thinness; a gaming-board glit- tering with gold, silver, ivory, and blue enamel.

At several points in the palace fine broad stairways led to upper stories; for the building was set on a hillside and in some places was several stories high. In the colonnaded hall (Fig. 105 a) we see one of these stairways. The foundation and the lower parts of the building were

2 The history of Crete falls into three divi- sions: Early Minoan (about 3500 to 2200 b.c.), Middle Minoan (2200-1600 b.g.), and Late Minoan (1600-1100 b.c.). In the early part of the Late Minoan occurred the reign of King Minos (about 1500 b.c.). The Homeric age, so called because it is described in the Homeric poems, which were written much later, includes the period of the great migrations and conflicts from about 1350 to 1100 b.c.


[ b ] A Prince or Priest-King. Painted relief . Restored. From Palace at Knoss os. c. 1500 b.g. Candia Museum. (Figs, io'ja and B, Metropolitan Museum , Mew York)

[aJ Cupbearer. Fresco from Knossos. H. c. 5 ft. c. 1500 b.g. Candia Museum.

built of huge, finely cut blocks of stone, but the columns were of wood. Each column has a small circular base, Carries a cushionlike capital with a square block to support the lintel, and tapers toward the base — a curious fact, not yet satisfactorily explained, but charac- teristic of Aegean column construction (Figs. io8a, 1 1 2 b ) . Both columns and walls were painted brightly.

Painting was mural decoration, and the chief decorative element of the pal-

aces. Its subject matter was Cretan life: bullfights, processionals and ceremoni- als, many scenes from nature, birds, animals, flowers, fish and sea life. Tech- nically these paintings are fresco. A tall slender Cupbearer (Fig. 107A), one of a procession of youths, is holding a gold- mounted silver vase. He has long curly hair, wears an elaborately embroidered loincloth with a silver-mounted girdle, and has silver ornaments on his arms, neck, and ankles; on his wrist is an


[a] Temple Fresco. Restored. From a small sanctuary in the Palace at Knossos. c. 1600 b.g.

agate seal. The pinched waist, the rea- son for which we do not know, is char- acteristic of both the men and the women of Crete. The effect of the pro- cession must have been highly dec- orative, as the dark figures 1 moved rhythmically against the flat ground broken into wavy bands. Although, as in Egyptian painting, the flat tones serve the purpose of decoration, still the youth standing so erect, with shoul- ders thrown far back, is not cold, formal, and conventional, but full of life and keenly conscious of the pride of his race and the nobility of the ceremony that he is performing. In The Prince (Fig. 1 07B) there is more movement, and the ground is broken by areas with lilies, now dark against light, now light against dark. This figure is partly modeled in relief,

1 As in Egypt, male figures are painted red and female figures yellow.

and the drawing, while resembling the Egyptian, is filled with elasticity and individuality, which one sees also in the Head of a Young Girl, jaunty and piquant with her large eye, individual profile, rouged lips, and gay, beribboned dress.

This vivacity and spontaneity are seen also in the Temple Frescoes 2 (Fig. 1 o8a) , in which crowds are massed about a shrine as if attending some ceremonial or show. Over large washes of red, in- dicating men, heads are outlined in black with white collars and white eyes, producing a very convincing impression of a crowd. In contrast to the crowd rep- resented by this “shorthand” method, on each side of the shrine are groups of

2 Also called Miniature Frescoes because of their small scale, which was necessitated by the size of the room, about 6 by 15 feet. A dado fills the lower part of the wall, with the frescoes above on the eye level.

[a] Toreador Scene. Fresco, c. 1500 b.c. Candia Museum. (Metropolitan Museum, New fork City)

ladies, with the entire figure painted in detail. Their elaborate dresses with flounced skirts and tight bodices are painted in bright colors, and the effect of their holding a spirited conversation is heightened by gestures.

The Toreador Scene (Fig. 1 oqa) shows how well these painters could represent a dramatic moment, fill it with spirit, with instantaneous poses, and still, as it were, keep it on the wall. Here the re- markable vivacity and the decorative quality are both made effective by the long sweeping curves in the body of

the bull combined with the S-curves in the horns and tail and in the vaulting youth, and by the vivid patterning of the surface.

In the nature scenes one finds not only understanding but a profound love of nature and a high degree of imagina- tion and spontaneity in representing it. In the Flying Fish Fresco (Fig. 109B) the impression is of an easy swinging move- ment and countermovement combined with a short quick rhythm in the rocks and the edges of the fins, like surging waves which break in light crests: an


[b] Flying Fish Fresco. Candia Museum. (Metro- politan Museum, New Fork City)



impression of blues, yellows, browns, definitely and happily distributed over a flat surface.

As we pass from Crete to the main- land, we notice that the gay, open pal- ace has given way to a more somber, compact, massive fortress-palace, often

built on a hilltop. At Tiryns, for ex- ample, the walls are twenty feet thick, built of unhewn or roughly dressed stone, called “Cyclopean walls by the later Greeks. Through them, at inter- vals, run corbeled galleries (Fig. iioa). The nucleus of the palace, a hall of state



[a] Frieze. Of alabaster with blue glass inlay. Tiryns. Thought to be a prototype of the Doric frieze of triglyphs and metopes (Fig. 125 A a). (See note 7, page 126.)

known as a me gar on, was a rectangular room with a hearth in the center, around which were four columns to support the roof; at the entrance were a vestibule and a porch. In all these changes from the Cretan palace are re- flected a colder climate and another race, the invaders from the North.

The sternness of these fortress-palaces is relieved by frescoes similar to the Cretan, by carvings (Figs. 1 1 ia and b), and, at Mycenae at least, by monu- mental architectural sculpture. At this fortress-palace the stone in the walls about the entrance is more finely cut than elsewhere in the structure. The door itself is formed of two great pillars capped with a huge lintel, above which the layers of stone are not solid, but by forming a corbeled arch leave a tri- angular opening to relieve the weight on the lintel. This space is filled with a slab on which are carved in high relief the two lions from which the gate is named (Fig. i i 2 b). The lions stand in a balanced position on either side of a shaft on the base of which they rest their forepaws. Holes near the top in- dicate that the heads, now lost, were made of separate pieces of stone or metal. Groups similar to this are seen on Cretan seals and probably constitute a heraldic device. The lions are carved with breadth and vigor, and the whole design admirably fills the triangular space in which it is placed, harmonizing

in dignity, strength, and scale with the massive stones that form the walls and the gate. In its visual as well as its func- tional effectiveness it seems to partake of the spirit of the warring Agamemnon and Menelaus.

Another type of building found on the mainland was the so-called beehive tomb. When first discovered, it was thought these structures were store-

[b] Fragment of a Tomb Ceiling. Carved green schist. Orchomenos. (Journal Hellenic Studies ) Compare, for decorative motifs , Figs. 77a and 94.A.

1 12


[a] Head of a Bull. Painted clay relief. L. 26 in. Candia Museum. (. Metropolitan Museum , New Turk City )

houses for treasure; hence the most important is known as the Treasury of Aireus (Fig. 1 iob) . Probably for the sake of protection, it was built into the hill and approached by a long passage cut through the side. Its beehive shape is formed by corbeling courses of stone laid on a circular base. The small rec- tangular chamber at the side is hewn from the rock. Frequent holes in the in-

terior seem to indicate that decorations, such as bronze rosettes, were affixed. In the monumental entrance we find the same combination of lintel and cor- beled-arch construction as in the Lion Gate. Among the motifs of decoration, we see on the column the chevron; on the bands above, the spiral, rosette, and palmette. The columns here, as at Knos- sos, taper toward the base.

[b] Lion Gate. My- cenae. Probably late Mi - noan.


JI 3

[a] Girl in a Swing. Clay painted. H. 5^ in. c. 1600 b.g. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. (. Metropolitan Museum)


Sculpture in the round, judging from the small amount extant, seems not to have interested the Aegean peoples. Per-

haps the chief examples are the figur- [ B ] Snake Goddess. Gold and ivory. H.

ines of ivory, usually combined with 6k in. c. 1500 b.g. Museum of Fine Arts ,

gold, best illustrated by the Snake Goddess 1 Boston. ( Boston Museum)

(Fig. 1 1 3B) . On her head is an elaborate

coronet, the holes in which indicate gold attachments — probably ornaments and the usual curls. The flounces of her skirt are banded with gold and her out- stretched hands hold two gold snakes that coil about her arms. Like the Cup- bearer, she stands proudly erect with shoulders thrown back, firmly grasping the snakes, a forceful figure based upon

1 A possible companion figure, the Divine Boy, has many parallel characteristics, and may in- dicate that both figures belonged to a shrine group. For this see Sir A. J. Evans, The Palace of Minos, Vols. I-IV, Macmillan, 1921-35, Vol. Ill, pp. 436 ff.

a strong curve in the back and the vig- orous diagonals in the arms. Mention should be made of the clay figurines of Cretan ladies, simply and sketchily molded and gaily glazed, which show such an intelligent feeling for material; and of the Girl in a Swing (Fig. 1 1 3A) , in which one discerns a peculiar sensitivity for clay as the medium for a summary momentary expression.

Sculpture in relief appears frequently in stone, clay, and various metals. The Head of a Bull (Fig. 112A), probably a fragment from a bullfighting scene,



[a] Kamares Vase. From Knossos. H. c. 9 in. 2000-1800 b.c. Candia Museum. (. Metropolitan Museum, New York City )

gives one a vital impression of an en- raged animal; a small steatite vase, the Harvester Vase (Fig. 11 6 a), furnishes an equally vital impression of a riotous crowd and one perfectly in unison with a curving surface of stone. A crowd of harvesters singing and shouting follow a figure carrying a rattle. Their forward movement and lusty exuberance are ex- pressed with direct forcefulness. Pitch- forks — long, straight, and carved in low relief — fill the upper part of the band; the figures, in higher relief, fill the lower. Thus is created a variation in texture and in design that is pleasing to the touch as well as to the eye, and the entire design hugs the surface so tightly that it seems to be an integral part of the wall of the vase.

The same kind of virtuoso miniature carving is found in the Cretan seals, which are not of the cylinder type like the Babylonian, but are settings in rings and bracelets with the design cut in in- taglio. A variety of hard stones of vari- ous colors were used and a variety of subject matter — often with heraldic significance. The animal subjects are noteworthy for their vivacious life and beauty of composition and carving.

[b] Octopus Jar. H. c. 8 in. 1600-1900 b.c. Candia Museum. ( Metropolitan Mu- seum, New York City)


Among the craftsmen of Crete the potter was of special consequence, and his wares were important articles of commerce. In the early Kamares Ware 1 (Fig. 1 1 4 a) we find a robust shape with a lustrous black ground on which is a quasi-geometric pattern of creamy white interspersed with yellow and red, forming a brilliant and harmonious piece of decoration. As time went on, the tendency of the potters was away from geometric and conventional de- sign toward the naturalistic, with dec- orative motifs taken from their own immediate world of nature. Sea life, for example, furnished decorative mo- tifs: dolphins and seaweed, fish nets, or the octopus. On ajar decorated with an octopus (Fig. ii 4 b), the tentacles reaching out over the curving surfaces make one particularly aware of the volume of the vase. From the land, crocuses, irises, lilies, reeds, and grasses present to the artist’s seeing eye patterns which have all the reality of nature and

1 1 So called from the cave on Mt. Ida where a large number of examples have been found.


[a] Palace Style Vase. H. c. 30 in. 1300- [b] Palace Style Vase. 1600-1300 b.c.

1330 b.c. National Museum, Athens. {Metro- ( Seager )

politan Museum, New York City)

at the same time maintain the surface continuity of the wall of ajar.

Among the large jars called Palace Style , because many have been found at Knossos and appear to belong to the period of its most splendid development, that represented in Figure 1 15A has an interesting design of skillfully interlaced birds combined with concentric bands and spirals, painted with a bold sweep of line. Areas of light and dark are broken here and there by a patterning of dots and wave lines, every part mov- ing in unison with the curving surface. In Figure 11 5B, the double-ax motive plays through the design — in the shape of the handles, in the spaces between the handles and between the horns of the ox, on the rim, and on the foot. It probably has some religious signifi- cance, and the vase may have been used for ceremonial purposes. Notice the nat-

uralistic sprays of olive in the midst of an otherwise conventional design.

Another craftsman of great impor- tance was the goldsmith, who fashioned jewelry of gold leaf which exhibits the charming naturalness of all Minoan work. Among his creations were orna- mental disks with sensitively fitted spi- rals and with patterns derived from the butterfly and the octopus; masks, whose function is uncertain; and, particularly, a variety of cups decorated in repousse with designs of sea plants, octopuses, arid human and animal figures.

The Vaphio Cups 1 (Fig. 1 1 7 a ) are nota- ble examples of this type of cup . They are a pair of teacup shape, each made of two plates of gold, one of which was worked in repousse to decorate the outside, the

1 So called because they were found in a grave at Vaphio in Laconia.



[a] Harvester Vase. Restored. Black stea- tite. W. c. 4 in. c. 1500 b.c. Candia Mu- seum. {Metropolitan Museum^ New York City)

other left plain to make a smooth finish on the inside. The plates were then fas- tened together and the handles riveted on; some of the details were engraved. On one cup is a bull-hunting scene filled with the greatest movement. In the center is a bull caught in the meshes of a net. A second bull, charging furi- ously, impales with his horns a hunter whose companion falls to one side. A third bull dashes madly from the fracas. On the other cup is a quiet scene, possibly representing bull-hunting by means of a decoy cow. At the right a peaceful bull has been attracted, and moves toward the cow; in the center he stands beside her; at the left the same bull, captured and hobbled by the trapper, is bellowing in anger. The

three scenes are well united by the trees and the trapper, and the whole design is admirably composed to fit the space. In both cups, the spaces not filled by the animal and human figures contain landscape details of trees and rocks in the same style as is seen in the paint- ings. Depth is indicated by placing the farther object above the nearer, as in the trees holding the net. The lowness of the relief and the conventional treat- ment of the trees produce a rich play of light and shade, together with vary- ing areas of smooth and rough textures.

Skill in a different kind of metalwork- ing is seen in Cretan damascened dagger blades, in which the figures are inlaid on the bronze in gold, electrum, and some black substance. On one blade is repre- sented a lion hunt, in which the bodies of the fleeing animals, elongated as if to accentuate their rapid movement, fit marvelously into the tapering shape.


In Aegean art, notably in that of Crete, we find nothing of the quiet, somber dignity found in Egyptian art or of the dim mysteriousness of the Egyptian temple, but a style directly expressive of a democratic people in- timate with nature. It is a refreshing, sprightly art, imaginative and natural- istic rather than abstract. Its restlessness and movement reflect an exuberance of body and mind. The adventures of the Cretans on the sea were equaled by the love of pleasure at home to which their palaces bear witness. These palaces with their equipment and articles of personal adornment constitute practically the en- tire Cretan art expression, except for similar articles made for trading. They were equipped comfortably, even lux- uriously, and their walls were gay with frescoes which picture life on land and on sea, and decorate as well. The un- ceasing variety in Aegean pottery and



[a] Vaphio Cups. Gold. H. 3% in. 1600-1300 b.c. {National Museum, Athens)

paintings (contrast the unceasing repe- titions in Egypt and Assyria), the vi- vacity and oddity of their color relations, reflect the eagerness, restlessness, and adventuresomeness of the Cretan sea kings; and the magnificence of their metalwork is witness that the.^descrip- tions in Homer of the shield of Achilles and the house of Alcinoiis were based not upon imagination, but upon the actual appearance of the civilization which they reflect.


Baikie, James, The Sea-Kings of Crete, 3d ed., Macmillan, 1920

Bell, Edward, Prehellenic Architecture in the Aegean, London, 1926

Bossert, Helmuth T., Altkreta, 3d ed. enl., Berlin, 1937

Breasted, James H., Ancient Times, 2d ed. rev., Ginn, 1935 . . ■ ■ . .

Burrows, Ronald M., The Discoveries m Crete, 2d ed., Dutton, 1908

Buschor, Ernst, Greek Vase-Painting, tr. by G. G. Richards, Dutton, 1922

Evans, Sir Arthur John, The Palace of Minos, 4 vols. in 6, Macmillan, 1921-35 Forsdyke, Edgar J. Minoan Art, Oxford Uni- versity Press, 1932

Fowler, Harold N., Wheeler, J. R., and Stevens, G.P., A Handbook of Greek Archaeology, Amer- ican Book Company, 1909 Glasgow, George, The Minoans, London, 1923 Hall, Harry R. H., JEgean Archaeology , London, 1913

— — — - — -- — The Ancient History of the Hear East, 8th ed. rev., Macmillan, 1932

t — The Civilization of Greece in the

Bronze Age, London, 1 928 Hawes, Charles H., and Hawes, Harriet A. B., Crete, the Forerunner of Greece, Harper, 1909 Mackenzie, Donald A., Myths of Crete and Pre- Hellenic Europe, London, 1917 Mosso, Angelo, The Palaces of Crete and Their Builders, Putnam, 1907

Pendlebury, John S., Archaeology of Crete, Lon- don, 1939

— — — — A Handbook to the Palace of Minos at

Knossos, Macmillan, 1933 Rodenwaldt, Gerhart, Die Kunst der Antike, 2d ed., Berlin, 1927

Sheppard, John T., The Pattern of the Iliad, Lon- don, 1922

Swindler, Mary H., Ancient Painting, Yale Uni- versity Press, 1929

Tsountas, Ghrestos, and Manatt, J. I., The My- cenaean Age, Houghton Mifflin, 1 897 See also the General Bibliography, pp. .79.1-92.



[a] Parthenon. Athens. Of Pentelic marble. Ictinus and Callicrates , architects. 447-432 b.g.



Geometric, Archaic, and Fifth-Century Art

(ABOUT 1 100-400 B.G.)

I N marked contrast to Egypt, a land monotonous with the long horizon- tals of alluvial plain between desert pla- teaus and under invariable sunshine, Greece is a country of diversified geog- raphy and climate (Fig. 121A). The

deeply indented bays of its rugged coast line make the country half land and half sea; mountain ridges divide it into many small units. The semitropical cli- mate, though marked by alternations of wet and dry seasons, is free from ex- tremes of heat and cold. The unusually crystalline atmosphere is softened by a haze. Both sky and sea are brilliant in color. Little wonder is it that the Greeks, who were by nature sensitive to beauty and gifted with imagination, in their


joy in nature should people mountains, woods, streams, sky, and sea with di- vinities; that they should picture Zeus, the king of this realm of gods, as reign- ing from their loftiest peak, Olympus; the Muses, as dwelling in the deep, cool groves on the long slopes of Parnassus and Cithaeron; and Apollo, the god of wisdom, as speaking from the awe-in- spiring clefts of Delphi. These geograph- ical and climatic conditions probably had something to do with the eager individualistic strain in the race.

Who were the Greeks? 1 They appear to be the product of a racial and cultural intermingling, with at least three com- ponents: the Mediterranean race, the Cretan culture, the Indo-European in- vaders. About 2000 b.g. these nomads began drifting in and mingling with the native inhabitants. About 1500 b.c. the Dorians, cruder, more militant Indo- Europeans, began to penetrate the Aegean lands. To this period belongs the siege of Troy, which is typical of the numerous conflicts between the Aegean strongholds, such as Troy or Mycenae, and the invaders. Those of the con- quered peoples who had the means fled; the remainder mingled with the con- . querors. Slowly they amalgamated, the invaders taking over certain elements of the gifted Cretan civilization. It was the Indo-European, however, whose re- ligion, language, and fresh energizing power triumphed.

The enterprising Hellenes early be- came a trading and colonizing people, and thus not only enlarged the geo- graphic and cultural boundaries of Hel- las but made contacts with the older civilizations — Egypt, Babylonia-As- syria, Phoenicia — from which they acquired ideas, motifs, conventions, processes. Tribal organizations evolved into city-states, each an individual unit,

1 In using the ward “Greek” one needs to remember that the Greeks called themselves “Hellenes” and their country “Hellas.”

ART 119

ruled first by kings, then by nobles, then by tyrants or benevolent despots; and finally came the extraordinary ex- periment of democracy. To govern, however, was not an accomplishment of the Greeks.

In religion, nature worship evolved into nature personification. The gods assumed human forms of grandeur and nobility, though not free from human frailty. Man, in other words, became “the measure of all things”; to create the perfect individual became an ideal. Hence the interest in athletics and the characteristic Olympic games, athletic, literary, and musical contests celebrated every four years in honor of Zeus.

Athens, in many ways, stands as the symbol of Greek culture, though one must not forget the contributions in science, philosophy, and the arts of Asia Minor and Magna Graecia. Should one have visited Athens at the time of its brief flowering after the Persian wars, what would one see? An enterprising business city of about a hundred thou- sand people, situated on a fertile plain about a lone hill some five miles inland from a bustling harbor. In appearance the city was rather mean, an unplanned mass of small sun-dried-brick houses along winding lanelike streets with no sidewalks and no drainage system. The chief open place was the agora, or market place, with its plane trees for shade; it was surrounded by public offices and covered colonnades called stoas. Though the market always served its primary purpose as a central place for the sale of vegetables, cheese, honey, and flowers, its use was much wider; for here the citizens congregated to lounge in the cool of the stoa, to discuss the latest political development or a new philosophical idea. Outside the walls were olive groves, and the gymnasiums where the men went daily, primarily for the bodily exercise that played so large a part in the education and the



daily life of the Athenian, but also, again, for discussion. And above both the olive groves and the roof tops towered the Acropolis, or higher city, formerly a fortress but in this age crowned with temples rising in bright colors against an intensely blue sky.

Since an important part of tire con- duct of business, at times even the entire responsibility, was assumed by slaves, the Athenian had a great deal of leisure to spend in the open and to devote largely to the commonwealth — the world’s first important experiment in democracy. This democracy manifested itself in the great religious festivals, such as the Panathenaic procession, in which all the citizens, men and women, old and young, were represented; or at the dramatic performances of Aeschy- lus and Sophocles, where the audience of citizens approved with silence or ap- plause, or condemned with a shower of figs and olives. The comedies of Aris- tophanes were enjoyed to the utmost when they satirized the great figures of the day with a daring that would be tolerated in no city not truly demo- cratic. Quality was demanded in these plays by an audience that was composed of a people who were not art critics or theorizing esthetes but who could be depended upon, more often than not, to judge between good drama and bad.

Among the Greeks, then, we see a hu- manistic culture, with individual free- dom for the members of the free classes. Neither theocracy nor absolutism domi- nated this democratic spirit — a spirit already evidenced in the Cretan civili- zation and possibly a gift of the Cretan to the Greek. Compared to the life spans of some of the other ancient cultures its duration was short. It was homogene- ous and relatively unimpeded by out- side influences.

The remains of the Greek civilization are abundant enough for us to discern clearly in them the normal evolution of

the art of a culture, the cycle of its style. Such an evolution exists in every style and consists of three stages observable in all animate life: youth, maturity, Re- cline. The first stage, usually called the archaic, is one of energetic growth, in which the artist, striving to give sub- stance to his concepts, is daring in his experimentation with his material. In this struggle for expression he uses simple abstract or geometric forms, usually massive and monumental, with each part a conventional device, a concept of the mind rather than of visual per- ception. These parts are built into an organic structure, to which the con- stantly repeated conventions lend a dec- orative quality and in which is never lost either a recognition of the material or a fine craftsmanship in the handling of it. As time passes, a trend toward visual perception becomes discernible, and a more naturalistic outlook. This brings the style to its maturity. In this period, known as the classic stage, the artist has mastered the early problems, and is soberly confident and vigorous. While retaining something of the ruggedness and monumentality of the archaic age, he has refined its propor- tions, has tempered conventional forms with naturalism of a broadly general- ized type, and has produced an art of restraint and placid rhythms.

But the very forces that brought the style to its classic stage now operate to lead it into excesses. At first its classic sturdiness and tranquillity evolve into elegance, delicacy, and emotionalism. Then naturalism degenerates into real- istic imitation, and tranquillity into exaggerated movement and grandiose scale. Individual freedom delimits space, disregarding the limitations of material. Such is the last stage of a style, the flam- boyant, or baroque. And the artist, faced by its excesses, often reveals in his work an archaistic tendency — that is, a nostalgia for earlier times.


12 1


With no use for the home except as an unpretentious place in which to eat and sleep, with no monarch to house royally, with religious rites performed in the open, what reason did the Greek have to build greatly? Far earlier than we can trace the practice by monu- ments, the Greek carved statues of his gods, statues that were very sacred. To

carve the statue and to protect it, then, was a motivation for both sculpture and architecture. The idea of simple protec- tion, however, soon developed into that of beautiful protection, with additional sculpture, partly to embellish the pro- tective building, partly to tell something of the deity symbolized within, and partly as votive offerings. In addition to those purely religious in purpose, statues were erected to commemorate impor-



[a] Construction Techniques, a. Cramps and Dowels. Iron or bronze cramps hold the stones of the same course; iron dowels , packed with lead poured in through channels left for that purpose, hold the stones of different courses; b. Two Drums , showing the cuttings left in the center for the bronze or wooden pivot which held the stones in place, correctly centered, and about which they were ground to secure a perfect joining.

tant events, and particularly the victors at the great national games. It was a very simple and limited range of pur- pose, but a key to Greek art.

Materials in abundance were at hand, plenty of timber, and literally moun- tains of marble: Hymettus, just east of Athens, with its bluish-white stone; Pen- telicus, north of the city, with its glit- tering white, peculiarly adapted for carving. The islands of the Aegean, Paros in particular, supplied varying quantities and qualities. Ivory and met- als, especially bronze, of which great quantities were used, it was necessary to import. In building, cement was not used; the stones were held firmly by a series of cramps and dowels (Fig. 1 22Aa) .

There is a great gap between Aegean art and the emergence of the truly Greek expression about 600 b.c. Cretan culture was already in decadence when the Dorians arrested all cultural growth until they had assimilated the vastly superior civilization with which they had come in contact, and had evolved along individual lines. Probably very early they carved statues and built wooden structures to protect them, which by 600 b.c. they had translated into less-perishable stone. The temple discloses in its plan a close affinity with

the Mycenaean megaron, and even in its most elaborate form retains the ut- most simplicity: a single or double room (the cella) with no windows and one door (or two for a double cella), and with either (x) a portico with two col- umns, between the extended walls, or (2) a colonnade across the entire front, or (3) a colonnade across both front and back; or (4) any of these plans sur- rounded by a single or a double colon- nade (Fig. 123A).

In elevation the temple consists of three parts: a base, columnar supports, and a superstructure of lintels and slop- ing roof with gable ends. Such an eleva- tion is known as an order. Three orders evolved in the course of the Greek style and are differentiated, partly by details but chiefly by the relative proportions of the parts.

The earliest of the Greek architec- tural orders to be formulated was the Doric. We might expect that as time went on an adventurous people would develop a new style. Not so the Greek. His adventurousness was of an intellec- tual kind: though all the elements of the style were present in definite rela- tionships early, there remained the re- fining of these relationships. The process covered about two centuries (Fig. 1 24A) .



[a] Plans of Greek Temples, a. Treasury of the Athenians at Delphi , a temple in antis, so called because the portico is formed by the projecting side walls, antae, and two columns set between them; b. Temple of Artemis atEleusis, a temple in antis at both ends; c. Temple B at Selims , Sicily, a prostyle temple , so called because the columns stand in front of the cella and extend the width of it. Sometimes an additional colonnade is placed at the back of the temple, and it is then called amphiprostyle as in d; d. Temple of Nike Apteros (Wingless Victory) on the Acropolis at Athens; e. Temple of Aphaia at Aegina, a peripteral temple, so called because a colonnade completely surrounds the cella, which in this case is in antis at both ends; f. Parthenon (Fig. ii8a), a peripteral temple; to the prostyle cella an ad- ditional room for treasure has been added. Sometimes the peripteral plan is embellished by doubling the surrounding colonnade, and it is then called dipteral as in g; g. Temple of the Olympian Zeus at Athens (Fig. 159A).



[a] The Evolution of Proportion in the Doric Order, d is the Par- thenon) which appears to have attained the subtlest proportions.

In this habit of mind lies the key to an understanding of Greek art as well as of its extraordinary limitations.

The early Doric temples, such as the Heraeum at Olympia (about 620 b.c.), the Basilica (540 b.c.) and the Temple of Demeter (520 b.c.) at Paestum in Italy, and the Temple of Apollo (540 b.c.) at Corinth, show a clear distribution of parts: a base; fluted columns, with cushionlike capitals which support an entablature consisting of an architrave and a frieze composed of alternating triglyphs and metopes 1 ; and a crowning pediment, which is the natural gable end formed by a sloping roof. Such a temple is a simple type of lintel con-

1 Triglyph: a rectangular stone with three groovings (two whole and two halves); metope: the space between (the triglyphs).

struction, on a scale small enough for stone lintels to bridge the span between the columns.

Ornament plays a large part in the design, and is concentrated on the upper part of the building — in the metopes and the pediments. This ornament is basically sculpture, but it is not sculp- ture in the natural color of the stone but gaily painted in red and blue, with touches of green, yellow, black, and per- haps a little gold. The unpainted parts may have been rubbed with wax. By the use of color the artist could bring out more clearly the relationships of the parts, could soften the glitter of the stone, and could provide a background to set off the figures.

Unlike Egyptian temples, Greek tem- ples faced outward. Rites were per-



formed in the open, and the building itself served only to house the cult statue. Mass, volume, and interior space did not concern the Greek. It was on the exterior, on the outside surfaces, | that he concentrated his attention, in t order to make the temple a suitable f monument, like a piece of sculpture, to the deity. The deeply broken light and shade, the quiet movement in the colon- nade, and the lighter, more rapid move- ment in the gay superstructure result from a relief concept — as if reliefs were carved on an inner rectangular volume whose mass and solidity are not felt, as | they are in the Egyptian temple with § its solid walls and clearly defined vol- umes (Fig. 62A).

The culmination of the Doric order is the Parthenon (Fig. 118a). 1 It stands on the crest of the Acropolis, harmonizing with the contours of the hill; its broken light and shade play into the varying tones of the mountain landscape (Fig.

27A) . The general impression is one of repose, of a sensitive balance between the supporting members and the load between the vertical line and the hori- zontal line, both largely unbroken. Everything contributes to calm. Con- trast for a moment the restless move- ment of a Gothic cathedral (Figs. 348B, 349A and b) and the serenity of the Parthenon becomes even more apparent.

The plan of the temple (Fig. i23Af) shows a double cella, one room serving to house the cult statue, the other, the temple treasure. In elevation the Par-

1 The Parthenon was the temple of Athena Parthenos, meaning “Athena the Maiden,” who Was the patron goddess of Athens. Its ruined condition is due to the fact that at the time of the war between the Turks and the Venetians in 1687, the building was used as a powder mag- azine and exploded when hit by a well-aimed shot. A large part of the remaining sculpture was obtained by Lord Elgin, with the per- mission of the Turkish Government, in 1801- 03, and became the property of the British Museum in 1816.

[a] A Comparison of Greek Orders, a. The Doric Order; b. The Ionic Order.

thenon reveals the highest refinements of the Doric order. From the stylobate, the upper member of the triple base, the columns rise directly without indi- vidual bases, like trees from the ground. The shaft diminishes in diameter as it rises, and its contour is a very subtle curve, barely perceptible and known as the entasis. The grooves, or flutings, of the shafts with their soft shadows and repeated vertical lines both strengthen the rhythm and emphasize the feeling of support in the shaft, and finally in- dividualize the columns by contrasting them with the plain wall of the cella against which they are seen. The shafts are not monoliths but consist of separate drums bonded together by dowels of wood and metal (Fig. 1 22 Ab) with such


[a] The Upper Part of a Column from the Eastern Porch of the Erechlheum. British Museum , London .

nicety that the joinings were originally scarcely visible.

The capital consists of three parts — the necking, the echinus, and the aba- cus. The purpose of a capital is to form the transition from the shaft to the lintel; that is, from the vertical mem- ber, the load-carrying element, to the horizontal member, the load. An es- thetically successful capital will not make this transition too abruptly. In the Doric capital we get our first sug- gestion of the horizontal in the necking; yet the vertical flutings continue up into the capital to the point at which we feel more insistently the horizontal; that is, at the row of concentric ridges that separate the necking and the echinus. The simple vigorous curve of the echi- nus then carries the line up to the square abacus — not directly, however, for it turns inward as it meets the block, thus

avoiding abruptness. The strength of this curve, rising so vigorously and then turning inward so gracefully, was not worked out by the Greek in a short time, but only after a long series of ex- periments dealing with the angle and the proportions. In the rectangular aba- cus we are carried easily into the hori- zontal architrave. Thus by a carefully thought-out design based upon skillful interplay of direction, we pass gradually from vertical to horizontal, from support- ing elements to supported (Fig. 1 35Aa) .

The architrave is severely plain and the frieze is composed of alternating triglyphs and metopes. If the wood- construction theory of the origin of the Doric temple is valid, out of a discarded function the Greek has made an esthetic asset. 1 For the triglyphs repeat the ver- ticals of the columns in a more rapid tempo. The architrave and the frieze are separated by a simple stringcourse and united by the molding with bead- like ornaments beneath each triglyph. The deeply projecting cornice finishes the design and protects the frieze from rain. Unity of design between the frieze and the cornice is obtained by under- cutting the cornice to correspond with the triglyphs and the metopes, and by the use of color. A second cornice, known as the raking cornice, finishes the pediment.

The curve, or entasis, found in the column has been noted. This variation from the straight line is characteristic of all parts of the building. The stylo- bate has a slight upward curve (a rise of three and three-fifths inches for a length of two hundr ed and twenty-eight feet); the columns incline inward, and are placed not at equal intervals, but closer together toward the corners, lend-

1 According to the wood-construction theory triglyphs and metopes originated in the beam ends and the spaces between ; and the under- cuttings of the cornice, in the ends of the roof rafters.



[a] Erechthenm. Athens, c. 420-409 b.c. ( Clarence Kennedy)

ing a feeling of stability at those points. In fact, there is not a straight line in the building. While the purpose of the Greek in avoiding straight lines and complete regularity was undoubtedly to correct optical illusions, it also seems probable “that the builders of the Par- thenon (whether by intelligent imita- tion or by intuitive artistic taste) had applied to architecture the same secret of beauty which governs natural forms - — the tempering of geometric accuracy by minute deviations.” 1

In the Ionic Erechtheum 2 (Figs. i25Ab,

1 Rhys Carpenter, The Esthetic Basis of Greek Art, Longmans, 1921, p. 195. For a sensitive analysis of the Parthenon by a modern architect, see C. E. Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architec- ture, Harcourt, Brace, 1927.

2 The Erechtheum, so named after Erechtheus, to whom it was dedicated in part, conforms in plan (Fig. 127B) to Figure 123AC, but has several unusual features, which may have been due partly to the irregular character of the ground on which the temple stands and partly to the number of shrines that it contained. For it was said to mark the site of the contest between Poseidon and Athena for the possession of Athens, and to shelter within its area the mark made by the trident and the salt spring of the former and the olive tree of the latter.

[b] The Erechtheum Plan. The temple probably contained more than one shrine.

127A and b) we note, in comparison with the Parthenon, more slender propor- tions, greater elegance and grace, richer embellishment. In detail, the columns have individual bases, one member of which is delicately carved; on the neck- ing is a honeysuckle band; the echinus is decorated with bead and reel, egg and dart, and the double guilloche (Fig. 1 26a) . Perhaps the most conspicuous part of the Ionic capital is the double scroll or volute inserted between the



I , f? a*

t/ ! *i ll ij <l, j il * /'•^J!'<fJ l '?ff^l'^/^ l ^|l , 9/lC//!^

[a] Carving from the Erechtheum, with Honeysuckle , Bead and Reel , Egg and Dart, and Leaf and Dart Motifs. Acropolis Museum, Athens. ( Alinari )

narrow echinus and the abacus. The ar- chitrave is divided into three horizon- tal faces and the frieze was originally covered by a continuous band of low relief, in place of the Doric triglyphs and metopes. Stringcourses and cornices, doorway, and wall bands are delicately carved with dentils, egg and dart, bead and reel, honeysuckle, and braid pat- terns (Figs, i 28 a, 129A). This orna- ment, though rich, is confined to certain places and is strictly subordinated to the design of the whole. The Greek marble was particularly adaptable to the carv- ing of moldings, which show not only beauty of chisel work but of profile, and reveal a sensitive and intelligent choice of the particular decorative motif that is adapted to a concave, convex, or angular type of molding. The value of these moldings to the Greek may be judged from the fact that he paid, ac- cording to the building inscriptions of the Erechtheum , the same price for carv- ing one foot of egg and dart as for one human figure.

The Temple of Nike Apieros (the Wing- less Victory, Fig. i23Ad), a small am- phiprostyle Ionic temple set precipi- tously on the top of the cliff at the side

cf the Propylaea or Gateway to the Acropolis, is an example of the bold placement for effective clarity often found in the loca- tion of Greek temples.


Architectural decoration, both in re- lief and in the round, was the purpose of much of Hellenic sculpture, though many independent statues were made for cult, votive, and commemorative purposes. Much of it was carved from the same material as the building and was painted not naturalistically but conventionally, to harmonize with a polychrome structure. If this use of color appears strange, one needs only to recall- the tradition of color in archi- tecture and sculpture in the eastern Mediterranean and western Asiatic countries — Egypt, Babylonia, Assyria, Persia, Asia Minor, Crete.

As for technical processes , 1 the sculp-

1 For technical processes and tools see Stanley Gasson, The Technique of Early Greek Sculpture , Oxford University Press, 1933; G. M. A. Richter, The Sculpture and Sculptors of the Greeks, Yale Uni- versity Press, 1930; and Rhys Carpenter, The Sculpture of the Nike Temple Parapet, Harvard University Press, 1929.



[a] Fragment of a Cornice from the Siphnian Treasury. Delphi, Delphi Museum , ( Clarence Kennedy)

tor carved the stone directly and used clay only when his conception required the use of clay as a medium. Bronze was popular, worked by solid casting, by hammering over a wooden core, or by the cire-perdue process.

Geometric and archaic sculpture is the expression of a vigorously growing people. The artist in his struggle* for expression uses simple forms tending to the geometric, with each part a con- ventional device, a symbol created by mind and memory 1 rather than a natu- ralistic rendering based directly upon visual experience. These parts are com- bined architecturally; that is, are built into a perfectly articulated entity.

These qualities we recognize in the Hera of Samos (Fig. 130A). 2 The Hera is basically a cylinder, possibly reflecting a wooden prototype translated into

1 For this explanation see Emanuel Loewy, The Rendering of Mature in Early Greek Art, Lon- don, 1907.

2 One should at least mention among the earliest expressions in the Greek cycle the polychrome wood statues which have inevitably disappeared and the early stone statues, such as the Artemis found at Delos (Athens, National Museum), in which is a timid approach to a rectangular block of stone and an overshadow- ing of the representation by the material.

stone. The goddess stands in frontal pose, feet together, the right arm held tightly to the side, the left bent to the breast, probably holding some attribute.

[b] Head of the Statue of the “ Apollo ” type (Fig. 13 1 a ). Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. (Metropolitan Museum)


[a] Hera of Samos. Marble . H. 6 ft. c. 550 b.c. Louvre , Paris.

[b] Seated Man. From the Sacred Way of the Templt of Apollo near Miletus. 550-530 b.c. British Museum^ London. (British Museum)

The statue is compact, with fine strong contours, particularly as it sweeps out to join the base. There is an indication of the simple planes of the figure in the upper part. Linear conventions carved on the stone indicate linen in the long undergarment and wool in the mantle; and the two are united by a strong curve that repeats the contour curve. The simple quiet harmony of all parts, the long unbroken lines and quiet sur- faces, imbue the Hera with a reposeful majesty. This feeling permeates the seated figures from a temple near Mi-

letus (Fig. 1 30B) . An impression of power derives from the sheer massiveness and weight of the stone, and one of dignity from the simple four-sided organiza- tion, as in the Khafre (Fig. 13A) . Conven- tional devices, breaking up the surfaces, not only represent different kinds of cloth but set up movement over the sur- faces and create varying textures.

Again we are vaguely reminded of Egyptian statues by one of the so-called Apollo figures — in the pose with left foot advanced, in the broad square shoulders, and in the four-sided organi-


[a] Statue of the “ Apollo ” type. H. 6 ft. 4 in. c. 600 b.c. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. (. Metropolitan Museum )

zation (Fig. 131A). Here is a solid figure constructed of a few broad planes defi- nitely related to the block of stone. On these planes anatomical details are in- dicated by shallow groovings or ridges, not obvious, but clearly enough seen to show that each is related to the other in a pattern. The boldly conceived de- vice for the hair, 1 which falls on the back in an angular mass (repeated in the angular fingers), with the half an- gular, half curved knot of the fillet, furnishes a decorative note which com- plements the patternings of the torso

1 This is to be distinguished from the Egyp- tian wig. Greek men wore the hair long until sometime in the fifth century b.c.

and limbs. Notice how the conventional ear (Fig. 129B), in line a continuation of the line of the jaw and in grooving a repetition of the eyelid, is the unifying element of the hair and the face. Al- most any archaic head shows protrud- ing eyes; abrupt transitions between the planes of the face, giving the impression of prominent cheekbones; mouth with upturned corners 2 ; and stylized hair. All the conventions of this statue are cut firmly, and with their repeating

2 Causing the “archaic smile,” which appears to result from the difficulty in making the transi- tion between the lips and the cheeks. For archaic heads of other civilizations see Figs.

■ 225A and b, 227A, 234A.



[a] Votive Figure Found on the Acropolis. [b] Figure Found on the Acropolis. Marble ,

Marble, painted. H. c. 4 ft. Early 5th cent. painted. H. c. 3 ft. Early 3th cent. b.c. b.g. Acropolis Museum, Athens. ( Alinari ) Acropolis Museum, Athens. ( Alinari )

lines and motifs create a formal pattern of great esthetic power.

In time the trend sets in the direction of naturalism, both in pose and in de- tails. The protruding eyes are taking their natural place within the eye socket; the “archaic smile” is disap- pearing; the hair hints at the thickness of its mass; and the drapery at actual deep folds. All this we see in the female figures, probably votive, found on the Acropolis at Athens (Figs. 132A and

b). All of them stand in the same frontal position, left foot advanced, right hand holding up the mantle, left arm bent at the elbow and extended as if holding something. The ladies here represented wear linen chitons, indi- cated by ripple marks, and woolen mantles that fall in broad conventional folds from the right shoulder. The marble is undercut along the edge of the folds, giving a feeling of depth, and is painted to represent the decorative

[b] Temple of Aphaia at Aegina, Eastern Pediment. Incident from the Trojan War. Con- jectural restoration by Furtwangler . c. 500 b.c. Glyptothek , Munich .


border and the allovcr pattern of the goods. The elaborately dressed hair falls down behind in conventional waves, and a few locks, separating, fall over the breast. Notwithstanding the vigorous, half-abstract, decorative beauty in these statues, one feels, pos- sibly, an overelaboration and a lack of

that perfect unity of all details found in the Apollo.

The early reliefs have the same sty- listic character as the early sculpture in the round, and in addition solve the problem peculiar to relief: the sug- gestion of a greater depth than is meas- urably present.



[a] Horses from a Frieze on the Treasury of the Siphnians, Delphi, c. 525 b.c. ( Clarence Kennedy) The analyses show: a., the dominating organization of rhythmically related curves: b } a subordinate and more rapid rhythm of straight lines: c, repeated line patterns: d, the arrangement of the figures in depth on planes parallel with the plane of the background, an organization especially appropriate for a decorative relief Compare the strong but controlled rhythms in this and in the Parthenon frieze (Figs. 142 a, 144 a) with the more violent rhythms found in the reliefs of the Hellenistic period (Figs. 160 A, 162 a).

[a] Temple of fern at Olympia, Western Pediment. Battle of Centaurs and Lapiths. Re- stored by Treu. c. 460 B.c.


A solution of this problem we find in the friezes on the Siphnian Treasury 1 (Fig. 134A), where the horses give a sense of vivid life, a feeling of the figure in space, and a decorative effectiveness. Space is indicated by a series of shallow parallel planes, with sharp edges which give em- phasis to the contours of the horses’ necks, bodies, and tails. The broad carv- ing of the bodies seems to insist upon the chief planes, while the conventions for the manes and the tails break these planes in certain areas to add move- ment and texture to the design.

We have already begun to see the path of evolution which the cycle is taking. Starting with simple, almost geometric forms, with conventional de- vices for details, all of which are brought into a harmonious unit possessing deco- rative beauty, the sculptor begins to temper these forms by observing nature and making his statue represent a little more of what the eye actually sees.

The pedimental figures of the Tem- ple of Aegina (Fig. 133B) illustrate this change. The scene probably represents some episode from the Trojan War. Athena, with aegis and spear, stands in the center, with fighting groups ar- ranged in a balanced position on either side. In each group a warrior with hel- met, shield, and drawn sword attacks his falling opponent, to whose help a friend rushes with outstretched arms. Behind him an archer, with bent knee, takes aim at the warrior; a fallen

wounded soldier occupies the corner. The most noticeable thing in the group is the freedom of movement and variety of pose. The figures are modeled with a vigor and an understanding of the human physique that reflect a careful observation of nature. The Archer (Fig.

1 33 a), for example, is complicated in pose in comparison with the statues that we have studied; but the form is so compact and so simple in outline as to be almost geometrical. It is the con- trasting direction of line seen in the vertical of the back, the horizontal of the arm, and the diagonal of the firmly braced leg that gives one so strong an impression of the powerful draw upon the bow, and at the same time a feeling of the perfect equilibrium of the whole figure. Many of the conventions are still present; the angular motifs in the cuirass, for example, strike a harmoni- ous note in the total angularity of the figure.

The use of figures in the round to decorate the pediment of the temple posed the Greek a problem with which he struggled from the earliest temples of which we have evidence to the Par- thenon. A gable is a space difficult to fill without being too obvious in treating the central axis and the narrow corners. On the old Temple of Athena at Athens the Three-bodied Monster (Acropolis Mu- seum), with coiling tail and bold con- ventional coloring, in its simple direct- ness must have been peculiarly deco-



[a] Three-sided Relief Sometimes called the il Ludovisi Throne.” Subject unknown. Marble. H. 40 in. c. 480 b.c. Terme (National) Museum, Rome. (Alinari)

[b] Figure from the Eastern Pediment of the Temple of Z^) Olympia. Marble. H. c. 3 ft. c. 460 B.G.

rative. At Aegina , while any judgment is hazardous because of the uncertainty in the arrangement of the fragments, the figures seem somewhat forced in pose and unrelated. At Olympia, how- ever, in the Temple of Zeus, despite the fragmentary remains, unity is discerni- ble, together with unobtrusive move- ment from corner to apex.

On the western pediment is repre- sented the Battle of the Centaurs and Lap- iths (Fig. 135A). In the center stands Apollo, calmly majestic as if witnessing the scene but not of it. On each side are the Combatants, in balanced group- ings of twos and threes, with reclining figures in the corners. In comparison with the pediment of Aegina the design is complicated, and the unity among the figures and their relation to the space are more subtle. Apollo (Fig. 137A) stands austerely erect, the outstretched arm and turn of the head balancing the vertical of the body, and producing an

effect that is architecturally fitting and monumental. There is simple modeling without detail in both the figure and the drapery, which is arranged in broad folds that enhance the majestic effect. The figure has great vitality and at the same time poise and restraint, so that both the conception and the expression harmonize in their forceful directness. In a detail from the eastern pediment (Fig. 1 36B), the clear, definite relation- ship of parts is evident. This sculpture at Olympia, simple, direct, of monu- mental breadth and animating power, constitutes for many the climax of Greek sculpture, and has served as a stimula- tion to and a point of affinity with some modern sculptors — Maillol, for ex- ample (Fig. 776A). The same qualities are equally apparent in the metopes of this temple.

This balance between the ideal of thought form (conventions, symbols) and the ideal of seen form (visual ap- pearance), which manifests itself in a restrained naturalism and in a feeling for material, we see again in the so- called Ludovisi Throne (Fig. 136A), neither the purpose nor the subject of which is definitely known. As decorative design we have a composition of single curves and S-curves about the central head, with stabilizing verticals in the folds of drapery. The beautiful texture of the Stone, the feeling of order and logic in the inseparable unity of stone and fig- ure, the skilled, sensitive cutting of the varied conventions for hair and textiles, conventions which are quite under the control of the firm organization yet lend to it a living quality through their un- obtrusive variations — these attributes


[a] Myron. Discobolus. Reconstructed copy of the bronze original. Ter me ( National ) Museum , Rome.

make this relief of outstanding value. 1

As an example of the bronze work of the late archaic age, the Charioteer of Delphi (Fig. 139 a) will serve. The dark color with reflections and sharp contours, the crisp edges of the details necessitated by the darkness of the ma- terial, are characteristic of work in bronze. The statue belonged to a group with chariot and horses, and was prob- ably erected to commemorate a victory at the races. It represents a youthful aristocrat who stands firmly on both feet, holding the reins in his outstretched 1 This late archaic art from about 480 to 450 b.c. is usually known as the transitional age. It is well to recall that this is the generation fol- lowing the Persian Wars.

hand. He is dressed in the customary garment of a driver, girdled high and held in at the shoulders and the back to keep it from flapping. The hair is confined by a band tied behind. The eyes, which are made of glass paste and shaded by lashes of hairlike strips of bronze (a curiously inconsistent detail, an example of virtuosity in attempted naturalism but fortunately inconspicu- ous), and the slightly parted lips add vivacity to the face. We feel the auster- ity of archaic work in the figure, espe- cially in the lower part, where the folds of the dress have almost the architec- tural quality of a fluted column; in the sharp lines of the brow; and in the con- ventional way in which the hair is worked above the band. But we notice also the naturalistic curls below the band; the masterly modeling in the hand and in the feet, the toes of which are clutching the floor of the chariot; the slight twist of the torso that gives one the feeling of an organic structure beneath the dress. The statue is a por- trait, yet there are but few individual- istic traits about it. Broad generalization characterizes it so far as representation is concerned. As in the sculptures at Olympia, monumental conception com- bines with directness and dignity of ex- pression.

Another bronze of this age, the Discob- olus (Discus-thrower) of Myron 2 (Fig. 138A), contrasts with the Charioteer in its movement, unusual for the fifth century b.c. Here an instantaneous pose has been caught between the backward and the forward thrust of the arm in hurling the quoit, and out of it, by means of formal qualities, has been made an ab- stract expression of concentrated force. For although the human figure has been used to convey the idea, we are primar-

2 The original of this statue is lost. A con- siderable number of copies exist, from which Figure 138A is constructed. For the question of copies in Greek sculpture see Richter, op. tit.



ily aware of the great sweep of an arc beginning with the quoit, moving along the right arm, the curve of the shoul- ders, down the left arm, taken up in the right leg, and so strongly felt that its very momentum easily carries the eye over the space back to the quoit. Gutting across and finally uniting with this arc is a great S-curve, and a sta- bilizing vertical, the axis, from shoulder to weight-holding leg. The face, con- trary to what we should expect at such an intense moment, is impassive and broadly generalized. Such a free, non- compact pose, suitable for bronze, again shows the artist’s complete understand- ing of the capacity of his material. This sensitivity to bronze is seen in two horses (Figs. 140A and b) which show

[a] Charioteer of Delphi. Bronze. H. 6 ft. Part of a chariot group. Delphi Museum. (Alinari)

the same feeling for material and also, by comparison, the same trend toward naturalism in the animal as in the hu- man figure. This new naturalism, how- ever, is used with great discretion, and the impression of energetic spirit results largely from the use of archaic conven- tions, moderately tempered.

A statue that brings us to the end of the transitional age is the Athena Lemnia of Phidias 1 (Fig. 1 41 a), which stood on the Acropolis at the left side of the

1 While it cannot be proved conclusively that tliis statue is a copy of the original bronze by Phidias, it is generally thought to be so. The body is now in Dresden, the head in Bologna — a fact easily explained, since Greek statues were often ; made of several pieces of marble, a finer quality being used for the head.

I 4 ,Q


[a] Statuette of a Horse. Bronze. H. c. 7 in. 8th cent. b.g. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. {Metro- politan Museum )

road that leads from the great gate- way to the Parthenon. She stands erect, though with more freedom of pose than the Charioteer. She wears the woolen Doric chiton, which falls in rich folds, somewhat severe, and over this the aegis. The head is turned to the right and slightly lowered. Contrary to the usual representations, she does not wear her helmet, but carries it in her hand. Thus Phidias has emphasized her more gracious aspect — “the thoughtful Athena with the delicate cheeks,” ac- cording to a Latin writer. One here dis- cerns a sculptor governed by what his eye sees, yet by no means absolutely. The figure is an organic structure with capacity for movement; the drapery, undercut to suggest depth, begins to look like cloth and falls in more casual folds; the mass of hair has volume, though the details are conventionally treated; the features, though general- ized and broadly carved, take their natural places as part of the structure of the head.

[b] Statuette of a Horse. Bronze. H. c. 14, in. c. 470 b.g. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. [Metropolitan Museum)

Some, as has been said, see in the sculpture of the late archaic age the climax of the Greek cycle. Others see it in the Parthenon sculpture. It is a moot point whether the sculpture of the Par- thenon, even in parts, is the work of Phidias. His most famous statues, the Athena of the Parthenon and the Zeus of the temple at Olympia, were made of gold and ivory, and hence have long since disappeared, and our knowledge of his art can best be gained through the sculptural decorations of the Parthenon, which we know were made under his supervision, and which may be, in parts, actually by his hand.

The sculptural decorations of the Par- thenon are found at three points: the pediments, the metopes, and an addi- tional continuous frieze 1 which ran around the top of the cella wall and thus inside the colonnade. The metopes provide movement by compositions of

1 Not to be confused with the regular Doric frieze of triglyphs and metopes. This continuous frieze, an Ionic feature, is unusual.



[a] Phidias {?). Athena Lemnia. {See note 1, p. 139)

two struggling interlocking figures in high relief — Centaurs and Lapiths, gods and giants, Greeks and Amazons.

The subject of the eastern pediment (Fig. 14.4c), the ancient writers tell us, was the birth of Athena, who sprang full-armed from the head of Zeus. Again, the remains are fragmentary, but from a drawing made by a Frenchman trav- eling in Athens in 1674 we can get a glimpse of part of the composition. In the left corner, the sun god Helios in his chariot is rising out of the sea. Only the head, the shoulders, and the arms of Helios and the heads of the horses are shown. The horses approach a seated male figure turned toward them, which may personify Mt. Olympus, though it

is usually identified as Dionysus. Closely connected are two seated figures, prob- ably Demeter and Persephone, ap- proached by a standing figure. The center is entirely gone. On the right are three seated female figures closely grouped, one turned toward the center. In the corner projecting over the cornice is seen the head of one. of the horses of Selene, the moon goddess, who is sink- ing into the west as Helios rises in the east. In the Three Fates, as the group of three seated female figures is called (Fig. 143B), there is a quiet majesty, a highly generalized form with all the elements of the human structure ex- pressed in their essential aspects only, and a balance between the material and



[a] Parthenon Frieze, Northern Side. Cavalcade of Mounted Youths, metal and affixed by rivets, the holes for which are seen in the horses'

the subject matter. The single figure at the left is in the frontal position, is four-sided, and quite one with the block of marble, although there is consider- able movement in the limbs and head. The drapery, though by comparison with the archaic it is decidedly natural- istic, upon close observation is seen to create a definite undulating pattern. So, notwithstanding the advance of nat- uralism, we find sculpture that still recognizes the integrity of the material and which is monumental in its breadth and serene majesty.

The frieze along the top of the cella wall, in very low relief, was seen in half- light against a colored ground between the columns, enriching the plain wall and bringing movement into a static composition. It represents the Panaihe- naic procession, which took place every four years when the citizens of Athens gathered in the market place and car- ried to the Parthenon the peplos or robe for the statue of Athena. In the part of the frieze that decorated the western side of the building the procession is forming — youths are lacing their san- dals, holding their horses or mounting, guided by marshals who stand at inter- vals, and particularly at the corners, to

slow down the movement and guide the horsemen at the turn. In the friezes of the two long sides the procession moves in parallel lines, a cavalcade of spirited youths, chariots, elders, jar-carriers, and animals for sacrifice. The movement becomes slower and more solemn as it nears the eastern side, when after turn- ing the corner it approaches the seated divinities, who appear to be guests of Athena at her great festival. 1 The caval- cade of mounted youths (Fig. 142 a) is filled with rhythmic movement and spirited action. The backward glance of some of the youths gives a balance to the general forward movement of the procession; and the infinite variety in the poses of the youths and the horses frees it from any feeling of monotony. There is a flat background with no dis- tance and no unnecessary details. We have, in fact, all the essential elements of a procession of spirited youths ex- pressed with a naturalism tempered by decorative fitness. Notice how the fig- ures just fill the space; how the heads,

1 A convenient and inexpensive reproduction of the entire frieze, which is necessary for a realization of the unity of composition and the rhythmic flow of line, is published by the Uni- versity Prints, Newton, Massachusetts.


Accessories, such as the bridles and reins , were painted on or made of heads. Marble. H. 40 in. British Museum , London. {Mansell)


whether the figures are standing or mounted, are on a level 1 ; how the flanks of the horses form a central band of largely unbroken surface, and their legs beat a rapid rhythm in the lower third of the panel. Originally details and ac-

1 This particular practice of distorting natural proportions for decorative purpose is known as isocephaly (heads equal, or on a level). It is a practice by no means limited to Greece. Indeed i* is universal.

cents were stressed by color and even by bronze reins added - — a disconcert- ingly realistic detail. In the slab repre- senting the jar-carriers (Fig. 144A) the insistent motif of a youth carrying a jar upon his right shoulder is repeated, making a design of decorative quality, ease, and grace of rhythm that is readily felt but only understood when one ob- serves the subtle variations that occur in the pose of the head, the arms, and

[b] Parthenon , Eastern Pediment . Three Female Figures , called the “ Three Fates.” British Museum , London. (. British Museum )



[a] Parthenon Frieze , Northern Side. Jar-Carriers. Acropolis Museum , Athens. [Mansell)

[b] School of Poly- clitus. Maiden. Bronze. H. 10 in. yth cent, b.c, Antiquarium Munich. ( Clarence Kennedy)

[g] Birth of Athena. Parthenon , Eastern Pedi- ment. c. 438 b.c. Draw- ing by Jacques Carrey , a.d. 1674. Bibliotheque Nalionale , Paris.

the hands, and in the arrangement of the drapery.

A contemporary of Phidias was Poly- clitus, whose well-known interest in working out an ideal set of proportions

for the human figure 1 is illuminating

1 Illustrated in his Doryphorus, the statue of an athlete called the Canon. It exists only in hard dry Roman copies found in the museum at Naples and elsewhere.


because it enables us to co-ordinate the interests of sculptor and of builder and to realize that they are identical; namely, the refinement of proportions. Something of the Polyclitan style we see in a bronze statuette of a Maiden with turbanlike headdress (Fig. 144B). The weight rests on the right foot; the left foot is slightly raised, so that the figure is thrown into an easy pose. The little statue is simply constructed, with suavely flowing planes causing high lights on the reflecting surfaces to set up a quiet rhythm — a design well suited to the bronze medium.

The style of Phidias and of Polyclitus dominated Greek sculpture during the late fifth century b.c. when the Greek’s objective became, more definitely, nat- ural appearance. A fragment from the balustrade of the Temple of Athena Mike (Fig. 1 45 a) has a little flavor, perhaps, of virtuosity in the extraordinary skill shown in revealing the figure beneath the drapery, and in the slight turning- away from a perfect balance between stone and cloth to a slight overbalance on the side of an illusion of cloth. At the same time there is a masterly expres- sion of movement, quite abstract, in the folds which hang between the arm and the leg, a rhythmic flow of concentric curves, to secure which seems to have been the reason for the uplifted leg — an excellent example of the use of pose or gesture to obtain an effect of lyric charm.


That schools of painting existed, and paralleled sculpture in an evolution from geometric and conventional to naturalistic, we know from literary evi- dence, from the powerful influence they exerted on pottery decoration, and from Roman copies, But the actual paintings are entirely gone, the mural paintings in the stoas and other public build-

[a] Nike Fixing Her Sandal. From the Temple of Athena Mike. 421-4.15 b.c. Acropolis Museum , Athens.

ings as well as the panel pictures. As shadowy to us as ghosts are these fa- mous painters so far as our visual knowl- edge of their work is concerned. There was Polygnotus, contemporary of Phid- ias, who was a painter as well as a sculptor. Polygnotus attempted, by placing figures one above another, to suggest depth. He used a very limited range of color, and appears to have created, with others, as grandly monu- mental a style in painting as the sculp- tors attained in the temple at Olympia and in the Parthenon. Then there was Apollodorus the “Shadow-Maker” (fifth century), who seems to have experi- mented with the use of shadow to make his figures appear round, in conformity with, the general naturalistic trend of the day.

[a] The Amphora (; meaning to carry on both sides, referring to the two handles) was a vessel for storing provisions — wine , corn , oil, honey. It had an opening large enough to admit a ladle and usually a cover to protect the contents, [b] The Cylix {from the Greek root “to roll,” referring to the vases being turned onthe wheel) was the chief form of the drinking cup. [c] The Oinochoe ( from the Greek verb “to pour out wine”) was the wine jug. The lip is pinched into a trefoil shape, which facilitates pouring. Vase painting showing a youth pouring wine from a slender, high-handled oinochoe into a cylix held by his companion while another youth approaches carrying an amphora.



Among the elements of the Aegean culture that the Greek appears to have taken over and expanded was the pot- tery trade. In the course of time, as in- creasing exports created a demand for containers for such substances as oil and honey in addition to articles for general household use, the potters’ quarters at

Athens, known as the Ceramicus , 1 came to be no inconsiderable part of the city.

While the Mycenaean was fashioning his stately Palace Style jars (Figs. 115A and b), among the Greeks a new kind of pottery was appearing, of simple, rug- ged shape, with geometric decoration and occasional abstract natural forms.

1 Situated both inside and outside the Dipy- lon Gate. The name is derived from the Greek word for “potter,” whence our “ceramics.”



[a] The Hydria ( from the Greek word for “water”) was the water jar, used chiefly to bring water from the spring. It has three handles , two for lifting and one for carrying. Vase painting showing two youths filling their hydriae at a fountain, [b] The Lecythos {oil flask ) has a long, narrow neck adapted to pouring oil slowly. It was used chiefly in funeral rites. Vase paint- ing showing two men at a tomb; on the plinth are lecythi, oinochoe, a crater , a lyre, and a wreath. [c] The Grater (from the Greek verb “to mix”) was the bowl for mixing the wine and water, the usual beverage of the Greek; hence it had a wide mouth. Vase painting showing a youth filling his cylix from a crater.

In comparison with the Cretan, the decorative scheme and its relation to the shape seem to have been intellectu- ally considered rather than spontane- ously felt. This Geometric pottery, made from about 1 100 to 800 b.c., culminated in the Dipylon ware, 1 of which a large funerary amphora (Figs. 148A, 146 a) is

1 So called because these vases have been found in great numbers in the cemetery near the Dipylon Gate of Athens.

an example. Its vigorous shape and small handles, none too sensitively pro- portioned, are decorated in a rich brown glaze on light clay, with bands contain- ing geometric motifs and human figures. The latter occur with extreme rarity in Aegean pottery. Here we see the Greek concentrating upon his chief concern, man. The subject is a funeral proces- sion. Though the drawing is primitive and the figures are symbolical, the deco-

[a] Detail from a Dipylon Vase.

[b] Geometric Amphora. Dipylon Style. Colossal size. 8 ih cent. b.g. National Museum, Athens. Such vases were erected as monuments over tombs. The scene in the band between the handles represents a funeral with the deceased lying on a bier surrounded by mourners. yf yy

rative quality is far more effective than in later, more naturalistic drawing (Fig. 164A). As we stand by these huge Dipy- lon jars we feel something of the maj- esty of the Hera of Samos (Fig. 130A), whose prototypes were probably being carved in wood when the Dipylon pe- riod was at its height.

Considering the extent of his pottery- making, the number of shapes which the Greek used is surprisingly small. Having worked out a few, each according to its functional requirements, he devoted himself to refining proportions, con- tours, placement of the handles, and decoration. Here again is the same in- terest in refinements within narrow lim- itations that we saw was a dominant interest in architecture and sculpture. Of these shapes those most frequently found are: the amphora, the general stor- age jar (Fig. 146 a); the hydria, the water jar (Fig. 147A); the crater, the bowl for mixing wine (Fig. 1470); the cylix, the drinking-cup (Fig. 146B); the oinochoe, the wine pitcher (Fig. 146c); and the lecythos, the oil flask (Fig. 147B). In determining the uses of these vases 1 we are guided by the paintings on the pottery; for in these paintings the Greeks have given us an amazing revelation of their everyday life (Fig. 153A),

1 The common, though misleading, term generally used in speaking of Greek pottery. One needs to remember that these “vases” were largely the pots and pans of everyday life and the containers used by the trader, though some were used for religious and funereal purposes.



[a] Corinthian Oinochoe. Black and purple figures on a yellowish-brown clay base. H. #§ in. First quarter 6 th cent. b.c. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mew York City, ( Metropolitan Museum )

As the Greek expanded his trade and colonization, we see evidences in his pot- tery of closer contact with the older civilizations of the Near East. Rows of animals (Fig. 149 a); winged beasts, and rosettes recall Assyria (Fig. 95A); the lotus, Egypt. With the passing of the seventh century b.c. the Greek drew in upon his chief concern — himself and his immediate interests, secular and re- ligious. The animal friezes and geo- metric motifs, often so decorative and suitable as motifs on a curving surface, disappeared before the frankly human- istic attitude. Probably no other people have used the human figure so pre- ponderantly in ceramic decoration as did the Greeks.

The Frangois Vase (Fig. 149B) is a crater with volute handles, of extraor- dinary vigor both in its shape and in its proportion, and decorated with concen- tric bands filled with human and ani- mal figures. These are painted in a

[b] Frangois Crater. H. c. 2 ft. First half 6 th cent. b.c. Named after the man who found it in a grave in Italy. Archeological Museum , Florence. (Furtwangler-Reichhold)

brownish-black glaze with touches of white or purple on the natural reddish clay, which is left as a background. On the foot, in the battle of the cranes and pigmies, is animated movement and decorative patterning. The rays above happily suggest the spreading move- ment of the surface of the crater, but this is halted abruptly by the horizontal bands, in some of which one feels the preponderance of the narrative interest over the decorative. Here are pictured various mythological scenes, the Caly- donian hunt, the funeral games of Pa- troclus, the procession of the gods to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis.

Soon the touches of white and purple tended to disappear, leaving the figure in black alone against the reddish clay (known as the black-figured style). The glaze had now, after centuries of experi- ment, become a velvety jet-black color. In this glaze the figures were painted on the natural red clay and the details


[a] Amphora , Painted hy Exekias. Ajax and Achilles Playing Draughts. Black- figured. 550-525 b.c. Vati- can, Pome. ( Furtwangler - Reichhold) The analysis re- veals a basic egg shape and a subtle relationship of part to part. The jar probably had a cover which contributed to the shape and proportions.

incised with some hard pointed instru- ment, exposing the red beneath. Occa- sionally a little white and purple were added. The zonal arrangement disap- peared and in its place a few larger figures furnished the decoration, some- times grouped in a reserved panel, as in an amphora of Exekias (Fig. 150A). This is a strong compact shape in which the handles not only harmonize with the curve as an integral part of the de- sign, but are attached in such a way

that they appear to fulfill their function of supporting the weight. The surface is painted solid black, except for the band with rays just above the base, the decorated panel on the body, and the handles. In the large panel we see Ajax and Achilles seated on stools, bend- ing intently over their game of draughts. Ajax, on the right, as the inscription tells us, calls out “Three”; Achilles, on the left, “Four.” It is a close game. All the elements make for a design that is


I 5'

[a] Cylix Painted by Euphronios. Cattle of Geryon. Red-figured. D.ij in. c.500 b.c. Munich. (Furtwangler-Reichhold)

balanced, yet subtly .varied: one hero is helmeted, the other not; r slight differ- ences occur in the position of the limbs and the spears and the decoration of the shields. There is much greater natural- ism than formerly in the pose and the proportion of the figures, and greater

freedom in drawing. The skill and sure- handedness seen in the profusion and the delicacy of the incised lines of the hair, and in the very elaborate cloaks, are a delight in themselves. We recog- nize a kinship, stylistically but without infringement of medium, between this



work and archaic sculpture in the for- mal and decorative beauty of the figures and of the schematic devices used for details. A cylix of Exekias (Fig. 154A), with a representation of Dionysus sail- ing over the sea carrying his gifts to mankind, is even more decorative in its adaptation of the figures to the circular shape.

In Figure 15 1 A, we notice a change from black figures on red to red figures on black (known as the red-figured style) . The natural reddish clay was covered with a red slip and polished. The decorator then incised his design on the clay, next painted it, frequently in a slightly raised line, and finally filled in the background with black glaze. The advantage of the red-figured proc- ess over the black-figured was that a line painted by a brush was more free and facile than one incised by a metal tool. The school of painting that was rapidly developing at this time in Athens was probably a primary influence on the style of pottery decoration. And the pop- ularity of the cylix at this time may be due to the fact that its broad flatfish surfaces offered a large enough area for groups of figures. Yet, paradoxically, the potter was concentrating, as were the builders and the carvers, upon the ni- ceties of form — proportion, thinness of walls, character of profile, integration of handle with body. Nor did he en- large his limited color scheme: the pol- ished coppery red against a velvety black that creates such an effect of reserved elegance. Yet one feels creep- ing into the craft a conflict between ceramics — the art of clay shapes with suitable decoration — and painting; be- tween clinging to the limitation of the medium and vying with the painter. In fact, some of the inscriptions on the pottery say that So-and-So “made me” So-and-So “painted me.” This shows an attempt to combine the two arts — to the advantage of neither. And yet

another art seems to have influenced the craft, that of the metalworker. Greek pottery was thrown on the wheel and turned until it was highly refined. As a result, in its rigidly perfect walls and contours and in the exceptional thin- ness of its walls, it participates in quali- ties peculiar to metalwork.

In the cylix of Euphronios (Fig. 151 a) are represented scenes from one of the labors of Heracles, the cattle of Geryon — on one side the fight over the cattle, on the other side the animals being driven away by four youths. Though the narrative element is lively, the"effect is still primarily decorative. In the herd of cattle the flat silhouettes of the bodies are shaped to the space, and in the cen- tral disk the figures of the youth and the horse form a compact pattern that seems to partake of the rotary motion of the circle and at the same time to restrain that movement by the severely angular lines of the cloak. To compose the figures pictorially also concerned the decorator. All the figures are drawn with fine firm lines that have a decora- tive quality of their own.

From the point of view of drawing the human figure, as a problem isolated from ceramics, it is interesting to note a gradual progression toward visual ap- pearance, a problem which occupied the Greek from the time of the Dipylon ware. In proportion as he neared his objective he seemed to lose his feeling for ceramic decoration, to allow the painter’s objectives to triumph over ceramic requirements, even though he kept the figure flat, drew and modeled with line alone, and included no details of background except a few hints in ab- stract form. This is true on some of the amphoras, in which the human figure is bent over the shoulder of the jar, thus marring the effect of figure drawing and adding nothing to decorative fitness.

The metalworker occupied a position as important as the potter’s, and his


r 53

[a] Scene in a School. From a cylix painted by Duns. Red-figured. On the left the Athenian boy is taking a lesson on the lyre; in the center he is reciting before a master who is following with his scroll; at the right sits the boy's slave, who accompanies him to school; on the wall hang cylixes and lyres. (Furtwangler-Reichhold)

wares reflect the general style of his day. Bronze was always a favorite me- dium with the Greeks, who used it widely, not only for sculpture but also for various kinds of utensils — pots and pans, dishes for the table, sacrificial ves- sels, tools, weapons.

Another art, involving both metal- work and intaglio engraving, is seen in the coins. Strange though it may seem, the finest Greek coins were struck not at Athens nor even anywhere in con- tinental Greece, but in Magna Graecia, particularly at Syracuse in Sicily. In the Demareteion 1 (Fig. 1543a), on the ob- verse is a four-horse chariot, with a Vic- tory flying above; in the segment below, a running lion; and about the edge, a row of dots. On the reverse a profile head, perhaps of the nymph Arethusa,

1 These coins are named after Demarete, wife of the tyrant Gelon. According to one story, after their defeat at Himera the Carthaginians obtained very favorable terms from Gelon through the influence of Demarete, to whom

they gave a large amount of silver from which these coins were struck.

in a faint circle, is surrounded by four dolphins with a Greek inscription which reads in translation “of the Syracusans.” The coin is thicker and less even in shape than modern coins, and the metal runs up around the edge on one side of the reverse. This is because Greek coins were struck by hand on an anvil that held the die, 2 without a circular frame to keep the metal .from running over the edge. The relief, too, is higher than in modern coins, for the Greek was not hampered by the modern necessity for “stacking.” Though the object is small, there is a quiet orderliness and a feeling of amplitude. The circle of the disk is repeated by the dolphins and the inner ring, until the eye inevitably reaches the head in the center. The design is clear and effective, particu- larly when it is compared with that of later coins decorated with the same motif, in which the naturalistic tend- ency has entailed decorative loss. Fig-

2 Of course the skill of the engraver lay in the cutting of the die in intaglio, of which the finished coin is an impression.


[a] Inside of a Cylix Painted by Exekias. Di- onysus Sailing over the Sea. Black-figured. D. 142 in. 550-525 b.c. Munich. ( Furtwangler - Reichhold)

[b] Silver Coins of Syracuse . a. Dema- reteion. c. 475 b.c. b. “ Medallion ” signed by Euaenetus. Late 5th cent. b.c. British Mu- seum, London.


[a] Gem. Stag. Intaglio. Rock Crystal. W. i ~6 i n - 5& 1 cent ‘ B - G - Museum of Fine Arts , Boston. ( Boston Museum)

[b] Gem. Flying Heron. Engraved by Dexamenos. Bluish chalcedony. L. s in. 450-440 b.g. Hermitage, Leningrad.

ure i54Bb is an example. Here the relief is still higher, casting considerable shadow; the hair is arranged natural- istically, with ringlets to soften the contours; the dolphins are subordinate because of the larger size of the head; a circle of dots encloses the design. On the reverse is the victorious four-horse chariot, seen three-quarters view, dash- ing forward under the lash of the driver, toward whom a Victory is flying with the crown; in the segment below is a suit of armor, the prize of the race . 1

Another activity of the engraver lay in the carving of gems that were mounted in rings and used as seals. Perhaps an inheritance from the Cretan was the love of animal and bird forms and their frequent use on the seals (Fig. 155A). In the Flying Heron (Fig. 155B) we see a sympathetic observation of nature in the erect head, the legs thrust back, and the position of the wings. The oval shape of the body, repeating the oval shape of the seal, combines with the sharp angles of the beak and the wings, cut with firm crisp lines, to create a design admirably adapted to the shape of the gem. Like the coins, the gems are relief sculpture in miniature. In carving them

1 This coin, type is indicative of the popu- larity of chariot-racing in Syracuse.

the craftsman probably used a metal drill with powdered emery and oil, so that the process required not only keen eyesight but- a very sensitively trained touch and a patience that considered neither time nor money.


Greek art from its earliest days to the late fifth century passed through two stages of the evolution of the Greek style: the archaic, and the climax or classic. In all its manifestations it dis- played niceties of relationship within extraordinary limitations.

The temple was the chief type of building. It was small in size and simple in plan, and during these centuries ad- mitted little variation. But its propor- tions and the interrelationships of its details were increasingly refined, until it reached a climax in the Doric Par- thenon and the Ionic Erechtheum.

Sculpture served two functions: to add color, movement, and enrichment to the exterior surfaces of the temple, and to supply votive and commemora- tive statues. Bronze and polychromed stone were the chief materials, The style, by a Series of experiments and by tem- pering conventional devices with natu-



[a] Demeter. From the temple of Demeter at Cnidus. Marble, c. 350 b.g. British Museum , London. [Clarence Kennedy )

ralism, evolved from the geometric and early archaic to the climax stage of its cycle either in the late archaic, as at Olympia, or in the work of the Periclean age. All this sculpture shows a broadly generalized, impersonal aspect of the figure, with attention upon proportions and increasing movement.

Pottery and metalwork followed the same trend. Shapes remained the same but submitted to refinement of propor- tions and precision of contour. And though probably in the fifth century decorators were too much under the influence of the contemporary school of painting, still they revealed ability in composing figures within areas diffi- cult to fill.

Fourth-Century and Hellenistic Art


T HE disastrous Peloponnesian War left Greece drained of its strength and reduced Athens politically to a sec- ondary place. Sparta and then Thebes took the leadership, both unsuccessfully, until Philip of Macedon, shrewdly play- ing upon mutual jealousies, brought the country into subjection and a semblance of unity. The work of his son Alexander was to spread Hellenic culture over large areas of the East by his conquests. Athens was no longer the center of this civilization, but only a provincial city- state in comparison with the magnifi- cent cosmopolitan metropolises of Asia Minor and Egypt — Ephesus, Rhodes, Pergamon, Alexandria (Fig. 121A).

Another result of the Peloponnesian War was to turn the Greek from his ideal of the state to that of the in- dividual. “Know thyself/ 5 Socrates had taught as he went about daily among the people in the streets, the agora, and the gymnasium and by questioning en- deavored to help them to gain “wis- dom” empirically, to weigh and judge out of their own experience rather than to consult an oracle. The serene ideal- ism of the fifth century that was born of a simple robust faith and had pro- duced the Parthenon and Sophocles gave way to the unrest of skepticism, to real- ism, and to the intellectual independ- ence of Plato and Aristotle. The spirit of eager inquiry, inherited from the earlier Ionian philosophers and mathe- maticians, became a truly scientific mentality in such thinkers as Aristotle and Archimedes, and made valuable contributions to science, measuring with fair accuracy the circumference and the


  • 57

[a] Corinthian Capital. From the Temple of the Olympian %eus, Athens. W. 8% ft. National Museum, Athens.

diameter of the earth, long since known to be spherical, and discovering many facts about astronomy, geometry, the natural sciences, and medicine.

While Greece had been passing through the cycle of growth, flower- ing, and decay, Rome, in the Italian peninsula, had been slowly developing. Gradually it had conquered Italy, Sicily, and Carthage, and then, partly through circumstance and partly through desire for expansion, it came eastward, de- feated the Macedonian power, and made Greece a Roman province. While this was a political victory, it was not a cultural one. Hellenic ideas continued to dominate both in the East and in the West, though deeply modified by the taste of the victors, and under new con- ditions even furnished many of the fun- damentals of medieval culture.


The result of the Peloponnesian War was a cessation of building in the coun- tries immediately affected. But in Asia Minor there was great activity, and the Ionic temple reached a climax of gran- deur, if not of refinement, in the Temple

of Artemis {Diana) at Ephesus, a perip- teral temple with a double colonnade and elaborately sculptured bases for many of the columns 1 — an illustration of the emphasis upon ornament for its own sake at the expense of the clarity, unity, and proportion of the fifth-cen- tury temples.

The more varied, complex, and cos- mopolitan culture, especially of the Hel- lenistic age, created a demand for a greater variety of buildings — choralgic and sepulchral monuments {Monument of Lysicrates and Mausoleum of Halicarnas- sus), sumptuous open-air altars {Per- gamon), theaters (at Epidaurus, of Dionysus at Athens), civic structures (stoas), and even for towns and cities as a whole {Priene and Ephesus). For the conception of town-planning in the modern sense had been heretofore largely lacking. Athens, Delphi, Olympia, were groups of buildings set down hit or miss, whereas Priene was laid out on a plan definitely related to the topography of the site and to the activities of the com' munity.

1 For a restoration of this temple see W. J. Anderson and R. P. Spiers, The Architecture of Ancient Greece, Scribner, 1927, PI. L.



[a] Praxiteles. • Hermes with the Infant Dionysus. Marble. H. 7 ft. c. 330 b. c. Olympia.

The Doric order practically disap- peared with the ascendancy of the Ionic and its variant, the Corinthian. It is chiefly the capital (Fig. 157A) that dif- ferentiates the latter two. The Corin- thian capital has a bell-shaped core decorated with two rows' of conven- tionalized acanthus leaves from which rise volutes, the longer ones reaching out to support the corners of the abacus, the shorter uniting with a floral orna-

ment to decorate the core, the whole design successfully effecting the transi- tion from the circular column to the rectangular abacus. The Corinthian or- der was a favorite with the Romans and appears in the Greco-Roman buildings erected after the Romans appeared in the East, such as the Temple of the Olympian ifeus (Figs. 1 59A, 1 23 Ag) , which, though built by Greeks on the plan of the Parthenon (except for the double colonnade), in scale at least and hence in grandiose impressiveness represents a different age and a different ideal from those of the Parthenon on the Acropolis near by.


Changing ideals also made themselves manifest in sculpture, though its func- tion remained much the same as in the sixth and fifth centuries. Skepticism as to the old faith, the enhancement of the individual, reliance upon reason — changes such as these foretokened that the generalization and the impersonal- ity of the fifth century would give way to something individual and personal, to an expression of personal emotions and idiosyncrasies .In the Hermes of Praxiteles (Fig. 1 58A) , for example, one is inclined to feel a definite personal charm more insistently than one feels marble. The god is represented stand- ing, resting his weight on the left arm, a pose that gives an easy curve to the body. On this arm he holds the infant Dionysus, who reaches for something (probably a bunch of grapes) that the god is holding in his right hand. There is a languid ease and grace throughout ' the figure. Hermes is looking not at the child, but off into space, with a dreamy expression in his eyes and a half-smile playing about his mouth; the whole figure, particularly the head, is deep in the mood of reverie. The modeling is exquisite. Soft shadows follow the planes



as they flow imperceptibly one into an- other. The marble is finished with the utmost delicacy, so that over the fea- tures a fleeting expression seems to glide; and the delicacy is enhanced by the contrastingly rough way in which the hair is indicated, and by the deep

[a] Temple of the Olympian Zeus. Athens . 1J4 b.g.-a.d. 131. Columns: H. 56 ft., D. 6 ft. 4 in. For plan see Fig. i2$Ag. {Dmitri Kessel, Life Magazine)

folds of the realistic drapery, whose [ B ] Aphrodite. Found at Cyrene in North

broken masses, again by contrast, stress Africa. Marble, c. 100 b.c. after 4th cent.

the flowing surfaces of the figure. type. Terme ( National ) Museum, Rome. Aphrodites were popular. Something

of their style we may see in the Aphrodite These fourth-century sculptors, how-

of Cyrene (Fig. 159B), and in a Head from ever, did not entirely abandon the tra-

Chios (Boston Museum) in which the features seem veiled, so imperceptibly do the planes merge. Such effects as these can be obtained only by brilliant technical skill in stone-carving. The work of Scopas — to judge from a few rather battered heads — shows inten-

ditions of the fifth century, as we see in the Demeter of Cnidus (Fig. 1 56A) , in which the generalized majesty of Phidias is com- bined with the individual humanness of Scopas and Praxiteles. The goddess is heavily draped in her cloak, one corner of which is drawn up over the back of

sity of feeling, conveyed especially by the head, throwing into relief the qui- means of the upturned head and the etly tragic face. But compare the drap- deep-set eyes shadowed by heavy brows. ery of the Demeter with that of the



[a] Frieze of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, c. 35a b.g. British Museum, London. (. British Museum)

single Fate (Fig. 143B). In the former, the casualness of the folds of actual doth, copying the accidents of natural appearance, has taken the place of a carefully considered design based upon natural appearance. Therein lies one difference between the fourth century and the fifth: The fourth-century (and later) sculptors were motivated by a desire to present in their statues an illusion of natural appearance,* the fifth- century sculptors were motivated by a desire to control their presentations by the limitations imposed by the nature of stone; that is, to reconcile content and medium. This is again illustrated in one of the friezes on the Mausoleum (Fig. i6oa) depicting a fight between Greeks and Amazons. The figures are thin and lithe, somewhat strained in pose; their faces have the same expres- sion of human passion as their bodies; and the restless drapery intensifies the impetuosity that sweeps through the group — all at the expense of those pre- cise formal relationships which made for the decorative beauty of fifth-cen- tury friezes.

An important sculptor of the genera- tion following Praxiteles and Scopas

was Lysippus, court sculptor of Alex- ander the Great. No work of his is known to be extant, but two important innovations of this time may possibly be credited to him. One was the change in taste, noticeable in all the arts, in the matter of proportions. The new canon of taste required a more slender, supple figure. This may, indeed, have been influenced by the second innova- tion (foreshadowed to be sure in earlier work), the realization of the figure in space, truly three-dimensional carving (Fig. i6ia). Volume always exists in a statue in the round, but by no means is there always a visual grasp of space. The earliest figures were in a stiff frontal position, with the planes closely related to the four sides of the stone block, and could be seen best from only one or two positions. Even when the figure was loosened up, especially in the limbs, and then was thrown into a curve, it was still more or less four-sided and seen satisfactorily only from some one or two points of view. In this respect the Apollo (Fig. 1 31 a) and the Hermes (Fig. 158A) are more closely related than the Hermes and the Apoxyomenos (Fig. i6ia). This statue is still limited by the ideal space



[a] Lysippus (?). Copy of the Apoxyome- nos. Marble . Late 4th cent. b.c. Vatican, Rome.

[b] Nike of Samothrace. To commemorate a naval victory in 306 b.c. Louvre, Paris.

determined by the block of stone, but within it the planes swing backward and forward, and from any point of view the eye is carried easily and inevitably through this space. 1

Such a movement of planes is found in the Nike of Samothrace (Fig. i6ib), as is clearly seen if the statue is compared with the Nike of Paeonius, or the Nike

1 Comparisons for three-dimensional quality- can be made intelligently only by seeing the figures from several points of view. Series to illustrate this evolution can be found in Richter, op, cit.

on the east pediment of the Parthenon. The turn in the torso not only guides into depth but produces a feeling of movement that is strongly supplemented by the clinging wind-swept drapery, whose restless curves and minute folds are so complicated that they almost be- come a tour de force. As it is, the sculp- tor just saved himself by bringing their main lines into harmony with the planes of the figure.

The tendency toward restlessness and the expression of intense feeling reached a climax in the Altar at Pergamon, on the


frieze of which is represented the battle pia , and on the Parthenon. It is a matter between the gods and the giants (Fig. of taste.

1 62 a). Athena, moving rapidly toward Realism reached a climax in such the right, clutches one of the winged statues as the Aphrodite of Syracuse, in

giants by the hair, forcing him to the which the feeling for stone as stone has

ground; on the right Earth, mother of quite surrendered to the ambition of

the giants, a half-length figure, looks to making stone look like soft warm flesh.

Athena appealingly; above her, Victory It again reveals itself in the modeling

approaches to crown the goddess. Force of the Pergamon figures; in the Laocoon

is there, powerfully displayed. The (Vatican), in which intensity of emo-

artist obtained it by using- violent con- tion and of movement is seen not only

trasts, such as those in the lines of direc- in the modeling but in the faces and in

tion in the bodies of Athena and the the writhing serpents, which however

giant; by extravagant modeling; and tie the three figures into a compact

by the agonized expression of the faces. group; and in the Hellenistic pictorial

The restless base reflects the baroque reliefs such as the Peasant Going to Mar -

taste of Hellenistic culture, just as the ket (Vienna) . The subject matter be-

austere Olympian and Phidian sculp- came more varied and included genre

tures reflect that of the fifth century. If (Fig. 163A), now trivial or frivolous, now

one wishes violent movement with real- charming, now repulsive — the work

istic details, one finds it at Pergamon; if frequently of high technical excellence,

one wishes quiet movement with con- but hardly of significance,

ventional details clearly related, one In the midst of unconvincing, insig- finds it on the Siphnian Treasury, at Olym- nificant expressions, however brilliant


[a] Old Market Woman. Marble. 2d cent. b.c. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. ( Metropolitan Museum)

[b] Lady with a Fan. Tanagra figurine. Terra cotta, painted. H. 8 in. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

they may be technically, one usually finds archaistic tendencies, as has been noted. For in an age of decline, as the seeds of a new era are being sown, the most sensitive artists are likely to turn for stimulation to more robust works, to primitive and archaic art. This prob- ably explains the simple dignity and calm of the Aphrodite (Venus) of Melos (Louvre), which seems to share the fifth- century largeness of expression without sharing its vitality. Other examples ac-

tually copy the earlier forms, especially the conventions for the drapery and the hair.

One group in the field of late sculp- ture stands alone, the Tanagra Figurines, perhaps the most charming examples of Greek genre (Fig. 1 63B) . Thousands have been found, chiefly in graves, and their purpose is unknown. They represent all kinds of everyday scenes, trivial in sub- ject but. dainty in execution and bright in color. The robes are usually rose or



[a] Vase Painting. British Museum, London. {Gardner, The Principles of Greek Art, Macmillan)

blue, the hair a reddish brown, the shoes red; and the fans or other acces- sories have touches of gilding. In all of them there is a natural grace and charm. These figurines frequently re- veal a spontaneous momentary pose suitable for expression in clay, and in them we see true clay technique. Great quantities of these figurines were made in molds, a single subject often being constructed out of several parts, so that by changing the head or the arms a considerable amount of variety could be obtained.


In the fourth century and the Hellen- istic age we find the same situation as in the fifth century. While we know that a flourishing school of painting existed, no paintings are extant. Zeuxis and Parrhasius (fifth and fourth centuries), Apelles and Protogenes (of the time of Alexander the Great) are characters in famous stories which stress technical

skill and realism, the same characteris- tics that we find in sculpture. A basis for actual knowledge or judgment of their painting is quite lacking.

While the Greek painters experi- mented in perspective, light and shade, and color, line seems to have been their pre-eminent means of expression, used both to model and express volume and also calligraphically (Fig. 164A). In the Alexander Mosaic (Fig. 165A), which is probably a Roman copy based on a Greek painting, we perhaps catch a glimpse of a Greek composition on a large scale, though allowance should be made for the mosaic technique. It is a battle scene, usually thought to rep- resent the Battle of the Issus. The center of interest is the wounded horseman in the foreground falling from his steed. Darius is fleeing in his chariot, but he looks back at the wounded man with anguish in his face and arm outstretched as if in helpless appeal. Another horse- man in the foreground has dismounted, and while attempting to hold his horse


[a] Battle Scene between Alexander and Darius. Faun , Pompeii. L. iy ft. c. ioo b.c. Naples Museum.

From the floor of the House of the

looks toward his wounded companion as if to offer his mount. Here, then, is a well-defined center of interest toward which all the main lines of the composi- tion lead. The group occupies a shallow space terminated by the flat background toward which the eye is led by the fore- shortened horses. Thus there is move- ment in space as well as laterally. The background is flat, with no indication of landscape except a gnarled tree. The upper part of the panel is unbroken ex- cept for the tree and the spears, which unite the upper and lower parts of the picture and provide an interesting con- trast to the vigor and movement of the lower part as well as a contrast of diag- onal to curvilinear line direction.


In the fifth century b.c. the ceramic industry was already declining, for un- known reasons, and by the fourth had almost disappeared. But the work of the goldsmith was much in demand, not only about the Aegean but among

the Scythians and the Sarmatians of southern Russia . 1 From the earliest days jewelry -— necklaces, earrings, pins, bracelets, rings — was important in the costume of Greek women (though not of the men, as it was in Egypt, As- syria, and Crete), and the art of the goldsmith may have been an inherit- ance from the Aegean. Before the Hel- lenistic age gold was used chiefly for its own sake, for its color and texture, and for the shimmer of surface which re- sulted from the various processes of working it — casting, repousse, engrav- ing, soldering, granulation, filigree— in which high quality of workmanship con- tinued through the fourth century. Vari- ations of color were achieved through a sparing use of enamel, In the Hel- lenistic age the quality of craftsmanship declined and the introduction of semi- precious stones added a more obvious richness.

1 See pages 101-02. Note particularly the mu- tual interactions of racial art traditions, the Ira- nian tending toward conventional treatment, the Greek toward naturalistic.




After the fifth century, Greek build- ing activity centered outside the Greek mainland, particularly in Asia Minor, and because of the more cosmopolitan character of late Greek civilization, broadened its scope to include secular structures. Buildings became grandiose in scale, with elaborated Ionic or Co- rinthian orders predominating.

In sculpture, easy grace and human emotions replaced the more rugged and impersonal sculpture of the fifth cen- tury, with a concentration on delicate surface treatment. As sculptural form became truly three-dimensional — or- ganized in space with movement through the space — details became realistic, and technical virtuosity led to giving the stone the appearance of flesh, in complete disregard of the limi- tations of the material. Thus much late Greek sculpture lacked truly sculptural quality.

Painting, all examples of which are now lost, appears to have functioned as mural decoration in public buildings and as panels; and to have sought to express volume in the figures and to place them in space, a spatial concept analogous to that seen in sculpture. Thus its trend was in the direction of an imitation of visual perception.

In its spread over the Near East, Hel- lenistic art mingled with Eastern forces, and the fusion was to result in the flow- ering, centuries later, of Byzantine art.


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1 68


[a] Sarcophagus from Cervetri. Terra cotta , painted. 6th— 5th cent. b.c. Villa Papa Giulio, Rome. {Anderson)

A LTHOUGH the early histories of l Greece and Italy run nearly paral- lel chronologically, the former reached a climax in the fifth and fourth cen- turies b.c., a period during which the latter was still slowly developing. The story of early Rome is a story of struggle for existence, particularly against the Etruscans, who came to Italy probably from Asia Minor and were closely allied

culturally to the Greeks. In the sixth century b.c. they were in control of all Italy from their heavily fortified cities — Corneto, Cervetri, Veii, Perugia, Or- vieto, Praeneste, and other sites in what is now Tuscany. They were farmers, traders on sea as well as on land, cruel warriors, and pirates. At home they lived luxuriously in gaily decorated houses, feasted and danced unrestrain-


[b] Archer. Bronze, c. Jth cent. b.c. British Museum , London.

[a] Apollo of Veii. Terra cotta, painted, c. 500 b.c. Villa Papa Giulio, Rome. {Anderson)

edly. They were adept in working metal and clay. They constructed their forti- fications, city gates, bridges, aqueducts, and sewers of heavy stone masonry on the arch principle; small buildings they made of wood gaily painted or faced with colored terra-cotta tiles. Their tem- ple was based upon the Greek prostyle plan (Fig. 123AC), rested on a high base with a flight of steps, and was probably made of brick with wooden columns and a heavy wooden superstructure brightly painted . 1 With an emphasis upon a fu- ture life not unlike that of the Egyp-

1 There is no even fairly well preserved Etrus- can temple extant. For a reconstruction see Anderson and Spiers, The Architecture of Ancient Rome, PI. VIII; or S. F. Kimball and G.. Hi Edgell, A History of Architecture, Harper, 1918, Fig. 37,

tian, they paid much attention to burial, so that the tombs, which were built or carved in the hillside, and which imi- tated the interior of Etruscan houses, furnish us in their wall paintings a pic- ture of Etruscan life. The sarcophagi, with their recumbent figures, supply some of the best examples of sculpture.

The Etruscans showed a peculiar preference for clay — a local material both excellent in quality and abun- dant. For architectural decoration they made terra-cotta tiles which are highly decorative in their pattern and gay col- ors, notably so the masklike roof tiles. Likewise their sculpture in the round, the Apollo of Veii (Fig. 169A), for example, is clay rather than stone, though one feels the archaic Greek stone prototype. But in the awkward vigor of the stride,


[a] Tomb of the Leopards . Corneto. 5th cent . B.c.

in the boldly conceived form, and in the striking, conventional use of color there is the crude vigor of the Etruscan. In the recumbent figures of the sarcoph- agi is a similar eager vitality. Even if the later clumsy cinerary urns show lack of sensitiveness, the early life-sized mortuary figures, such as the examples in the British Museum, the Louvre, and in Rome (Fig. i68a), reveal a definite relationship between the figures and the sarcophagus. With the flowing surfaces painted in conventional color, with the patternlike archaic features and expres- sive hands, they are direct and convinc- ing both in form and in the expression of an inner vitality and significance.

Another favorite medium was bronze" 1 (Fig. 169B). In the head of the so- called Orator (Fig. 173A) is a forceful personality, realistically portrayed; in the Chimera (Florence) a more conven- tional treatment, very vital and deco-

rative; in both, a fine technical com- mand of the material. Bronze was used also for many smaller objects — ciner- ary urns, toilet boxes, and mirrors, which were engraved with mytholog- ical and genre scenes imitative of the Greek products which were imported in great quantity by wealthy Etruscans. We feel in them a provincial Greek art with a stamp of verve and boldness and with an unusual decorative beauty — qualities that are repeated in Etruscan jewelry.

The same qualities impress one look- ing at an Etruscan tomb (Fig. 170A) fashioned after an actual Etruscan room with sloping roof. Both the roof and the walls are gaily painted, the roof chiefly with conventional, geometric de- signs, the walls with scenes of funeral banquets, dancing, athletic contests, hunting. These paintings, thoroughly decorative, are usually in fresco, though


at times painted directly on the stone. The bright color is used conventionally in flat tones within outlines, with no re- gard for the hues of nature, for one horse may have a red and a yellow leg or a blue coat and a red mane. In this Tomb of the Leopards (so called from the two hunting leopards in the gable) is a banquet scene perhaps too convention- ally imitative to be interesting except for the truly decorative quality of the lines and the lights and darks that fill the wall area. On the side wall, how- ever, are dancing figures filled with ac- tion and rhythmic movement that make charming decorative motifs. In like man- ner the Flute-Player (Fig. 171 a) of the Tomb of the Triclinium expresses the feel- ing of joyous movement, of the rhythm of inner vitality translated into objec- tive form by simple direct conventions.

What the art of Rome would have been had Roman civilization remained within the boundaries of Italy it is futile to ask. In its early days Rome employed

Etruscan builders and ceramic workers; and later it did not forget the high temple platform nor, eventually, Etrus- can realistic portraiture. But the fact is that its conquest of Etruria was fol- lowed by the subjugation of the entire peninsula; and thence, with an imperial policy well defined, Rome was forced to enlarge its boundaries until they in- cluded the entire Mediterranean basin and most of western Europe. Rome early came in contact with Greece and became aware of Greek art. But only in the late republican and Augustan ages came the terrific impact of Hellenism. “Conquered Greece led the conqueror captive,” conceded Horace, a poet of the Augustan age. Shiploads of Greek marbles and bronzes were brought to Rome by generals and provincial gov- ernors to adorn their palaces, and when the supply was exhausted, copies were made or Greek artists were em- ployed to create new ones. Art became to a large extent mere copying of Greek



[a] Rome. A map to indicate the general location of important classical and medieval sites.

works. Finally assimilation took place, the spread of its civilization. Roman

and imperial Rome emerged as a prod- cities sprang up especially in what is

uct of Etruscan, Roman, and Greek now Spain, France, and England, each

elements. Possibly it was still strongly a center for the propagation of Roman

enough Greek for its art to be called government, language, and customs, and

a continuation of the Hellenic tradition closely connected with Rome by a well- working according to Roman tastes and planned system of roads and harbors,

ideals. In portrait sculpture and in ar- Both by force of circumstance and by

chitecture especially, however, Rome temperament the Roman was warlike,

made definite, individual contributions. practical, fond of pleasure. His life, in

In the main, the energy of Rome was comparison with the simplicity of the

utilized in conquest and administration, Athenian, was complex, for the de-

and its conquests opened the way for mands of life were much greater. Rome


[a] Orator. Bronze . 4th or 3d cent. b.c. Archaeological Museum, Florence.

about a.d. 200 was the magnificent capital of the greatest empire the world had yet known, an empire that was efficiently organized, with fifty thou- sand miles of magnificent highways and sea routes safe for travel and commerce. The city itself (Fig. 172A), of more than a million people, was both cosmopolitan and magnificent. The scale, power, and complexity of the Empire called for im- pressive scale in the structure and ap- pearance of its capital. And while the practical demands arising from the ad- ministration of a great empire required the building of roads, bridges, sewers, and aqueducts, the imperial ideal called for public buildings that would express adequately the dignity, power, and di- versified interests of the state. To build practically and grandly required skill in engineering. Thus- arose ■ Rome’s con- tribution to architecture, though its

chief gift to world civilization lay in the field of law and organization.

With the wealth that came with con- quest, there crept in pleasure-loving ideals, luxuriousness, and decay. In time the great Roman Empire became a hollow shell, and the frontiers gave way on all sides. By a.d. 500 Rome it- self had fallen before the Northern tribes that had been harassing its boundaries ever since Julius Caesar had driven them back in the first century b.c.


In Greek architecture we discerned a concentration upon the temple. In Rome, on the contrary, as the capital of a complex world empire, practical as well as esthetic needs led to the erec- tion of many kinds of buildings, secular as well as religious, and frequently on



[a] Barrel Vault, [b] Groin Vault seen from above, [c] Groin Vault seen from below.

a scale hitherto untried. Ample ma- terial was at hand — abundant wood, stone (marble, travertine, tufa), good clays for brick, lava and pozzolana (sandy earth) for concrete. Those ma- terials not at hand could be imported easily by the Roman fleets — rare col- ored marbles, nearly fifty varieties of which were used for their color and texture. But ample as this material was, the quantity and scale of Roman build- ing precluded extensive use of solid stone masonry and of the lintel system. Brick and concrete covered with stucco or faced with stone or marble veneer supplanted solid stone construction,

with the arch rather than the lintel system as the structural principle.

The chief engineering problem in- volved in Roman architecture was how to enclose and roof over a vast space, to give it proper illumination and still keep the space open and free of the columns that would be necessary were a flat roof used, as in the hypostyle halls of Egypt (Fig. 64A). Given the problem of roofing over a rectangular room by the simplest arch system, the result will be a barrel vault (Fig, 1 74A), which is, in essence, a succession of arches joined together, resting directly upon the side walls, which must either be thick enough

[d] Pont du Gard. Mimes. Augustan Age.


[a] Temple of Fortum Virilis. Rome. c. 100 b.c. (Anderson)

to support the weight or be reinforced by buttresses. This vault can be made of stone or brick masonry, or it can be made of concrete by building up a tem- porary wooden framework (known as centering) the exact size and shape of the finished vault, to hold the mass until it is set. The vaulting that we see in Figure 1 74B and c and Figure 179 a has been made by cutting the barrel vault at right angles at regular intervals by other barrel vaults, securing what is known as the cross or groin vault, be- cause the line of intersection is called the groin. A barrel vault over so large an area not only would have been heavy in appearance but would have allowed no space for windows. The advantage of the groin vault is not only that it is lighter in appearance because of its broken surface but also that it admits of clerestory windows. The use of the groin vault secures another advantage. In the barrel vault the thrust — that is,i the downward and outward forces ex- erted by the vault — is felt along the entire length of the wall; in the groin

vault it is felt only at the points at which the groins converge. Hence it is at these points only that heavy buttress- ing is needed, and the interior is thus kept free of load-carrying walls. Proper support is secured by heavy walls built at right angles, which are pierced by arches and thus form side aisles to the main hall (Fig. 1 78A) .

Their public-service structures roads, bridges, aqueducts, sewers — the Romans, like the Etruscans, built sol- idly and well. Their stone bridges com- bine utilitarian requirements and fine sweep of line. The aqueducts, which still swing across the Campagna to bring the mountain water to Rome or span streams in several tiers as in the Pont du Gard (Fig. 174D), have a stark beauty of adequate function united to the rhyth- mic movement of well-spaced arches.

Among religious buildings, the Tem- ple of Fortum Virilis (Yxg. 175A) illustrates one type of temple derived obviously from the Greek peripteral style, but differing in the high base with project- ing moldings and a flight of steps ex-



[a] Pantheon. D . and H. 142 ft. From an en- graving by Piranesi.

tending across the front. Its cella is larger than the Greek and becomes in- corporated with the colonnade part way along the sides and across the back. 1

The circular temple was also a popu- lar type. Sometimes it was peripteral, as in the temple near the Tiber in Rome and in that at Tivoli. Of all circular temples the most imposing is the Pan- theon (Fig. 177A), which consists of a cir- cular wall with but one opening, the doorway. On this wall rests a dome, low and rather inconspicuous on the exterior; at the entrance is a colonnaded portico of Greek design. As one steps within (Fig. 1 76A) one is surprised. For the dull unpromising exterior gives little hint of the wonderful spaciousness and light within. This impression results from a very simple space-design carried out on a large scale — a dome set on a circular wall and lighted by an aper- ture in the crown. The builder’s pur- pose seems to have been to make his dome impressive from the interior. The walls are covered with rich marble fac- ing; the dome is deeply coffered and was originally decorated with bronze

1 A column thus incorporated with the wall is known as an engaged column.

rosettes. Domes had been constructed before, but never on such a scale. The Roman’s ideal of great scale made him daring, while his practical nature and his engineering skill kept him within the bounds of structural possibilities. The walls, twenty feet thick, are made of brick and concrete and are solid ex- cept for the niches, about which are im- bedded in the masonry relieving arches of brick that extend the entire thickness of the wall and carry the thrust of the dome to the solid masonry. 2 The dome is constructed of horizontal layers of brick laid in thick cement, the load of Which is carried by a series of ribs con- verging on the crown. Between these ribs are the typical Roman coffers, which both diminish the weight and ornament the dome.

Civic buildings were important in an imperial capital, and together with im- portant temples were grouped about the forums. The Roman Forum was origi- nally the market place where the peas- ants brought their produce for sale; booths and shops ran along the sides. But religious and civic activities be-

2 For illustration see Anderson and Spiers, op. cit., p. 78, Fig. 19.



[a] Pantheon. Origi- nally the walls were faced with marble and stucco and the dome was covered with bronze plates, a.d. 120-124.

gan to encroach early; the shops were crowded out to the side streets and the Forum became primarily the center of the city’s civic life. In the open space were commemorative statues of emper- ors and generals, and the great platform from which public speeches were made; entirely surrounding it and crowning the surrounding hills were imposing buildings. The Imperial Forums, built by various emperors from Augustus on, reach a culmination in the Forum of Trajan (Fig. 177B), where all the units of the vast group are definitely related to one another and to a unified design, instead of being merely set down wher- ever there was space and the topog- raphy permitted, as in the old Roman Forum. It is perhaps illuminating to re- call that the Forum of Trajan was de- signed by an architect from the East, Apollodorus of Damascus. Hills were leveled to make space for this enormous forum, which in plan strikingly re- sembles, as scholars have pointed out, the Egyptian temple. Through a monu- mental archway one passed into an open court with colonnades on three sides and great circular wings with shops, thence into the basilica with its many

columns, and beyond into the temple of the deified emperor.

An important civic building was the basilica, a covered hall used for various purposes, particularly for a law court. It was an oblong structure with a semi-



[b] Plan of the Forum of Trajan.

i 7 8


[a] Basilica of Maxentius or Constantine. Rome. a.d. 306-312. Plan and section of recon * struction.

circular tribunal (or apse) at one end, where the judge sat, and was divided by rows of columns or piers into a cen- tral and side aisles. The roof of the central aisle was higher than that of the side aisles, thus permitting a clere- story. The structural principle was not the lintel system of the Fortuna Virilis (Fig. 175A) but the arcade; that is, a series of arches. Between the arches, however, are engaged columns that sup- port an entablature running the entire length of the building. In this arrange- ment we find one of the most charac- teristic features of Roman architecture: a combination of the arch and lintel systems. Structurally, it is the arch that is the vital part of the construction; the column and the entablature serve only as decoration. The Colosseum (Fig. i8oa) and the Arch of Titus (Fig. i8ia) illus- trate the principle. In the early basil- icas, the arcades supported a wooden roof. In a late example, the Basilica of Maxentius (Fig. 178A), fully developed vaulting was used, barrel over the aisles and groin over the nave, thus enabling the builder to make use of isolated sup-

ports and huge arches, overpowering even in the ruins today.

The places of amusement — the cir- cus, the theater, and the amphitheater — and the great baths {thermae) so essen- tial to imperial Rome challenged the engineering ability of the builders. Here huge crowds must be accommodated, sometimes out of doors, sometimes within, with an appearance of luxury and display commensurate with the taste of the day. The Colosseum{ Fig. 1 8 oa) was one of these places of amusement. The vast size of the structure prevented extensive use of stone and led to the use of concrete faced with brick on the in- terior, with hard stone at points of stress, and an exterior of travertine masonry set with no mortar but clamped by iron dowels. The design consists of a system of arches both parallel with and at right angles to the outer circumference. The exterior consists of three stories of arches and a solid attic. Between the arches of each story are engaged columns that support a continuous entablature. The engaged columns add to the rhythm, and the entablature not only unifies the


arched openings and binds them into a firmly felt unity but also forms a fine single sweep of curve which, repeated on each story, accents the basic cylin- drical form. The effect of the building without this decoration can be seen on the right side of the illustration, where a bare monotony results from the loss of the rhythm and the accent of the vigor- ous curves. The combination of struc- tural solidity and effective decoration has created a building imposing in dig- nity and magnificence. On the ground story the columns are of the Doric order; on the second, of the Ionic; and on the third, of the Corinthian — an arrangement known as superimposed orders. The fourth story is ornamented by flat Corinthian pilasters. The Colos- seum is a conspicuous example and a possible justification of the Roman prac- tice of using a structural member for a nonstructural and purely esthetic pur- pose. 1 For, constructionally, the col- umns do not carry the load.

The impression of material power, at times grandiose, is felt in high degree in the thermae that provided the Roman not only with his daily bath, hot, warm, or cold, but with his library and loung- ing-place, for the numerous recreation rooms had the same function as the modern athletic club. A ground plan (Fig. 1 79B) gives us some conception of the great extent of these baths and also of the orderly planning that character- izes the organization of multitudinous parts into a single whole. Figure 179A reconstructs one hall of the Baths of Caracalla. The impression is of vast spa- ciousness and, in the rich marble fac- ings, carvings, and coffered ceilings, of magnificence and splendor. Here, as in the Pantheon , the Roman builder con- quered space; that is, he so enclosed a great volume of unbroken space as to

1 A point which leads to infinite debate and no absolute conclusion. “De gustibus non est dis- putandum.”

[a] Baths oj Caracalla. Central Hall, re- stored by Spiers, a.d. 211-217. Rome. {Anderson and Spiers)

[b] Baths of Caracalla. Rome. a.d. 211- 217. The central building is 750 by 380 ft. 1. tepidarium, or warm lounge; 2. cali- darium, or hot room; 3. frigidarium, or cooling room with a swimming pool open to the air; 4. open peristyles; 5. lecture rooms and libraries; 6. promenade; 7. gar- den; 8, stadium; 9. aqueduct and reservoirs.


[a] Colosseum or Flavian Amphitheater. Rome . a.d. 70-82. ( Anderson )

make one standing within it conscious of it. And this he accomplished, as we have described, by the use of the vault and the dome. Impressive today are even the ruins of these huge vaults; in- deed they are probably even more im- pressive than they were when they were decked out with marble and gilded coffers. As in the aqueducts, the sheer engineering, the great simple moving masses and surfaces, are some of the most powerful expressions of the Ro- mans.

Commemorative monuments — al- tars, tombs, rostra, columns, arches — are peculiarly characteristic of the real- istic Roman, who established, in the triumphal arch in particular, a type that has survived for centuries. In the Arch of Titus (Fig. 1 8 1 a) the great central opening is flanked by solid masses of masonry with engaged columns that rise from a plain base to support the entablature, which has a sculptured frieze uniting the three parts. The deco- ration is restrained, and confined chiefly

to the arch. The Arch of Constantine illus- trates the more elaborate triple arch with more sumptuous sculptural deco- rations.

Ornament the Roman used lavishly; frequently, in the attempt to obtain magnificence, he overloaded his build- ings and concealed the structure. The restraint of the Greek in the use of moldings and decoration was too severe to suit the Roman taste, which loved display, and preferred the Corinthian capital to the more austere Doric and Ionic. In his best work, however, the Roman proved himself a master of a certain kind of decoration. This we can see best in a section of the Ara Pads (Fig. 182B). From a central group of acanthus rises a vertical foliate form and curving stems that branch off so as to cover the surface with spiral forms that terminate now in a leaf, now in a flower or rosette; near the top a swan with outspread wings has alighted. While naturalistic representation has formed the basis of the decoration, the



[a] Arch of Titus. Re- stored on the sides. A bronze four-horse chariot surmounted the arch. Rome. a.d. 81 . ( Alinari )

ultimate effect is dependent partiy upon the delicacy and the precision of the carving and partly upon the carver’s restraint in keeping his design a clear decorative pattern.

The motif of the foliate spiral rising from a bed of acanthus, known as the rinceau (Fig. 182A), became one of the most popular in Roman decorative art, especially as applied to pilasters and borders, and later formed the basis of much Renaissance ornament. With the Flavian emperors, this naturalistic or- nament sacrificed decorative quality to a greater illusion of actual appearance. Details of plant and bird forms were copied from nature, and the cutting of the marble followed the irregularities of nature instead of retaining definite planes of stone; an almost atmospheric

effect was produced, as in the rose col- umns on the Tomb of the Haterii (Lat- eran).

The same tendency is discernible in figure reliefs. In the procession of men, women, and children on the Ara Pads (Fig. 1 83 a) the relief is higher in the foreground figures and lower in the background, giving one a distinct sense of depth and atmosphere. Details are worked out to a greater extent, and there is a considerable amount of por- traiture in the faces; in fact, we feel the individual figures here quite forcibly. The purpose has been to give an illusion rather than an organized expression of a procession, as in the Parthenon Frieze (Fig. 144A). This realistic tendency is carried still further in the reliefs on the inner side of the Arch of Titus , in which


[a] Roman Rinceau. Lateran Museum , Rome.

was stucco applied as a finish to the rough concrete vaults and walls. The surface was divided by moldings into geometric patterns that frequently en- closed figures, or was filled with natural- istic spirals or other motifs and dainty 1 *' figures. The addition of marble dust made the stucco both durable and fine in texture. The moldings and the fig- ures were worked in the wet stucco partly by stamps, noticeably in the moldings, and partly freehand. As in the fresco technique, the rapidity with which plaster dries requires rapid work- manship; and the figures depend for their effect not so much upon careful modeling as upon spontaneity, ease of workmanship, and freely flowing line.

An additional note of magnificence as well as comfort in imperial Rome was supplied by the system of parks and gardens, including perhaps thirty great parks around the city, with lawns, trees, gardens, and fountains, made possible by the unparalleled water supply . Every Roman of sufficient means had a villa set in a park, perhaps on the outskirts of the city or in the Alban or Sabine hills near by.

Domestic architecture figured promi- nently. The palaces and villas of the emperors, now in fragmentary ruins, rivaled the thermae in size and sumptm ousnoss: huge groups of rooms abouf

architectural details contribute a pic- torial quality. And the tendency reaches a climax in the Column of Trajan , in which a detailed pictorial record of mili- tary campaigns spirals around the shaft from the base to the summit.

The ornamentation discussed so far was carved in stone. Another medium used most effectively by the Romans

oj reace) . Erected in b.c. to commemorate, the victories of o ... Spain and Gaul. Detail of dec-

oration. Terme {National) Museum , Rome.


[a] Ara Pads , Detail of Procession. Uffizi , Florence.

courts, rooms of state and private apart- ments, gardens and baths. Sometimes, as in the Palace of Domiiian, the units of the establishment were related to a central axis — a plan we have seen used in the thermae and the Forum of Trajan. Sometimes, as in the Villa of Hadrian , the units were irregularly placed be- cause of the character of the topog- raphy. 1

Probably the average person lived, in the crowded city, in an apartment house (insula) , which was several stories

1 The Palace of Domitian on the Palatine in Rome, the Villa of Hadrian near Tivoli, and the Palace of Diocletian at Spalato are examples of Roman imperial palaces. See Anderson and

Spiers, op. cit., Chap. VIII, for descriptions and reconstructions.

high, a habitation to each story, with windows and loggias on the street and on the courtyard, about which several insulae were sometimes grouped. 2 As the Roman lived largely in the open, about the public buildings, in the places of amusement, and in the porticoes and parks, he may have been content with his crowded living-quarters if only they provided him a comer for sleeping and a protection for his lares and penates.

The homes of the well-to-do away from the congested metropolitan areas

2 On the analogy of houses found at Ostia, Rome’s seaport. The Casa di Diana is a typical insula. For a reconstruction see Anderson and Spiers, op. cit., Pl.XC; D. S. Robertson, A Handbook of Greek and Roman Architecture, Mac- millan, 1929, pp. 308-09..



[a] Vista of a Pompeian House from the Atrium.

are of the atrium type found at Pompeii and Herculaneum. Many of these, pro- tected by the volcanic ash and lava in which they were buried, are extraor- dinarily well preserved, with their mural decorations still fresh and sometimes with their equipment and household utensils undisturbed. Such a house stood flush with the sidewalk. Through a nar- row entrance, one entered a vestibule (Fig. 185A) that led to a court known as the (1) atrium , roofed over along the four sides so as to leave an opening in the center, with a corresponding sunken place in the floor to collect rain water; along the sides were small rooms, ex- cept at the end, where the atrium ex- tended the full width of the building, forming two wings, (2) alae. Behind the atrium was the (3) tablinum, in which the family archives and statues were kept, and which could be shut off or could afford a passage to the (4) peri- style , a large colonnaded court with fountains and garden, about which

were grouped the private apartments of the family, the atrium serving more as a reception room or a room of state. At the back there was sometimes a (5) garden; the (6) small rooms along the outer sides opening on the street were shops. It is clear that the house faced inward, depending upon its courts for light and air, and when opened its entire length (Fig. 184A) afforded a charming vista of open court with col- ored marbles, gardens, fountains and statues, and brightly painted walls.

This type of house, with its small number of doors and windows, offered considerable stretches of wall space for decoration. The type of decoration com- monly used was a realistic represen- tation of architectural openings and resulted in an originally plain, almost cell-like room not only becoming gaily brilliant in color but appearing to open on vistas of garden, architecture, or land- scape, thus lending an air of spacious- ness to the room (Figs. i88a, 189B).


[a] House of Pansa. Pompeii, i. atrium; 2. alae; 3. tablinum; 4. peristyle; 5. gar- den; S. shops.

[b] The Emperor Augustus Addressing His Army. Marble, originally painted. Found in the Villa of Livia, wife of Augustus, at Prima Porta. Vatican, Rome.

In the late Greek period, the generaliza- tion that distinguished the earlier por- traits had given way to some surprisingly individualistic work. The Roman’s de-


Statues in great profusion stood in the forums, and in both public and private buildings. Villas and huge baths were perfect museums of Greek sculp- ture, originals, 1 copies, or adaptations to suit Roman taste. Such, however, are not Roman art. Authentic Roman sculp- ture is best represented in the portraits.

1 We read of 285 bronze and 30 marble statues brought from Corinth in 145 b.c.; of 500 bronzes brought from Delphi by Nero — two illustrations only of the ransacking of Greece to deck Rome.

sire for literal facts, together with his custom of keeping in his house, always before his eye, the imagines (wax masks) of his ancestors, influenced the sculptor still further to accentuate this individu- ality. In addition, one must not disre- gard the Etruscan influence. In the head of an Unknown Roman (Fig. i86a), for example, one is struck by the in- tensely alive quality. The bony struc- ture of the head, the keen eye, the sparse hair, the sagging skin beneath the chin, all the lines and wrinkles that designate the peculiar characteristics of an indi- vidual — all these qualities combine to

1 86


[a] Unknown Roman. Terra cotta with traces of color, ist cent. b.c. Museum of Fine Arts , Boston. (. Boston Museum)

give us a realistic portrait of one of those rugged men of dominant will who helped, in the days of the Republic, to lay the foundations of Rome’s greatness.

But when we turn to the statue of Augustus (Fig. 185B), the feeling is dif- ferent. The emperor stands easily. He wears an elaborately decorated metal cuirass with leather fringe over his linen tunic and carries his military cloak thrown over his left arm. In every part of the costume is seen skill in the ren- dering of texture: the soft and heavy quality of the cloths, the rigidity of the metal, and the tough nature of the leather. In his left hand he holds the scepter; his right is lifted in the direction of his glance .as if he were addressing his troops; for Augustus himself had led the army on his conquests. But the face does not characterize Augustus in de-

[b] Portrait of a Child. Marble, ist cent. a.d. Museum of Fine Arts , Boston. (. Boston Museum)

tail, as does the head of the Unknown Roman. There are no individual lines to indicate personal idiosyncrasies. It is rather a generalized type distinctly rem- iniscent of Greek work. If we recall that the Augustan age was a period when the acquisition of Greek statues and the influence of Greek art was at its height, we can easily see why Roman realism had given way.

The sympathetic understanding of youth and childhood is frequently to be seen in Roman sculpture. In many por- traits of children the soft flesh and the rounding features that distinguish the child are well indicated; but even more remarkable is the artist’s ability to un- derstand the workings of the child mind and to depict that characteristic mo- ment of hesitation between laughter and tears that reveals itself so clearly in the


[a] Vespasian. Marble a.d. 6g-jg. Terme {National) Mu- seum, Rome

[b] Caracalla. Marble, a.d. 211-217. Museum )


quiver about the mouth. In these por- traits of the youthful aristocrats of Rome we discern the real feeling of the child, now bashful, now eager and alert (Fig, 1 86b).

The generalizing tendency of the Augustan age did not maintain itself long against the Roman love for literal fact. Thus the spirited portrait of Ves- pasian (Fig. 187A) is an individualistic expression of the rugged soldier that we know Vespasian to have been, an ex- pression not so detailed as the Repub- lican portraits, nor so trenchant. The in- cisiveness and the linear quality of the latter have softened to a gradual blend- ing of detail, producing the same at- mospheric quality that is to be found in the Flavian reliefs. When we come to such a portrait as that of Caracalla (Fig. 1 87B) , certain elements have been added to achieve a greater illusion of

life. The large bust that includes shoul- ders and arms, the turn in the head that greatly heightens the vivacity, the rough mass of hair that contrasts with the smoothly finished face, the naturalistic treatment of the eyes, deep-set in the shadow of heavy brows — all these means have combined to create an illu- sion of natural appearance in conjunc- tion with convincing characterization.


Painting functioned chiefly in col- laboration with building — as wall dec- oration. These murals are now to be found, as has already been said, chiefly at Pompeii and Herculaneum. They are executed in fresco. The plaster at Pom- peii was laid very thick, and keeping it moist for a considerable length of time enabled the painter to work leisurely.

1 88


[a] Frescoes from the Villa of Livia. Prima Porta. ( Stoedtner )

The colors were bright — red and black to throw the panels or figures into re- lief, with rich creamy white in the bor- ders. A certain brilliance of surface that enlivened the effect the Roman ob- tained by a careful preparation of the wall surface,* the plaster, which was specially compounded with a mixture of marble dust and laid on layer after layer, was beaten with a smooth trowel until it became very dense, and then was polished until it assumed an almost marblelike finish.

Sometimes the wall space assumed an architectural appearance (Fig. 189B). Columns and windows were painted on the surface in perspective, to give them an appearance of relief. This framework often enclosed a large painting in the center. On the sides, architectural de- tails were so portrayed that they pro- duced an illusion of depth and distant landscape.

In the frescoes of the Villa Item ( Villa of the Mysteries ) near Pompeii (Fig. 189 a)

the feeling of the wall is much more definitely retained and the figures move within a very shallow space, as in a re- lief. The figures are constructed in light against a darker ground, and with an extraordinary grasp of the structure of the figure and of its place within the shallow space in relation to the adjoin- ing figures. Expressive drawing and a slight use of shadow suggest both vol- ume and structure, with much the same result as that accomplished by line alone in Figure 164A. In the Villa of Livia , on the other hand, the surface of the wall has been composed to create the illu- sion of a garden, as if the side of the room opened out upon the garden rep- resented (Fig. i88a). A low fence sepa- rates the spectator from the scene and also gives solidity and unity to the com- position, where trees, plants, and vines in cool green-grays stand out against a blue sky, with bits of bright color in the flowers, fruits, and brightly plumaged birds flying about or enjoying the fresh


[a] Frescoes in the Villa Item ( Villa of the Mysteries) near Pompeii. Augustan Age.

[b] Wall Decoration of a Pompeian House . Architectural style , creating an illusion of depth. {Anderson)

water of the fountains. It is a charming bit of nature brought in from the out- of-doors to delight the life lived inside; in Spirit it is closely akin to the natural- istic carvings of which the Roman was so fond.

Besides these mural paintings, inde- pendent or panel painting was prac- ticed for a variety of purposes — votive pictures for temples, portraits for li- braries and for private houses — and great quantities of Greek paintings as well as statues were taken to Rome from Greece. Yet practically nothing remains except the mural paintings, a few in Rome, the great majority in Pompeii and Herculaneum, Probably many of the panel pictures in these murals were copies of famous Greek works. Even when not copying, the painters, many of whom were Greeks, were working in the Hellenic tradition. In the best of these we see, besides their largeness of design and a certain meas- ured reposefulness, a knowledge of per- spective, a consistent use of light and

shade and of the cast shadow, and a unity of the figure with the landscape or architecture — - all fundamental prin- ciples that had been worked out by the Greek.



The skill of the Romans in the use of metal we see not only in the casting of large sculpture but also in such small . bronzes as the candelabra stands, fur- niture supports, and household utensils in great variety that have been found at Pompeii. But the wealth and splendor of life made demands upon the gold- smith and the silversmith as well, to furnish fine plate for luxurious tables. Much of this was looted by thieves at


[a] Silver Crater from the Hildesheim Treasure. Probably Augustan Age. Berlin. ( Giraudon )

[b] Portland Vase. Blue and white glass. H. c. 10 in. ist cent. a.d. British Museum , London. ( Mansell )

the time of the destruction of Pompeii or by the barbarians in later ages, but a few finds of such treasure, hidden away, have come to light to give us a glimpse of the lavishness displayed at the famous Roman feasts . 1 The silver crater from Hildesheim (Fig. 190A) for mixing wine is finely shaped, with han- dles so adjusted that one feels their unity With the structural lines of the vase. Low reliefs, done in repousse, give a play of delicate light and shade over the surface, adding richness without overloading. At the base the relief is higher, more elaborate, and more com- pact, thus strengthening the support. The design here consists of two griffins back to back in balanced position, from which rises a conventional plant form;

1 One of the rich finds of silverware was at Hildesheim, Germany; this is now in the mu- seum at Berlin and is known as the Hildesheim Treasure. Another, the Boscoreale Treasure, most of which is in the Louvre, was discovered at Boscoreale near Pompeii.

from this and from the sweeping wings of the griffins delicate spirals rise and spread over the surface, terminating in naturalistic forms. Clinging to the stems and tendrils are tiny children attacking with tridents the sea animals that twine among the spirals. In a two-handled silver cup from Boscoreale we see the Roman love of realism; for here sprays of fruiting olive have been wreathed about the cup, a charming idea and one conveying an illusion of natural appearance, since the fruit is molded in the round. This ornamentation, how- ever, not only obscures the structural lines of the cup but by attracting in- terest to itself destroys the harmony that results when decoration is kept subor- dinate.

In surviving Roman pottery the most conspicuous accomplishment is the Ar- retine bowl, made of a fine reddish clay, with the decoration stamped in relief on the outside by means of molds in which the design was cut in intaglio.


Then a reddish glaze was added. A sacrificial scene is represented in Figure 1 91 a; winged figures are decorating an altar to which women clad in diaph- anous drapery are bringing offerings. These figures remind one of the stucco reliefs in their dainty charm and, being in very low relief, are unobtrusively decorative.

' The Roman lapidaries of the Augus- tan age were skilled in cameo-cutting, which consists of carving a design in re- lief from a striated stone, such as sar- donyx, in such a way that each layer — the layers usually are alternately light and dark, and number from two to nine — will be utilized in working out the design.

The cameo technique was carried by the Roman into the craft of the glass- worker, as we see in the Portland Vase (Fig. 190B). Up to the second or first century b.c. glass had been molded, a laborious process. About that time the blowpipe was invented, causing a rapid growth of the glass industry, and glass supplanted, to a large extent, the more usual pottery for everyday use. In mak- ing such a vase as the Portland , the glass- worker shaped the deep-blue vase with his blowpipe and then dipped it into opaque white liquid glass. The handles were molded separately and added. When thoroughly hard, the white layer was cut away, leaving the raised white figures in relief against the deep-blue ground. The subject is not understood. At the left a young woman is reclining on some rocks beneath a fig tree, in the usual attitude of sleep; at the right an- other young woman is seated on a pile of rocks, holding a scepter. The figures are carved with characteristic natural- ism. The mask beneath the handle is more decorative.

A very effective use of glass we find in the Millefiori or “thousand-flower” bowls, which when held up to the light give an impression of rich mosaic and

[a] Arretine Bowl. Red clay. 40 b.c.- a.d. 60. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. {Metropolitan Museum)

hence are sometimes called mosaic glass. The process was as follows: Threads of different-colored glass were fused to- gether into a larger thread, drawn out, and then cut into small pieces that were fitted into a mold and fused into a solid mass. By carefully regulating his color and pattern, the glassworker could cre- ate a color harmony of surpassing rich- ness.


The tonic effect of the vital Etruscan art persisted in Rome notwithstanding its Hellenization. The bold vigor of Etruscan stone construction on the arch principle in the hands of Roman en- gineers in urban, cosmopolitan Rome, and under the stimulation of an impe- rial ideal, produced structures of large conception and daring engineering — bridges, temples, palaces, theaters, baths, basilicas, triumphal arches. En- gineering in fact was only another mani- festation of that Roman impulse toward order which found expression also in law and governmental organization, By means of vaulting the Romans solved the problem of enclosing great space without intermediate support, though they usually concealed the construction with lavish ornament to suit the taste



of the day. Thus the great baths are characteristically Roman in their com- bination of mechanical and esthetic en- gineering with glittering sumptuousness.

Again it may have been the Etruscan inheritance, combined with the Roman passion for literal fact rather than for abstractions, that led to a realistic por- traiture of great vitality. In the wall paintings, too, the practical Roman sought his objective directly: if the room is small and stuffy, enliven it and open it to the outside in imagination if not in actuality! If these wall paintings are debatable as mural decoration, they at least have a clear raison d’etre.


Alexander, Christine, Jewelry, the Art of the Goldsmith in Classical Times, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, 1928

Anderson, William J., and Spiers, R. P., The Architecture of Ancient Rome, rev. by Thomas Ashby, Vol. II of The Architecture of Greece and Rome, 2 vols., Scribner, 1927

Bailey, Cyril, ed., The Legacy of Rome, Oxford University Press, 1923

Breasted, James H., Ancient Times, 2d ed. rev., Ginn, 1935

Chase, George H., Greek and Roman Sculpture in American Collections, Harvard University Press, 1924

Goldscheider, Ludwig, Etruscan Sculpture, Ox- ford University Press (Phaidon Edition), 1941

Roman Portraits, Oxford University

Press (Phaidon Edition), 1940

Grenier, Albert, The Roman Spirit in Religion, Thought, and Art, tr. by M. R. Dobie, Knopf, 1926

Gusman, Pierre, L’art decoratif de Rome, 3 vols., Paris, 1908-14

Hanfmann, George M. A., The Etruscans and Their Art (Reprint of the Bulletin of the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, July, 1940), Rhode Island Museum Press, Providence, 1940

Lamb, Winifred, Greek and Roman Bronzes, Dial Press, 1929

Lanciani, Rodolfo Amadeo, Ancient Rome in the Light of Recent Discoveries, Houghton Mifflin, 1888

Laurie, Arthur P., Greek and Roman Methods of Painting, Putnam, 1910

Lukomskii, Georgii Kreskentevich, Dart etrusque, Paris, 1930

McClees, Helen, The Daily Life of the Greeks and Romans, 6th ed., Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, 1941 Mau, August, Pompeii: Its Life and Art, tr. by F. W. Kelsey, new ed. rev., Macmillan, 1902

Platner, Samuel B., A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, completed and rev. by Thomas Ashby, Oxford University Press, 1929

Poulsen, Fredrik, Etruscan Tomb Paintings: Their Subjects and Significance, tr. by Ingeborg Andersen, Oxford University Press, 1922 Richter, Gisela M. A., Handbook of the Classical Collection, 6th ed.. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, 1930 Rivoira, Giovanni Teresio, Roman Architecture, Oxford University Press, 1925 Robertson, Donald S'., A Handbook of Greek and Roman Architecture, Macmillan, 1929 Rodenwaldt, Gerhart, Die Kunst der Antike, Berlin, 1927

Showerman, Grant, Eternal Rome, new ed., Yale University Press, 1925

Rome and the Romans, Macmillan,

  • 93 *

Strong, Eug&tie Sellers, Art in Ancient Rome, 2 vols., Scribner, 1928

Roman Sculpture from Augustus to

Constantine, Scribner, 1907 Swindler, Mary H., Ancient Painting, Yale Uni- versity Press, 1929

Weege, Fritz, Etruskische Malerei, Halle, 1921 Wickhoff, Franz, Roman Art, tr. by Mrs. S. A. Strong, Macmillan, 1900 See also the General Bibliography, pp. 791-92


(ABOUT 33OO B.C.-A.D. 600)

ONTEMPORARY with the great cultures of the Near East and the Mediterranean (the Egyptian, the Sumerian- Assyrian- Chaldean- Persian, and the Classical), and actually in direct contact with them at certain points, were the equally great cultures of the Far East and of the Americas (see Fig. 195A). First we shall look at those of the Far East: the Hindu, the Chinese, and the Japanese.

India comprises the substance of a continent within itself. It is surrounded by water except on the northern bound- aries, the only gateway for invaders until recent times. The country divides geographically into three units: first, the wall of the Himalayas, a barrier and also a source of vital river systems, and the traditional home of the gods; sec- ond, the northern river valleys, gen- erally known as Hindustan, including the basins of the Ganges and the Indus, very fertile, densely populated, the home of the Aryan invaders and the seat of the strongest political powers; third, peninsular India, comprising the Deccan and the Tamil states, tropical tablelands south of the northern river basins and naturally separated from

them by mountains and forests, the home of the Dravidian races (Fig. 193A), Among these divisions are great ex- tremes of climate and of geography, from tropical heat to perpetual snow and glaciers; from desert conditions to the heaviest rainfall in the world. The



northern river basins have a wonder- fully productive soil and the mountain- ous regions are rich in stone, woods, ivory, gold, and precious stones. Eco- nomically, greatest poverty stands op- posed to greatest wealth — wealth still kept in the form of the family treasure, gold and jewels.

Likewise, among the people, num- bering over three hundred million, there is great diversity of race, language, and custom. Politically, India has always been divided into many minor princi- palities and only rarely in its long his- tory has any considerable area been unified for more than a brief time.

Unity is not lacking, however; that is, a deeper and more fundamental unity than that manifested in political co-operation and in uniformity of dia- lect and custom. This is evident in the religious and cultural life of India — in the Brahman faith, the national sacred literature, the caste system, and the Hindu attitude toward fundamental spiritual truths. For perhaps no other people have felt so profoundly and pon- dered so deeply over the fundamental problems of life; and with no other people have spirituality and spiritual significance taken greater precedence.

India shared the common heritage of Eurasia — • a Neolithic culture which gradually evolved into an age of metal. In the fourth or third millennium b.c. a distinctive civilization, recently dis- covered at Mohenjo-daro, Harappa, and other sites, existed in the Indus valley . 1 This has been known as “Indo- Sumerian” or more recently as “Indus.” Mohenjo-daro appears to have been a wealthy city, the center of an agricul- tural and commercial people with a

1 For an account of these discoveries, see Sir John G. Cumming, Revealing India’s Past , India Society, London, 1939. They have been too recent and too incomplete to admit of more than tentative conclusions as to the origin and the nature of the culture and its relation to others in the peninsula.

high level of craftsmanship and design. To judge from the similarity of their stone and clay figures of men and animals, and of their animal-figured seals, to those produced in Sumeria, their city seems to have maintained com- mercial relations with the Near East.

In the meantime the Dravidians, a dark-skinned people who may have de- scended from the Neolithic peoples, spread over the peninsula. They seem already to have reached a highly devel- oped state when nomad Aryans began to penetrate the valley of the Ganges. Driving the Dravidians to the highlands south of the Ganges, the Aryans settled down as an agricultural people. They lived in villages, possessed domesticated horses, rode in chariots, and knew the use of metal. They were organized into a tribal state, with the family as a unit. They worshiped and gradually personi- fied the powers of nature. The sky be- came Varuna, god of right and justice; the rain, Indra, in addition assumed the role of war god. This we see in the most ancient Hindu hymns, con- tained in the Vedas, which are lyrical expressions of nature worship. The rit- ual connected with this worship was first performed by the father as head of the family; but soon it became the prerogative of the priests, called the Brahmans, who crystallized it into a system with elaborate rites and sacri- fices and infused into it philosophical speculations about the meaning of exist- ence and the nature of the world soul. “The ‘troubled intensity’ of man’s search after the soul and its moral earnestness ” 2 constitutes the theme of the treatises known as the Upanishads, which are considered, even today, the Bible of the Hindu.

2 Lin Yutang, The Wisdom of China and India, Random House, 1942, p. 33. This volume gives translations of much from the Vedas and the Upanishads. See also Sir Monier Monier- Williams, Indian Wisdom , 4th ed., London, 1893.



[a] The Ancient Cultures.

While religious conceptions were crys- tallizing into a theological system, social and economic conditions were evolving into a social order, the caste system, which divides the .Hindu people into four main classes: (1) the priests, who conduct the ritual and preserve the sacred texts; (2) the warriors, who are rulers and public administrators; (3) the agriculturalists, who till the soil and produce the wealth; and (4) the sudras, the laborers. The first three comprise the Aryans, the fourth probably origi- nated in conquered peoples. These main

divisions have become subdivided into more than twenty-five hundred groups. A Hindu belongs to a caste by birth, and to change from it is practically impossible, though he is permitted in- dividual freedom within its limits. Ac- cording to him, this system, which seems to have evolved naturally in an- cient times, is a part of the order of nature.

The world soul concept of the Upani- shads, the universal spiritual principle — the impersonal absolute from which all individual souls emanate and to



which, theoretically, they return — pos- tulates a concept of an endless succession of lives (known as the transmigration of souls) in which the acts of each life de- termine the status of the next — higher for the good or lower for the wicked. Few attain the goal: absorption into Nirvana. Though the Hindu believes that everyone, each according to his ability, might catch some gleam of this ultimate, yet for most men both the lofty conceptions of the Upanishads and the mystic insight required for their realization were too difficult. Hence we see the love and worship of the old gods bringing about a compromise with the metaphysical speculations of the Brah- mans in the form of the Trimurti, a triple aspect of the one supreme reality: Brahma, the creative aspect, cognition, wisdom; Vishnu, the sustaining aspect, love, emotion; Shiva, the destructive aspect, will, power. Of the three, Vishnu and Shiva were the more popular, and their worship developed into powerful cults.

As religious ideas were evolving, the great epics were also taking shape. The Ramayana tells of the deeds of the prince Rama during his exile, brought about by court intrigue, and the recovery of his lost bride Sita. The Mahabharata, like the Iliad, deals with a war between two clans, here the Kurus and the Bharatas. But inserted, frequently at a later date than the first collecting of the legends, are such religious treatises as the Bhagavad-gita, the Lord's Song , which is probably the highest expression of Hindu faith. 1

1 For translations of the Ramayana and Mahabharata, see Frederika Macdonald, Iliad of the East , Lane, 1908; Sister Nivedita (M. E. Noble) and A. K. Coomaraswamy, Myths of the Hindus and Buddhists, Holt, 1914; and Lin Yutang, The Wisdom of China and India. For the Bhagavad-gita, see the translations by A, W. Rider, University of Chicago Press, 1929; L. D. Barnett, Macmillan, 1905; and Lin Yutang, op. cit.

The concept of one universal reality permeating the cosmos the writer of the Bhagavad-gita expresses when he says:

“There is naught higher than I, O W ealth- W inner ; all this universe is strung upon Me, as rows of gems upon a thread.

“I am the taste in water, O son of Kunti; I am the light in moon and sun, the Om in all the Vedas, sound in the ether, manhood in men.

“The pure scent in earth am I, and the light in fire; the life in all born beings am I, and the mortification of them that mortify the flesh.

“Know Me to be the ancient Seed of all born beings, O son of Pritha; I am the understanding of them that un- derstand, the splendor of the splen- did.”*

The young Prince Siddhartha (died about 543 b.c.), brought up in this tra- ditional Brahman faith, looking about him, became impressed with the suffer- ing that he saw everywhere. To attain Nirvana one must pass through an al- most endless succession of reincarna- tions, each with its own suffering. So he applied himself to the problem of seek- ing relief from this distress. Leaving his family and his luxurious surroundings, he gave himself up to the life of an as- cetic and through meditation obtained the knowledge that enabled him to bring a means of salvation to his people. Hence he became a Buddha, that is, an enlightened one. His solution was to recognize that the individual was an illusion only and that suffering was due to self-interest — to the assertion of the interests of the individual rather than the submersion of the individual in the larger universal life that embraces all nature in its fellowship and is the only reality. The means of escape from the

2 Bhagavad-gita, tr. by L. D. Barnett, p. 119, by permission of the publishers, The Macmillan Company.


fetters of the individual into this su- preme universal life lay not in the elaborate sacrifices prescribed by the Brahman priests, but partly in medita- tion, in order to bring the soul through retirement and concentration into union with the divine, and partly through moral actions done in a spirit of com- plete selflessness. This was the path that led to the conquest of self, to peace of mind, to wisdom, and to release from bondage.

For forty-five years Gautama (Sid- dhartha’s name as a Buddha) taught the Eightfold Path, the Wheel of the Law, as he wandered, a mendicant, through the Ganges Valley winning dis- ciples and building up a society of the faith which was not only to dominate India for centuries but to reach out into large areas of eastern Asia as a power- fully energizing influence.

In a culture based upon these con- cepts of religion, sociology, and eco- nomics, how does the artist function? What are his aims? Hindu art, whether Brahmanical or Buddhist — and one must remember that Buddhism re- tained many of the fundamental tenets of Brahmanism — is primarily a re- ligious art. Even secular objects are imbued with religious significance. As the Hindu always tended to be specu- lative, the artist was motivated by the need to objectify the ultimate reality that lay behind visible appearance. His was “the sacred task of rendering ex- plicit the implications of the Cosmic life ” 1 -—- which closely approximates the early-Christian ideal, “to render visible the mysteries of the supra-natural world. 2 ”

The Hindu artist considered himself

1 Mulk Raj Anand, The Hindu View of Art , London, 1933, p. 1 72. For the close relationship of Hindu and early Christian ideals, see A. K. Coomaraswamy, The Transformation of Nature in Art, Harvard University Press, 1934.

2 See note 1, p. 250.

a pious craftsman, a servant in the tem- ple or the palace, and, as a descendant of Visvakarma, lord of the arts, the heir of an ideal above the idiosyncrasies of individual expression. He must have the capacity to learn his craft. “One who knows amiss his craft, after his death will fall into hell and suffer. . . . Vision without technique is as unfortunate as skill without vision .” 3 To attain vision, the artist practiced yoga — that is, through meditation he attuned his mind to and identified himself with that which he was to objectify . 4 He visualized the concept in every detail before the work of his hands began. His visualization, however, was not dictated by his individual preferences, but in terms of a canon which stipulated pro- portion, pose of body, and gestures of limbs and hands, and which constituted for the artist a kind of language, as words do for the writer, or mathematical formulas for the engineer. The positions of the hands known as mudras (lives of the hands) are vibrant symbols of char- acteristic activities — teaching, medi- tating, not-fearing — and epitomize the essential significance of the painting, statue, or dance. No image can be beautiful, according to Hindu theory, which is not created according to the- canon. Thus the artist’s visualization de- rived from what the canon prescribed, not from what his eye saw. Whether carving or drawing a figure, he never worked from a living model. His work is based on conception, not perception; and it reflects an attitude toward nature and a habit of mind that are in strong contrast to the freer, more individual- istic viewpoint of the Occident, yet which have nevertheless produced some of the most profound art of the world.

3 Mulk Raj Anand, op. cit., p. 177.

+ Dr. Coomaraswamy refers to a similar point of view in Dante: “Who paints a figure, if he cannot be it, cannot paint it.” The Chinese and Japanese also possess this habit of mind.


[a] Sanchi Stupa. Restored. D. 121 ft. 3d cent. b.c. (Archaeological Survey of India)

During the evolution of this civiliza- tion foreign influences from the West penetrated India several times; for the Greeks under Alexander had reached northwestern India and later came in- vasions of the Sassanian Persians. Evi- dences of these influences are somewhat apparent in Indian art. But in a.d. 320 a native dynasty was restored and this, the Gupta period, forms the Golden Age of Hindu culture (about a.d. 300- 600.) A Chinese pilgrim (Fa-heen or Fa-hsien) in writing of his travels in India in the fifth century describes the rich and prosperous condition of the country. He tells of charitable institu- tions and hospitals, institutions of learn- ing, great monasteries, rich palaces with carved and painted ornamentation; of a mild, adequate government, and re- ligious toleration. Fine buildings were erected, only to be destroyed later by the Muhammadans. Sculpture and painting reached a climax of attain- ment, as did music, science, and San- skrit literature. For this was the period of the most famous poets, of whom Kalidasa was the greatest. Europe was being plunged into chaos by the fall of the Roman Empire and the inroads of the barbarians; and although the By- zantine Empire was flourishing under

Justinian at Constantinople and the Sassanian power was at a climax under Chosroes I and Chosroes II at Ctesi- phon, at this time India in the sum total of its broad culture was probably the most enlightened nation in the world. 1

ARCHITECTURE AND SCULPTURE Of the early cities of India of which we read in Hindu literature nothing is left. The earliest type of structure that has survived is the Buddhist stupa, a mound of solid brick or stone to mark some sacred place or to hold some relic. Most representative is the great Sanchi Stupa (Fig. 198A). It is hemispherical, with a flattened top, and rests upon a high circular terrace; a massive balus- trade surrounds the mounds, the usual method in India of protecting a sacred 1 The broad divisions of Hindu history are: 3300-2000 b.c. Indus Age

2000-700 b.c. Vedic Age

500 b.c.-a.d. 300 Age of Buddhism

a.d. 300-600 Gupta dynasty, Hinduism;

Buddhism absorbed by renascent Brahmanism A.D. 600-800 Classic Age; Rajputs

a.d. 800-1818 Medieval Age; Muham-

madan invasion; Mughal Empire



[a] Gate at Sanchi. Upper part. {India Office)

place; at the four cardinal points are ornamental gateways, lavishly carved (Fig. 1 99A) . Originally a balustrade sur- rounded the terrace, and served to guide the pilgrims in their procession, or circumambulation, about the shrine, an early practice common in Hindu re- ligious ceremony. A double stairway with balustrades afforded an entrance

to the terrace. On the flattened top of the mound was another balustrade sur- rounding the reliquary, which was sur- mounted by an umbrella, the symbol of royalty. Both the balustrades and the gateways appear from the construction to be stone copies of wooden rail fences and gates. They are, in fact, the work of the carpenter executed in stone. This



[a] Dryad. Pier of Sanchi Gate (Fig. iggX) . {India Office)

gives us a clue to why earlier examples of architecture have not survived: they were of wooden construction and could not withstand the destructive climate of India. The richly carved gates are strong accents against the unbroken sur- face of the stupa, and illustrate the exuberance and never-ending rhythmic movement found in Hindu ornament. Piers, crossbars, and brackets are filled to overflowing with carvings which in content combine Buddhist symbols, such as the stupa, the sacred tree, or the wheel, with narrations of the former in- carnations of Gautama Buddha when he was a bird or an elephant . 1 For in early Buddhism the Buddha was repre-

1 These stories, a constantly recurring theme in Buddhist art, are known as the Jataka tales. For these tales see the edition by H. T. Francis and E. J. Thomas, Cambridge University Press, 1916; and E. W. Burlingame, tr., Buddhist Parables, Yale University Press, 1922.

sented only by symbol or by reference to these earlier lives. In the upper bar of the gate illustrated, for example, people are worshiping stupas and sacred trees. Whatever is represented in the Sanchi reliefs — man, animal, or plant — tends to be of the same height, ex- pressive of the unity and the equality of all animate life; and all are sur- charged with vitality. The figures are placed one above another to fill the space, and are carved in high enough relief to enable their simplified planes to be seen clearly against the dark ground. As decoration, the carving fills every inch of the surface with ceaseless movement brought to a halt by firm edges and spiraling terminals. One lower bracket is filled with a Dryad (Fig. 2 ooa) clinging to a tree, and their association is expressed by their formal relationship. For the figure and the tree interpenetrate inseparably by a flow of movement. The limbs of the figure and the branches of the tree are sinuous interweaving cylinders; the masses of the body rise and fall in the full breasts, the slim waist, and the bulbous hips. The tree is highly conventional, and the figure follows the canon in its propor- tions: broad shoulders, narrow waist, large breasts and hips. The carving on the Sanchi Gates is not primitive but, like the architecture, seems to be a transla- tion into stone of an earlier, fully de- veloped art of perishable material, per- haps wood, and an expression of the Vedic animistic faith — an art which the Buddhists took over as part of their tradition but molded to new purposes.

Another important type of Buddhist building was the assembly hall for con- gregational worship . 2 Probably many of these halls were of wooden construc- tion; those that are now extant are rock-cut — hollowed out from the side

2 Sometimes called a chaitya hall; that is, a temple or hall containing a chaitya (a monu- ment).


[a] Buddhist Assembly Hall. Karle. c. 1st cent. b.c. (India Office)

of a cliff. Rock-cut churches, monas- teries, and temples were popular in In- dia, as they afforded excellent shelter both from the heavy rain and from the glaring heat. Though chiseled from the solid rock, they imitated the form of the wood or masonry structures. Such a hall we find in Karle (Fig. 201 a). The hall consists of a nave with a semicir- cular end, and aisles from which the nave is separated by a row of columns. At the circular end within ; the nave stands the shrine in the form of a stupa, which was the symbol of the faith in the early days of Buddhism before statues of Buddha were made. The roof is in the form of a great barrel vault with ribs which reproduce the bamboo con- struction of its prototype. Originally there were fresco mural decorations, and painted banners hung from the roof. One large leaf-shaped window was placed above the entrance in such away that the light fell directly upon the stupa and brought out the rich colors of the

decorations before it was lost in the dim shadows of the high vaulting.

It was not until several hundred years after the death of Gautama that statues of the Buddha began to supplant the symbolic stupa . 1 Frequently he is repre- sented in meditation - — a yoga practice — as one sees in the Great Buddha of Anuradhapura (Fig. 2 02 a). The Buddha is seated with legs crossed, one hand

1 Owing partly to the influence of Greece that had penetrated to northwestern India through the conquests of Alexander the Great and had strongly influenced the sculptors of Gandhara, who combined tire Indian concep- tion with the Greek method of expression. The result is interesting historically, for it penetrated to China also. But it is curiously exotic, and typical neither of Greece nor of India. In the sculpture of India, China, and Japan, the at- tributes of Buddha are the protuberance of wisdom on the top of the head; the split and elongated ear lobes (symbolizing the renuncia- tion of riches, in the form of jewelry so heavy that it lengthened the lobes); and the mark on the forehead, often a jewel, that symbolizes the third eye of spiritual vision.



[a] The Great Buddha of Anuradhapura , Ceylon. Of domolite. Colossal size. 5th or 6th cent. a.d.

resting on the other in his lap in the mudra of meditation; the back is erect, but the eyelids are lowered as if to turn the mind and the sense organs inward. A thin drapery falls from the left shoulder, indicated by a diagonal line across the breast. The figure rises from its broad base to a height equal to that of the base (a proportion of quietude) and is carved with geometric simplicity — simple, massive, rounding forms that flow into each other, producing a monu- mental effect. For the aim of the sculp- tor was not to tell what the Buddha looked like physically, but to make the observer realize the spiritual realm which he attained — inner serenity. “As a lamp in a windless spot flickers not, such is the likeness that is told of the strict-minded man . . . when the mind, held in check, comes to stillness . . . and when he knows the boundless happiness that lies beyond sense- instruments and

is grasped by understanding, and in steadfastness swerves not from Verity, than which, once gotten, he deems no other boon better .” 1 This stillness is not the negation of power, but denotes the acquisition of the greatest spiritual values; and the “moral grandeur” of the concept equals the esthetic grandeur of the form.

Thus Buddhist art in its early stages, as illustrated by the Sanchi Stupa, was “popular, sensuous, and animistic In- dian art adapted to the purposes of the illustration of Buddhist anecdote and the decoration of Buddhist monu- ments .” 2 Later it produced the Bud- dhas of southern India and Ceylon— - the Buddha of Anuradhapura (Fig. 202A) for example — which constitute a truly Buddhist art of great vitality and mon- umentality, significant in content for its expression of spiritual values, and in style for its austere massiveness and con- ventional treatment of details.

As we enter the Gupta age, however, when Buddhism was waning under the impact of a renascent Brahmanism, the trend was toward ease, grace, and hu- manism. A popular subject was the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara ? A bronze statuette of this divinity represents the Bodhisattva seated in an easy pose, the weight borne by the left arm, and the right hand, supported by the raised leg, held in the traditional mudra of teach- ing. The shoulders are broad and strong, the waist narrow, the limbs rounded,

1 Bhagavad-gita, tr. by Barnett, p. 114, by permission of the publishers, The Macmillan Company.

2 A. K. Coomaraswamy, The Dance of Siva, Sunwise Turn, 1924, p. 54.

3 A Bodhisattva is a being who is destined at some time to become a Budclha; even at present he is an active force for salvation and his wor- ship is the center of a cult. Avalokiteshvara, “the lord who looketh down in great compas- sion,” is one of the most important Bodhisattvas not only in India but, under a different form, in China and Japan also.


[a] Buddha Expounding the Law to His Mother , Maya. Borobudur. c. gth cent. a.d.

and the skin smooth; on the head is the protuberance of wisdom, here covered by a crown, and the ears are elon- gated— all traditional characteristics and conventions. Through the figure flows a suave rhythm which emphasizes serene youthfulness and tender compas- sion. Its material, bronze, is highly suit- able for both the character and the small size of the figure.

Buddhism was a strongly missionary religion. An important point to Which it penetrated was Java, where the Bud- dhist priests erected the great Stupa of Borobudur (Fig. 204A). This shrine was an elaborated stupa. About it wound five procession paths, along which were sculptured, in relief in the coarse na- tive stone of which the stupa was built, stories of the Buddhist faith, for the in- struction and stimulation of pilgrims. In Figure 203A the Buddha, seated in a temple, with hand uplifted in the mudra of teaching, is expounding the law to bis mother, Maya, and her attendants.

The conventional trees, which fill the space above the seated figures, and the elaborate costumes contribute to the richly decorative character of the relief.


The early painting of India, of which we read in the ancient literature, is lost. The earliest extant work reveals a highly developed art serving the same function as sculpture — a didactic and decora- tive purpose in religious places. Note- worthy among early works are the paintings in the Ajanta Caves. These cave temples formed a Buddhist monastic retreat in an isolated ravine in central India. Here the artists covered walls and ceilings with paintings usually re- ferred to as frescoes but which are closer to a tempera technique. The pigments are mineral, not the earth colors char- acteristic of fresco. The walls were first coated with rough plaster (often mixed with some binding material, such as



[a] Stupa of Bor obudur. Java . c. gth cent. a.d.

rice husks) and then covered with a coat of smooth white plaster, on which the figures were drawn in red and cov- vered with a transparent underpainting, usually green. The local colors were then added, and finally the contours were repainted in brown or black. In the earlier examples — the Ajanta Fres- coes cover several centuries — the fig- ures are large and imposing, as in the scenes which tell of the life of the Bud- dha when he was a great white elephant in the Himalayas; or in the Adoration, in which a woman and child, perhaps the wife and child of Gautama, stand in fervid devotion before the majestic figure of the Buddha with his begging bowl, clad in a yellow robe, his feet on a lotus — all against a deep-blue ground. In the later paintings, in Cave i, a vast drama is spread on the walls with all the exuberance and overflowing quality of the Sanchi Gates. Scene crowds upon scene in a panorama of aristocratic life used in the service of religious themes. The figures are smaller than in the earlier paintings, are more consciously grouped, and are more closely related to an architectural setting. In Figure 205A, for example, a Rajah, a former in- carnation of the Buddha, is represented with his hands in the mudra of exposi-

tion, explaining the doctrines to his wife and a group of court attendants. Perhaps the first impression is that of a scene lived intensely. How has the painter been able to produce this effect? Very little by facial expression, but largely by the highly expressive pose of body and gesture of hands, and by the dynamic use of line, light, and color. The drawing is according to the canon (compare the Dryad, Fig. 200 a) . The line itself is full of vitality. At times it models the figure as in sculptural drawing; or it may combine with a slight shadow to give an effect of roundness and so- lidity. This shadow is not the result of natural or artificial illumination, but is an abstract means of expressing round- ness by using a high light on the parts nearest the observer. Notwithstanding, the strong contours, combined with the sharply linear quality in the details, tend to flatten the scene as a whole. To this effect the broad bands of the saris contribute, with their slow wavelike movement above the dark almost unbroken base. Despite this flat decora- tive quality, there is a sinuous move- ment back and forth in the shallow depth between the foreground and the angular framework of the pavilion.

A superb example of Buddhist paint-


[a] Rajah in the Mudra of Exposition. Ajanta. 5 th-6th cent. a.d. ( Art Institute of Chicago)

ing is the great figure of a Bodhisativa same means that are employed in the

(or so it is thought to be), which stands Rajah group.

out with particular force against a wa- These paintings at Ajanta are more vering background of smaller figures and than accomplished drawings and paint-

contrasting color. The saint is richly ings per se. To the Hindu they are

garbed and adorned with a rope of above all a vehicle for the expression of

I pearls and other jewels, and he wears a an inner life. They are saturated with

high headdress ornamented with sap- an intense vitality which reflects an phires; in his right hand he holds a blue equally intense feeling on the part of lotus. The pose, it has been suggested, the painter. “The theme is all in all.”

may derive from a dancing pose. For This inner significance of the subject so

dancing was an important element in motivates the artist and permeates his I Hindu ritual. Whatever the interpreta- being that, using the language of the

I tion, the figure is filled with a feeling of canon merely as a means to an end, he

intense compassion, expressed by the never loses sight of the end.




The art of India was primarily reli- gious and symbolic. The earliest surviv- ing buildings are the Buddhist stupas, with elaborately carved gates' the cave assembly halls, in which a stupa symbolized the Buddha; and the monas- tic caves, which contained both carvings and paintings, Sculpture and painting functioned both decoratively and didac- tically: to ornament entrances, to dec- orate walls, and at the same time to narrate incidents in the life of the Bud- dha and his worshipers.

In form the art of India was strictly obedient to accepted canons of tech-



Chinese art


IN studying Chinese art we are dealing with a people whose native conservatism has preserved their fundamental traditions for more than four thousand years — a unique instance in the history of civilizations. To be sure, foreign influences have entered China and become powerful, but eventually they have been absorbed or assimilated by truly Chinese thought and action.

China is vast both in population and in geographical extent, a land of more than four hundred million people, with an area, including Tibet, Chinese Tur- kestan (Sinlciang), Mongolia, and Man- churia, of more than twice the size of the United States, though China proper includes a little less than half this area (Fig. 207A) . The fertile eastern plains are traversed by two great river systems

nique and representation. The artist was a pious craftsman highly trained in these canons and motivated by a need for expressing, within or by means of the canons, inner significance. Thus he was not concerned with visible appear- ances; nor was he an individual free to follow his own idiosyncrasies, but an instrument of something behind and greater than the individual — the con- sciousness of his race. Thus in both painting and sculpture the figure was not an imitation of natural appearance, but an expression, in terms of an under- stood language of form, of spiritual values.

See the Bibliography on page 377.

-A.D. 907)

that have their rise in the mountains of the west. The Hwang Ho, or Yellow River, with swift current brings down great quantities of silt that is still build- ing up the alluvial plains — now pro- viding rich agricultural lands, now de- stroying farms and people with its floods and erratic changes of course. The Yangtze Kiang, or Blue River, through its navigability serves as a great artery of commerce. As one would expect in so large a country, there is great variety of climate, vegetation, language, and custom. North China, centering about Peiping, has a cool, dry climate and many stretches of plain; South China, centering about Canton, is moist and tropical, with mountains near by to afford a summer refuge from the ener- vating heat. To west and north are vast



areas of desert plateau. Agriculture forms the economic basis of life; even in the mountainous regions small patches of tillable land are intensively culti- vated. The natural resources are great — mines of gold and other metals, quar- ries, “jade mountains . 55 Formerly there were great forests, now destroyed.

' The earliest beginnings of Chinese culture appeared in Paleolithic times with the Peking man, who lived in the valley of the Yellow River somewhat

earlier than Neandertal man lived in Europe, and who had weapons similar to those found in Paleolithic Europe. Then followed a great gap in time — probably it will be filled by further ex- cavations — - until a Neolithic culture appeared in the same valley, an agri- cultural people who cultivated rice and made textiles and a fine painted pot- tery. The earliest historical culture was the Shang, centered in the Honan province and comprising perhaps one-



fifth of present China. 1 The people, when not at war, were primarily agricultural, and for this reason interested in the powers of nature — sky, stars, wind, and rain. About these powers their religion centered. The dragon — in varying forms one of the most important motifs in Chinese art, and the emblem of the emperor — possibly had its origin in the great alligators that infested the rivers and early became objects of wor- ship, symbolizing the coming of spring and rain. Likewise the phoenix, because of its fabulous renewal of life from its own ashes, symbolized the sun and the warmth that brings about the ever re- current life in nature.

Two other fundamentals of this early civilization have persisted as basic ele- ments of Chinese culture. First, the so- cial basis, the unit of which was the family and not the individual. The cus- toms of one’s ancestors constituted the established law, and the perpetuation of the family was the vital necessity. To these the rights and freedom of the in- dividual were sacrificed. He was but one link in the social chain, and the chain unbroken was paramount. Such an attitude fostered the second funda- mental, which was a pious reverence for the dead, a continual looking to the past rather than to the future, and an

1 Chinese civilization may be traced back to about 3000 b.c. The important periods are:

Shang dynasty Chou dynasty Ts'in dynasty Han dynasty Wei and the Six dy- nasties T'ang dynasty Sung dynasty Yuan or Mongol dynasty Ming dynasty Ts'ing or Manchu dynasty

1766-1122 1 1122-255 255-206

206 B.C.-A.D. 221 A.D. 22I-6l8

618-907 960-1280 1280-1368 I368-X644 1644-I9II

The spelling and the dates used in this chapter are those of H. A. Giles. For maps illustrating the geographic extent of China in the various dynasties, and the old trade routes, see E. H. Parker, China, 2d ed. rev., Dutton, 1924.

acceptance of the past as the ultimate authority. The result of such a culture was unity and harmony, and in art an expression that was racial rather than individual.

These peculiarly Chinese ideas and institutions, which have continued with little fundamental change to the present time, were established by the Shang and formulated by the Chou, a people of great vitality. This formulation was largely the work of Confucius (551- 479 b.c.), philosopher, historian, and statesman. The early climax of Chinese culture reached in the Chou dynasty, it is interesting to note, was roughly contemporary with cultural climaxes in Persia, Greece, and India. While Con- fucianism is frequently classed as a re- ligion, it is neither a religion nor a philosophy, but a social and ethical system that aims to secure a stable so- ciety by regulating human relation- ships. “Chinese Humanism,” says Lin Yutang, “in its essence is the study of human relations through a correct ap- preciation of human values by the psy- chology of human motives to the end that we may behave as reasonable hu- man beings.” 2

Meanwhile, in the valley of the Yang- tze Kiang, the “land of thorns,” lived the “jungle barbarians,” of a different race and a different conception of life. Among them grew up a sect known as the Taoists — followers of the Tao, the impersonal force or principle identified with nature. These dwellers by the Blue River had an intense love of nature — of the mountains, rivers, mists, and clouds that are characteristic of that part of China. They claimed as their founder Lao-tzu (Lao-tse) (570?-490 B.c.), a contemporary of Confucius but a teacher who recognized the individual to a far greater extent, for he taught that the self must be recognized in order to be brought into harmony with the 2 The Wisdom of India and China , p. 571.



great impersonal force permeating the universe that was the ultimate good.

Toward the end of the Chou dynasty the Ts'in, a Tatar people who were living on the western boundaries and serving the Chou as horseherds and charioteers, finally became the domi- nating power, and the king of Ts'in be- came the first emperor of China (246 b .c.) . The T s £ in consolidated the empire, set up a strongly centralized govern- ment, built the Great Wall as a pro- tection against the Mongolian nomads, and in order to abolish local patriotism burned the written books. They also gave to the country the name by which we know it: China — Ts'in, or Chin, land. They, in turn, were overcome by the Han, who by dividing the land set up a feudal state. The Han were the great supporters of Confucian ideals, and established Confucian writings as the exclusive classical literature of China. Under the Han, China ex- panded westward to protect itself against the barbarous tribes of central Asia and also to keep open the great trade routes over which its silks and other products were carried west even to the Roman Empire.

These highways were most important in the history of Chinese civilization. Along them traders, pilgrims, and ar- mies traveled between eastern and west- ern Asia. While in China proper the native culture had been developing un- til it had formed established traditions, over these highways the Buddhist faith was slowly making its way as the Buddhist monks and missionaries estab- lished their monasteries farther and farther eastward, especially in eastern Turkestan, which had become a Chi- nese protectorate. Here in the oases that formed a chain of cities across the desert plateaus the religion of India met the culture of China, and the fu- sion of the two formed the basis of the later great art of China.

Buddhism, during the thousand years since its founding, had developed into something much more comprehensive than the simple teaching of Prince Siddhartha. As a strongly missionary religion, its conception of salvation in- cluded the whole universe; and in this aspect perhaps even more important than the Buddha were the Bodhisatt- vas. Avalokiteshvara, the lord of pity, under the name Kuan-yin was to be- come (in female form) one of the most important of the Chinese and Japanese Buddhist deities. With well-established traditions, China was ready for the stimulation that the emotionalism and the mysticism of Buddhism could give it. The ground had been prepared by the Taoists, whose ideas were somewhat akin to those of the Buddhists. We read of pilgrims such as Fa-heen (or Fa-hsien) 1 traveling through India (a.d. 399-414) visiting sacred places, learning of the faith, and collecting literature about it. The translation of the Indian idea into a Chinese mode of expression we see developing in Tur- kestan. But its full assimilation and ulti- mate expression took place in China proper in the Tang dynasty (618-907), a golden age in all the aits — painting, sculpture, metalwork, poetry, music. Toward the end of the Tang period, a conservative reaction set in against Bud- dhism and other religions that had se- cured a foothold; it soon developed into a revolution that demanded a return to the Confucian system. The success of the revolutionists (845) brought about the destruction of temples and mon- asteries with their great series of fres- coes, and a general ruin of all works of art. This is why so little real Tang art has survived. Another reaction in favor of Buddhism restored many of the tem- ples and monasteries in the tenth cen- tury, but by that time most of the paintings were irretrievably lost.

1 See page 198.



[a] Wine Vessel, Ku. Bronze . H. 12% in. Shang Dynasty. Buckingham Collection, Art Institute of Chicago. {Art Institute)


In the writings of the Chou period — and they are plentiful — we read of temples, palaces, sculpture, and paint- ings, almost all of which have been lost because of the perishable materials of which they were made and the devas- tating character of the climate. One of the greatest expressions of the age, however, and one that is peculiarly Chinese, has survived — the bronzes. Their full significance is seen only in re- lation to their users, a people organized socially on the unit of the family, whose reverence for ancestors was equal to

that which they felt for winds, rains, and clouds, those manifestations of na- ture about which centers the worship of an agricultural people. These basic cultural factors suggest the origins of the uses, shapes, and decorative motifs of the vessels and throw light upon the impression of deep significance and hieratic character that we feel in them . 1

Something of this spirit we discern in the frequent inscriptions found on the bronzes, as on one of the bells that were used to summon the spirits of the departed, or the guests to the banquet, or to serve as one of the instruments of the orchestra: “I, Kuo-Shu Lu, say: Grandly distinguished was my illus- trious father Hui Shu, with profound reverence he maintained a surpassingly bright virtue. He excelled alike in the rule of his own domain and in his liberal treatment of strangers from afar. When I, Lu, presumed to assume the leader- ship of the people and to take as my model the dignified demeanor of my illustrious father, a memorial of the event was presented at the Court of the Son of Heaven, and the Son of Heaven graciously honoured me with abundant gifts. I, Lu, humbly acknowledge the timely gifts of the Son of Heaven and proclaim their use in the fabrication for my illustrious father Hui Shu of this great sacrificial tuneful bell. Oh, illus- trious father seated in majesty above, protect with sheltering wings us who are left here below. Peaceful and glorious, extend to me, Lu, abundant happiness! I, Lii, and my sons and grandsons for ten thousand years to come, will ever- lastingly prize this bell and use it in our ritual worship .” 2

1 There is but little accurate knowledge con- cerning these bronzes, for though the Chinese themselves have great reverence for them, and early began to collect them, compile catalogues of them, and write treatises about them, these studies are lacking in scientific accuracy.

2 S. W. Bushell, Chinese Art, 2 vols., Brentano, 1924, Vol. I, p. 73.


[a] Food Vessel, Ting. Bronze. H. in. [b] Wine Vessel , Tsun. Bronze. H. dj in. Shang Dynasty. Buckingham Collection, Art Shang Dynasty. Buckingham Collection, Art Institute of Chicago . {Art Institute) Institute of Chicago. {Art Institute)

The purpose of these vessels seems to conventionalized animal head that has have been in some instances ritual (to been cleft into two halves and spread be used in the sacrificial rites of ancestor out laterally on each side of the nose, worship), in some, to record important Another motif almost always found, es- events or favors from the king; and in pecially as a ground pattern, is the

others, for eating and drinking on espe- fret which is usually interpreted as the

cial occasions. Whatever their purpose, cloud or thunder pattern. The Chinese

they were considered one of the greatest adapted these motifs, with great ingenu-

family possessions, and by invaders, ity and variation, to the surfaces to be

most desirable loot. Their shapes seem decorated, and displayed particular sen-

to be dictated by function. Figure 210A sitivity for the relation of the motif in

shows a tall slender drinking vessel hold- scale to its function in the total design,

ing about a pint and probably used in In Figure 210A the lanceolate pattern

religious ceremonies; Figure 2 ha, a accents the slender proportions of the

food vessel; and Figure 2 1 ib, a wine cup. In Figure 21 1 a the bold ogre mask

vessel of a shape derived from an owl. occupies the heaviest part of the jar and

The decorative motifs are similar on all is set off by the wavering pattern of the

the bronzes: highly conventionalized more delicate fret of the background,

representations of dragons, cicadas, In Figure 21 ib the decorative scheme is

snakes, birds, or animals connected built upon a bold curve with a strong

with an agricultural people and un- pattern and upon the interplay of

doubtedly symbolic in their formative countercurves in the feet and the tail;

period. A common motif is the so-called by this framework the minor allover

ogre mask, which consists of a highly pattern is controlled.



[a] Stone Relief. From a tomb . L. c. 5 ft. Han Dynasty. ( Chavannes ) Under a tree full of nesting birds before a two-story house stand an unhitched horse and an empty chariot. In- side the house four men, two of whom are kneeling, bow before a personage whose importance is indicated by both his size and his position under a canopy. On the upper floor servants attend a lady seated in the middle. The tiled roofs are covered with monkeys and peacocks. On the left at a distance an archer shoots at the birds. Beyond him a scribe writes down the names <tf four kneeling men. In the lower zone on the right the principal chariot of a procession is preceded by two men on foot carrying batons, two horsemen carrying banners, and two other chariots.

Technically, these bronzes illustrate a pinnacle in bronze-working. The cast- ing, by the cire-perdue process, shows a perfection of skill not only in molding and casting tiny details so that very little if any finishing was necessary, but in the ability to cast a piece with handles and even with the base in one piece — a skill not surpassed by modern mechani- cal methods. One element of charm in these bronzes today is accidental, for the beautiful blue, green, and irides- cent color was not intentional on the part of the artist but is due to the patina subsequently accreted. 1

1 A patina is a crust that forms on a bronze (as on some other materials) during a long period of time because of the chemical action of the alloys that compose the bronze, and the atmosphere or material in which the article is buried. It may be thin or thick, rough or smooth, and variously colored.


Chinese architecture in its uniformity through the ages well illustrates the con- servatism of the race. When once the Chinese had evolved a type of building elastic enough to fulfill various func- tions, he saw no reason for changing what had become a satisfactory tradi- tion. This uniformity is a matter both of material and of design. For some in- explicable reason the Chinese has used timber as his chief building material, despite a plentiful supply of stone and of clay for brick. The harder materials were used only for substructures, for bridges and military defenses, and for the tiles which served universally as roofing. Such a heavy roof resting upon wooden supports made none too stable a building, one that was subject to col-



[a] Temple of Heaven. Peiping. 18th cent.

lapse from earthquake or fire. So it is that no buildings from any period be- fore the T‘ang have survived; our knowledge of ancient Chinese archi- tecture is garnered from descriptions in Chinese literature and from recent buildings which appear to continue the old traditions comparatively faith- fully.

The type seems to have been set as early as the Chou period, and we read of Han palaces huge enough to accommodate thousands of people and resplendent with bronze columns, mural paintings, silk hangings, fine rugs, and lacquer work. The most striking feature of the design as it is used in recent buildings is the broadly projecting curved roof , 1 whose expanse, conspicuous because the entrance is on the long side, repeats the broad earth to which the building clings. Some- times this roof is single; frequently it is double — that is, on two levels, the

1 The origin of the curved roof, often with upturned corners, is a moot question. Of many explanations suggested, none is satisfactory.

upper level supported by interior col- umns not visible from the outside. The construction consists of columns, tie beams, and brackets, and an open tim- ber roof covered with tiles laid in beds of mortar. The walls are not functional as supports, but merely fill in the space between the columns. Horizontality is the dominant note in the design, and any extensions consist of horizontal pro- jections.

Ornament and color are especially stressed and are of great splendor. The approaches and the balustrades of the terrace are elaborately carved. The roof tiles of royal buildings are yellow, the imperial color in China. On other buildings the tiles are sometimes blue or green; and the choice, determined by strict laws, is indicative of the rank of the owner and symbolic in meaning. The ridgepoles are decorated with dragons, phoenixes, and grotesques, as if to break the long lines as well as to ward off evil spirits. The columns, the beams, and the undersides of the projecting roofs and the interior are elaborately ornamented with gold and vermilion, carvings, lacquer, and inlay.

The Temple of Heaven (Fig. 213A) well illustrates symbolism in Chinese archi- tecture. Its Chinese name means “Tem- ple of Prayer for the Year,” for here each spring the emperor went to offer sacrifices and prayer for a propitious year, not only to heaven but to the im- perial forefathers, to sun, moon, and stars, and to the spirits of nature in winds, clouds, and rain. Here again color and form are determined by sym- bolism. As blue is the color of heaven, so the tiles of the temple are a deep cobalt. And during the ceremonies of the spring sacrifice blue dominates the interior, for the ceremonial vessels are of blue porcelain, the worshipers are

clad in blue; a blue tone is cast over everything by the Venetian blinds made of blue glass which cover all the doors and windows. Likewise, the unusual circular shape of the temple is sym- bolic of the spherical appearance of the heavens. The temple is an imposing structure, its triple roof with gilded ball pointing with assurance toward the heav- ens. This impressiveness is increased particularly by the location of the build- ing; for it stands upon an elevation, sur- rounded by encircling marble terraces, and approached by broad stairways set at the cardinal points of the compass, which have ornamental balustrades.

A characteristic feature of Chinese landscape is the Buddhist pagoda, Which originated in the umbrella, that symbol of royalty in India which usually ter- minated the stupa, often in a multiple form (Fig. 198A). Some of these pagodas are of a vigorous, massive type, with as many as thirteen stories. Others are more slender (Fig. 214A), with elegance of proportion, interesting variety in the shape of the stories, and elaborate orna- mentation. One of the famous “porce- lain” 1 pagodas is faced with glazed tiles in five colors — deep purplish-blue, rich green, yellow, red, and turquoise-blue — so that the effect as it stands in an open place surrounded with greenery is most charming.

The function of the pagoda is not clear, though it often formed a part of a temple group. But it is always so placed that it stands out prominently against the surrounding landscape. It has been compared to the Gothic spire. “Perhaps after all,” says Mr. Silcock, “there is something in the notion that in periods of religious fervor the soul of

1 “Porcelain” is a misnomer. These pagodas are faced with glazed tile, a method of ornamen- tation carried out effectively in Babylonia- Assyria; and it is quite probable that the Chinese of the Han dynasty, as they pushed their bound- aries westward, learned of its use from these Western peoples.



man expresses aspiration by building towers pointing to the skies, whether he is a follower of Christ or Buddha ” 1 — or indeed a worshiper of Quetzalcoatl, for whose worship the Maya placed his temples upon lofty pyramidal bases.

Another characteristic architectural form in China is the gateway, the pailou made of wood with tile roofs, or of stone imitating the wooden structure. These gateways appear to be derived from the gates of the stupas in India, but the sil- houette of the upper part has been de- termined by the typical curved line of Chinese roof. Unlike the Indian stupa gate, these arches are not necessarily entrances but are often independent structures, erected as memorials to dis- tinguished Chinese, both dead and liv- ing, and may be compared with the triumphal arches of Rome, which were erected for the same purpose.


Sculpture in ancient China before the advent of Buddhism seems to have func- tioned to serve the dead. There were tomb figurines of clay gaily painted — - spontaneous and freely characteristic representations of people and animals. Stone sculpture decorated the tomb, the pillars that formed a gateway to the path leading to it, and the stone slabs set up along the walls of the anteroom of the burial chamber. At royal and princely tombs, massive stone lions or chimeral figures stood guard. In addi- tion to the spirited figurines, the highly decorative Han reliefs are notable. Be- cause of their strongly lineal character, they seem less like reliefs and more like drawings or engravings, with the back- ground slightly cut back. The proces- sion of mounted riders and carriages, which may represent the journey of the

1 Introduction to Chinese Art and History, Lon- don, 1936, p. 134.

[a] Buddhist Votive Stele. Erected in a.d. 554, “as a means of securing the happiness and welfare of the donors, their ancestors, their posterity, their relations, and friends, the Emperor in particular and the Chinese people in general” H. c. 7 ft. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. ( Boston Museum ) Note the two types of relief: flat with incised lines in the two lower zones and high relief model- ing in the upper zones.



[a] Maitreya. Limestone. H. £§• ft. Northern [b] Kuan-yin. T'ang Dynasty. Me-

Wei Dynasty. Early 5th cent. a.d. Museum of morial Art Gallery , Rochester , New Tork. Fine Arts , Boston. (. Boston Museum ) (. Memorial Art Gallery)

dead to the spirit world, is filled with a vi- ponderous stone and as an expression

vacious pattern and swift linear rhythms of power and energy.

(Fig. 2 1 2 a) . The curves of the wheels The influence exerted by Buddhism and the bodies of the horses are brought upon sculpture was a fusing of the new

into sharp interplay with the angles ideas with the traditional native art,

and diagonals of the horses’ legs; the creating a product that was inherently

vertical-horizontal arrangement of the Chinese. The preliminary stages are

umbrellas adds a quieting note. Among seen in colossal figures of Buddha and

the guardian winged lions and chimeras, the Bodhisattvas carved in the caves

Figure 2 1 7A, with its full rounding forms, along the routes over which Buddhists

striding pose, strong curve of the head, worked their way eastward. Associated

open mouth, and long tongue, is equally with these purely Buddhist themes are

imposing as related, rounded masses of non-Hindu details, ornaments, and



themes. The fusion of these styles ap- pears in a richly decorative votive stele of the Wei dynasty (Fig. 215A). Above the inscriptions that make a broad, firm base are four seals forming a square that is surmounted by a reliquary; four do- nors with their horses; worshipers; and lions. In the middle zone Buddha, with the uplifted hand symbolic of his teach- ing, is seated in a canopied niche with two disciples, Bodhisattvas, and guard- ians. The upper zone contains Buddhas and Bodhisattvas under a canopy, and scenes connected with the life of Bud- dha. The figures of the donors and the reliquary in the two lower zones are in- cised and the ground is cut back for contrast, the traditional Han style of decoration. The Buddhist subjects in the middle and upper zones are carved in high relief, modeled; they show strong Indian influence.

A single figure of the Wei dynasty which expresses the Hindu theme in a style strongly Chinese is a Maitreya (Fig. 2 1 6 a ), the Bodhisattva who is destined to become the next Buddha. He is seated in an austerely frontal pose with legs crossed and hand uplifted in the

traditional Indian pose of the teacher. The features are conventionally treated with planes sharply cut. Except for the head and the arms, the figure is so flat that it gives one more the impression of relief than of the round. The drapery, plaited and girdled high, and the streamers of the cloak that cross in front in an almost geometrical pattern, fall over the pedestal in a conventional way, with feeling for sweeping, rhyth- mic pattern. Here is an archaic art which by the use of symbols and con- ventions, with no attempt to create an illusion of natural appearance, makes all the more emphatic the spiritual fer- vor of the conception.

The evolution of these archaic forms into a classic climax took place in early T‘ang. But even though the forms be- came full and rounding and the deco- rative details richly elegant, and though the poses relaxed from austere frontality into elegant and dignified grace (Fig. 2 1 6 b ), the sculptors never surrendered their traditional ideal of conventions and abstract form to an attempt to copy nature. The cutting of the stone is ex- pert, though it may lack the energy of


[a] Ku K‘ai-chih. Lady Feng and the Bear. Detail of the Admonitions of the Instructress. Probably a Tang copy. Late fth or early yth cent. a.d. British Museum , London. ( British Museum) The seal impressions were added by later connoisseurs ( see note 2, p. 219).

the crisp carving of Wei art; the folds tend toward naturalism, and although they still form a rhythmic pattern, it is a pattern that is not so tingling with life and meaning as in Wei.


The Chinese early began to develop one of his greatest expressions: callig- raphy, poetry, and painting. We say “one” of his expressions, because the three are inextricably connected. Chi- nese writing evolved from pictographs; that is, it presented an image of the idea directly to the eye, in contrast with most systems of writing, which are based on sounds that are symbols of the idea. In time, the pictographs became more conventionalized and highly complex, yet they never lost their pictographic character. The abstract form of the character and the quality of the strokes that make it are of great beauty in them- selves; and when they are joined with a poetic idea the result is a combina-

tion of form and content which makes one realize why the Chinese consider calligraphy one of their finest arts.

The painter used the same materials as the calligrapher: Chinese ink and especially prepared silk or paper. The process of making the finest ink was a secret, often a carefully guarded herit- age. The characters were made with a brush, not a pen, and required a skill attained only through long years of practice. The brush was not held as we hold a pen, but vertically in the hand; its movement was sometimes controlled by the wrist, as in executing a delicate detail, and sometimes by the whole arm from the shoulder, as in making a broad sweeping stroke. Whatever their charac- ter, one quality permeates the line of all fine writing and painting in China — a living force. Whether functioning as an edge, a contour, or calligraphically, line has a life of its own which makes the writing or the painting dynamic.

As the same materials, technique, and habits of mind control the work of



the painter and the writer, we may ex- pect to find in painting the same sim- plification, suggestion, and abstraction as in poetry. Of the poet-painter Wang Wei a Chinese writer said: “I can taste in the poem something of the picture’s flavor; and in the picture I see some- thing of the poem.” 1

The chief forms of Chinese painting are frescoes, hanging scrolls (kakemonos), long scrolls ( makimonos ), and album leaves. The frescoes, which formed great series of wall decoration, majestic and hieratic like the Ajanta Frescoes and the early Christian mosaics, have disap- peared from China proper, and we can judge of them only through the wall paintings of Turkestan and Japan, which reflect something of their nature.

One important difference between Eastern and Western painting lies in the method of exhibiting it. The framed picture, with which we are so familiar, is practically unknown in the Orient. The Chinese panel or scroll was not kept on view continuously, but formed a part of the family treasure, to be ex- hibited for a short time in a place of honor, or to be brought out for a brief period of enjoyment or for some con- noisseur to examine and to affix his seal. 2 3 It was then rolled up and returned to a place of safety.

Of early Chinese painting only a Few fragments remain. Something of its na- ture we learn from a makimono in the British Museum attributed to Ku K f ai- chih (c. a.d. 400), 3 whom the Chinese writers consider one of their great painters. The subject of the scroll was

1 Arthur Waley, An Introduction to the Study of Chinese Painting, London, 1923, p. 144.

2 There are seals of about fifty former owners or famous connoisseurs, for example, on the scroll in the British Museum attributed to Ku K'ai-chih.

3 For interesting stories of this painter see H. A. Giles, An Introduction to the History of Chinese Pictorial Art, 2d ed. rev., London, 1918, p. l8j and Arthur Waley, op, cit., p. 45.

taken from a Chinese writer, who ex- plains the principles that an instructress in the royal palace would teach to the princesses under her care. The detail reproduced in Figure 2 1 8 a represents the lady Feng interposing herself between the Emperor and a bear that had bro- ken loose from the circus ring. At the right sits the emperor, perfectly calm, surrounded by his courtiers; at the left two men are attacking the bear, in front of which the lady Feng stands fearlessly, her lithe figure, with its draperies bil- lowing about her feet, an epitome of courageous self-sacrifice. The secular subject is interesting, but perhaps the most striking characteristic is the great amount of expression created almost alone by line. The line is delicate but firm and is used to model the figures and at the same time calligraphically, as in the draperies, to create pattern and movement. Light washes of color laid on flat within the contours create a pattern of light and dark to differen- tiate the areas. '



[a] Burial Girdle Or- nament. Brown jade. L. 6 in. Han Dynasty. Chi- cago Natural History Museum. ( Chicago Nat- ural History Museum )

Spirited rhythmic movement, so prominent in the Ku K‘ai-chih scroll and in the Han reliefs, expresses an inner vitality, a spiritual quality, uni- versal in Chinese painting. When, a century after Ku K £ ai-chih, a painter formulated critical principles in paint- ing in the Six Canons, he made “Rhythmic Vitality 55 the first canon. 1

An accomplished school of painting, then, had developed in China before the coming of Buddhism. The earliest evidences of the infiltration of the new faith we see in the paintings of Paradise from the monastery caves of Turkestan. These paintings represent the paradise where Amida Buddha lived in gorgeous surroundings, attended by Bodhisatt- vas and believers. 2 Paradise and its pleasures were pictured in terms of an earthly court of great splendor and joy. Yet a lofty mood permeates all the fig- ures, a mood of spiritual attainment and peace.

It was in the T'ang dynasty that there

1 See Laurence Binyon, The Flight of the Dragon, Dutton, 1922, for the Six Canons.

2 Amida, or Amitabha, Buddha means “Buddha of Boundless Light.” This worship may have originated among the sun worshipers of Parthia, for Buddhism, as it penetrated north- western India, there received some Greek and Iranian influences (seepages 198, 201), which it

carried along into Turkestan. In Turkestan we see a mixed culture: Manichaeans, Buddhists, and Christians lived together peaceably. Yet Buddhism was the dominating element.

came about an amalgamation of the powerful native Chinese tradition and the energizing spirit of Buddhism, for Buddhism had brought to China a new conception of deity. Buddha in his con- templative aspect, with his conquest over self and his universal love and pity for suffering mankind as expressed in the Bodhisattva Kuan-yin, was partic- ularly appealing, and inspired an art concerned not with the visual facts of natural appearance but with those highly simplified, essential aspects of form that could express an inner life of calm intensity.

Greatest of the T'ang painters, the Chinese tell us, was Wu Tao-tzu (born about a.d. 700), and his greatest paint- ings were the series of frescoes in the Buddhist temples, destroyed in the revo- lution that ended the T'ang dynasty. Many are the stories told of him. 3 What stands out clearly in these tales is the great vitality of Wu’s art. His brush strokes were so intense that they gave a sense not of realism, but of a reality so powerful that it far surpassed any visual copy.

Another aspect of Buddhism that in- fluenced Chinese painting profoundly was its attitude toward nature. We saw in India how Buddhism recognized all life as a unit. Some of the poets and philosophers of South China had al-

3 See Giles, op. cit., pp. 47 ff.j and Waley, op. cit., pp. 1x2 ff.



[a] Chimera. Brown- ish-green jade. L. in. Han Dynasty. This mon- ster, called p'i-sieh (“ warding off evil influ- ences ”), was buried in the grave to dispel demons and protect its master from evil. Chicago Natural History Museum. ( Chi- cago Natural History Museum)

ready realized something of this kinship with nature, and their spirit, intensely augmented by the powerful Buddhist belief in the universal brotherhood of all forms of life, laid the foundation of those schools of landscape-painting which culminated in the Sung period in one of the great accomplishments of Chinese art.


Jade-carving is a very old art in China and may possibly be traced to the work of the lapidary in Babylonia. Jade is a relatively rare, tough, hard stone, usually greenish in color. It was obtained by the Chinese from the moun- tains of West China and from the rivers that had their rise near the quarries and washed the jade pebbles and boulders for some distance down their courses. In early days, particularly fine boulders were kept in the temples as precious relics, and some of these were carved in the eighteenth century into bells, vases, and bowls. Because of the numer- ous unusual qualities of jade, its appeals are many. Its reserved color, like di- luted emerald, and its soft, waxy luster,

at times slightly translucent, appeal to the eye; and its resonancy when it is struck, to the ear, thus making it valued for musical instruments. But the quality which the Chinese prize most highly is its texture, a highly pleasurable waxy texture which they liken to mutton fat. Because of its toughness, jade-carving requires great technical skill. This was especially true for the Chinese, who was equipped with only a few simple tools — saws for cutting and shaping; iron disks and drills, worked by treadles, for carving; and for polishing, several kinds of abrasives, such as quartz, garnet, emery, and, hardest of all, ruby dust. These abrasives were applied with wood, leather, or gourd skin, because the en- tire surface, even in the deepest crevices, must be free from all irregularities and from all tool marks.

The uses of jade were varied. Some- times unadorned boulders were prized for themselves, almost reverentially; more often they were fashioned into arti- cles of personal adornment or into vases, cups, bowls, or various charms and symbolic figures. For the early jades, like the bronzes, were influenced by re- ligious and emotional symbolism. This



is seen in the personal ornaments, per- haps the most interesting of which are the girdle pendants (Fig. 219A). Seven pieces of jade formed this pendant, which tinkled as the bearer walked. Each was a token of love and friend- ship, as an old song says: “Who will give me a quince, T shall return to him a central side-ornament of fine jade for the girdle-pendant. It is not meant as an act of thanks, but I want to render our friendship everlasting. Who will give me a peach, I shall return to him the red jade yao . . .” (with the same re- frain). 1 Such ornaments were some- times buried with the dead, as emblems of the parting caused by death and also of an eternal love. Such a burial-girdle ornament is seen in Figure 22OA. On the right is a phoenix on a cloud form, look- ing down toward the long slender hy- dra, with a bird’s head, on the lower left side; above, along the upper edge, are cloud bands carved in long firm curves. To the eye the pendant pre- sents a design of curves, repeated and opposed, built into the elliptical shape, with a pleasing angularity in the hatch- ings on the wings of the phoenix. Part of -the design is in relief, part incised, and it is so strong and so lucid that one can follow it as easily with one’s fingers as with one’s eyes. This is true also of the monster of Figure 221 a. What a pleasing alternation here between the smooth and broken surfaces and in the repetition of the large spirals of the haunches in the smaller spirals of the hair!

The symbolic and ritualistic jades from the Shang and Chou periods — rings, disks, axes, knives, etc. — ap- proach pure geometry in the abstract simplicity of their shapes. They are often subtly modeled and always highly polished.

1 Berthold Laufer, Jade, Chicago Natural History Museum, 1912, p. 198, by permission of the publishers.


The arts of China were the arts of a sober, patient, conservative people whose law was the custom of their an- cestors. Art and education therefore looked to the past. Training consisted in copying the masters. The attitude of the Chinese on the matter of copying Dr. Laufer explains thus: “Where and what is the original, after all? Of these Chinese copies and copies of copies, the word of Holmes (The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table) holds good: ‘A thought is often original though you have uttered it a hundred times.’ ... As everything Chinese is pervaded by an atmosphere different from our own, so also a Chi- nese copyist is framed of a different mould; his work is creative invention, not purely receptive, but partaking of the spirit permeating the soul of the master.” 2

The Chinese people early developed native arts of power and skill, notably their hieratic bronzes, and also their sculpture and painting. When Bud- dhism, coming from India, became a stimulating factor, it brought sculpture and painting to a lofty attainment. Sculpture in the Wei period was con- ventional and austere, but compelling in its spiritual significance; in the Tang period, though it became more natu- ralistic, it still retained a conventional treatment. Painting and calligraphy, in- separable arts, early showed sureness of hand and spirited movement in the use of Chinese ink, and during the Tang dynasty reached a mastery that was used to express surcharged reality — reality based not upon visual percep- tion but upon a vital inner meaning objectified in a distinctively linear style by traditionally accepted conventions.

See the Bibliography on page 385.

2 Laufer, op. cit., p. 326, by permission of the Chicago Natural History Museum.


[a] Horyuji. Near JVara. a.d. 586-607. In the center is the kondo containing the shrine and behind it the pagoda. At the right is the entrance , and at the left the preaching hall.


(a.d. 552-900)

TT^HE origin of the race of Yamato JL (the native name of Japan) is problematical. As far back as we can trace the Japanese, they are an ener- getic, warlike people, yet “gentle in the arts of peace”; possessed of a primitive religion, known as Shinto, which in- cluded the worship of the powers of nature, especially the sun goddess, and of ancestors.

Their country is one of great natural beauty. “The waters of the waving rice-

fields, the variegated contour of the archipelago, so conducive to individu- ality, the constant play of its soft-tinted seasons, the shimmer of its silver air, the verdure of its cascaded hills, and the voice of the ocean echoing about its pine-girt shores — of all these was born that tender simplicity, that romantic purity, which so tempers the soul of Japanese art, differentiating it at once from the leaning to monotonous breadth of the Chinese and from the tendency to overburdened richness of Indian art. That innate love of cleanness which, though sometimes detrimental to gran- deur, gives its exquisite finish to our in- dustrial and decorative art, is probably nowhere to be found in Continental work .” 1

But profound as were the influences of the varied topography of the land, the chief energizing power in Japanese culture came from Buddhism. The im- pulse of Buddhism had already flooded and transformed Chinese thought, and then in the sixth century, under a Chi- nese rather than an Indian mode of ex- pression, passed on with undiminished power of stimulation to Japan. With the religion came echoes of the art of India, and not only a strong influence but at first a close imitation of Chinese art by way of Korea. Korean artists came to Japan to execute works.

The story of Japanese art is a story of successive waves of influence from China, followed by periods of retire- ment. At no time, however, has Japan been a mere imitator. Just as China assimilated and molded to its own mode of thought and expression the ideas of India, so the native culture of Yamato, though a heavy debtor to both India and China, still is an individual prod- uct.

Buddhism first came in the Suiko period 2 from China of the Six Dy- nasties, especially the Wei, and mani- fested itself as something spiritual and mysterious, conceived in terms of ab- stract form. The second wave came from T‘ang China, bringing with it a spirit of grandeur and exaltation that we discern in majestic, contemplative Buddhas and gracious and all-merciful Bodhisattvas.

1 Kakuzo Okalcura, The Ideals of the East, 1920, p. 16, by permission of E. P. Dutton & Company.

2 The chief periods of early Japanese art are:

Suiko, a.d. 552-645; Hakuho, 645-709; Tem- pyo, 709-793; Jogan, 793-900.


Love of nature, and love and under- standing of wood, nature’s chief ma- terial in this land, are fundamental in the building art in Japan. Very little stone is to be found, but an abundance of timber. To make a building harmoni- ous with nature and to construct it of the materials at hand constituted the builder’s problem, whether the struc- ture was a temple or a home.

Though Shinto temples are to be found in Japan , 3 the Buddhist temple and monastery are the highest expres- sion of Japanese religious architecture. Many monasteries were built under the patronage of the court, and one of these, Horyuji (near Nara, the capital and center of Buddhist faith and learning) in its buildings, paintings, carvings, and equipment is an epitome of early Bud- dhist art (Fig. 223A). Here vermilion buildings rising from a white sanded ground are set in a spacious walled area in the midst of a mountainous, heavily wooded landscape. They are grouped along an axis leading from the gate to the preaching hall; the kondo or golden hall, containing the chief shrine, and the pagoda stand in balanced position on each side of the axis; and the entire group is surrounded by a walled cor- ridor. Outside this wall are grouped subsidiary structures, such as adminis- trative buildings, treasure houses, and cloisters, for the monastery served sev- eral purposes. Like the medieval monas- tery of Europe, it was a temple, a chari- table institution, a hospital, and a center of learning where philosophy and music were taught as well as religious subjects.

The general style shows its Chinese

3 Notably the Temple of Ise, the sun goddess, in central Japan, which has been replaced every twenty years by an exact copy and hence, though built entirely of wood, preserves in excellent condition the original form.

[a] Tumedono Kwannon . Wood, originally covered with gold. H. y ft. Early yth cent. ajd. Horyuji.

[b] Maitreya. Wood. Suiko. Chuguji Nunnery , Nara‘. (Figs. 225 a and B reprinted by permission of the Cleveland Museum of Art from Japanese Sculpture of the Suiko Period by Langdon Warner, Yale University Press)

origin. There is the same massiveness, especially in the dominating roofs, the same somber dignity despite the bril- liant color. Yet one feels here, especially in the pagoda, a more subtle feeling for proportion and a delicacy in the sweep- ing curves of the eaves that indicate the Japanese influence. The details and the restrained decoration are refined, with careful spacing and proportioning of the members and an entasis in the col- umns. The construction is essentially of wood. Wooden columns from two to three feet in diameter support heavy beams, the angle of joining being filled with a simple bracket. On these rests the open timber roof covered with tiles. The wall space is filled partly by plaster

and partly by sliding screens. Such a structure is not only suitable to the cli- mate of Japan but is loosely yet firmly enough constructed to withstand the frequent earthquakes to which the coun- try is subject.

The interior is splendid. On a plat- form is a gilded statue of the Buddha with attendant Bodhisattvas, above which hangs an elaborate canopy with angels carrying musical instruments. The timbers are decorated with ver- milion, blue, and green, and with gild- ing and lacquer; the walls are covered with frescoes representing the paradise of Amida Buddha. The rich color har- mony adds to the mystic calm of the Buddha, so that the whole effect sug-

[a] Kwannon. Bronze . H. 8^ ft Hakuho period. Takushiji.

gests a plastic representation of the paradise seen in the T‘ang paintings.

The cult statues and the decorative figures of the shrine are chiefly of wood or bronze, as the scarcity of stone in Japan militated against its use as a me- dium for sculpture. The abundant tim- ber of the country furnished several native woods suitable for carving, no- tably cypress and camphor wood. Many of the statues were originally covered with gold foil or painted, and thus har- monized with the colorful interior.

Sculpture, like architecture,, had its rise in the coming of Buddhism from

China by way of Korea, and its highest expressions were created under the stim- ulus of that faith. Thus its subject mat- ter, objectives, and forms were similar to those of Chinese sculpture. A popular subject was the Bodhisattva Kwannon, the Japanese equivalent of the Kuan- yin of China and the Avalokiteshvara of India. The Tumedono Kwannon (Fig. 225A) 1 is a tall, slender figure, which seen from the side is thin and flat, producing an effect of noncorporeality. The figure is clad in a long garment with conven- tional folds and ribbons hanging in loops from the arms. A lofty delicate crown of copper rests on the»head, be- hind which rises a lotus-leaf halo dec- orated with flamelike motifs that swirl up to the apex, their movement and rough texture acting as a foil to the quiet surfaces and long unbroken lines in the figure. The features are carved crisply on the oval face, conventionally, as in all archaic art. The folds of the drapery, sweeping outward in long un- broken curves, form a broad base, and by terminating in a wavelike motif cre- ate a pattern of contrasting unbroken and broken lines, of slow and rapid movement. The aim of the sculptor has been an impersonal objectification of dignity and beneficence by means of a symmetrical organization of conven- tional motifs, many of which are sym- bolic - — for example, the lotus pedestal, the position of the hands and the attri- butes, and particularly the large promi- nent halo so characteristic of Japanese Buddhist sculpture because of the spe- cial emphasis in Japan upon the light that radiated from the Buddha (an em- phasis seen in the popularity of the Amida Buddha ) . Thus the placid rhythms in the figure move upward — in an

1 The Tumedono, or Hall of Dreams, is a sanctu- ary at Horyuji where Prince Shotoku, founder of the monastery, practiced Buddhistic medita- tion. The statue has been held in great veneration in Japan even up to the present time.

[a] Amida Trinity of Tachibana Fujin. Bronze . Early 8th cent. a.d. Horyuji. Named for the original owner, Tachibana Fujin ( died a.d. 733), mother of Komyo Kogo, Empress of Shomu Tenno.

accelerated tempo, a rapid crescendo tions became more naturalistic, with

that is symbolic as well as esthetic — details partly conventional and partly

to the tiny stupa at the apex, symbol naturalistic, these changes were not

of the Buddha. made at the expense of the dominant

The trend of Japanese sculpture was theme. As in the art of India and China,

in the direction of naturalism, toward the pre-eminence of the theme is ines-

an approximation of visual perception. capable. The theme may be abstract

But in the Bodhisattvas of the Suiko age and expressed in an abstract form. But

one does not think of the human form form for its own sake lies outside the

first. Most appealing is a mysterious, OrientaPs conceptions of art.

ethereal quality, suggesting perfect poise A seated Maitreya, for example (Fig. and gracious beneficence. Though the 225 b )j is an expression of inner peace, figure acquired solidity and its propor- the consciousness of self-conquest, combined with great tenderness. The Bo- dhisattva is seated upon a high lotus pedestal; the left foot rests on a lotus, the right is crossed over the knee and lightly held by the hand; the chin rests meditatively upon the uplifted right hand. The figure has solidity and natural proportions, modified by such conven- tional requirements as broad shoulders, narrow waist, smooth round limbs — all reminiscent of the Gupta statues of India. The drapery is undercut rather than engraved, as it is in the Yumedono Kwannon. The whole figure is based upon the interplay of cylinders: the large cylinder of the base and the seat, smaller cylinders in the torso and the limbs. Note the vertical unity of the left arm and leg at right angles with the horizontal leg. This quiet balance is opposed by the angularity and the diagonal line of the left arm and of the upper part of the drapery: the rest of the folds fall in quiet vertical lines. These relationships of volume and line contribute to the calm, the tenderness, and the vitality of the representation. The statue is carved from one piece of wood and shows traces of gold.

This Suiko sculpture derived from that of the Wei dynasty and the Six Dynasties of China. In the Hakuho and Tempyo periods (also together known as the Nara period), another wave of influence appeared from T'ang China, a Buddhistic art centering about Amida Buddha. In the cult statues Buddha was usually represented as seated upon the lotus in the posture of meditation or with one hand uplifted signifying his preaching, and accompanied by stand- ing Bodhisattvas. Behind the figures rise the elaborate lofty halos shaped like leaves of the bodhi tree 1 and decorated with flame motifs and small seated Bud- dhas. Aims and conventions are dis-

1 The tree under which Gautama sat when he attained enlightenment; hence it was called the tree of enlightenment (bodhi).

cernible here similar to those in early T‘ang — the same elaborations of cos- tume, jewelry, and ribbons. The design (Fig. 226 a ) is eminently suited to bronze, and the sharp contours and linear rhythms enabled the sculptor to tie the figure, the great halo, and the finely designed pedestal into an extraordinary unity. There is a slight sway to the figure, and there is vigor in the crisp curves of ribbon, folds, and features, with a contrasting delicacy of texture in the necklace.

Most of the great Trinity groups are of bronze and reveal the masterly skill of the Japanese founders. An outstand- ing example is a small shrine (Fig. 22 7 a) in which the base represents the surface of a lotus pool from which rise on curv- ing stems three lotus flowers as pedestals for the Buddha and two attendants, all with the hands lifted in the “fear-not” mudra. Behind the figures is a screen with figures in relief and the halo for the Buddha. Rotund forms and suavely flowing lines dominate. The figure of the Buddha, although in frontal po- sition, is an outstanding example of rounding masses and flowing surfaces accented by crisp curving lines. On the screen behind the figures are angels on inverted lotuses, with ribbons floating above them as if they had just alighted; the intervening space is filled with lotus flowers and stems in very low relief, which produces a gentle movement over the surface. In contrast to this easy flow is the virile pattern of the halo, which consists of a central lotus motif framing the head of the Buddha, surrounded by an open border of radiating lines and an outer border with a floral design; along the rim are flames which rise to a point directly above the head of the Buddha and symbolize man’s aspira- tion from the lower life to the higher. The rapid movement in the screen en- hances the more placid rhythms of the central figure.


Like architecture and sculpture, much of the painting of Japan shows a direct influence from China. Buddhism fur- nished the stimulation for the earliest paintings now known, the frescoes in the Kondo of Horyuji, which are as typi- cally early T‘ang as the building itself and thus, like the latter, strongly Hindu. In theme, execution, scale, and com- position they appear to be closely re- lated to the Ajanta Frescoes. A popular subject was one of those celestial scenes in which Amida Buddha is seated upon a lotus, wrapped in meditation and sur- rounded by saints, deities, and disciples representative of the “vast community” of the Buddhist faith. There is the same stateliness and tenderness, the same vi- tality born of religious conviction, the same dynamic line, as in the Ajanta Frescoes.


Japanese art, though derivative from Indian Buddhist forms through recur- ring waves of Chinese influence, in- fused into the derived forms a flavor of its own. Japanese Buddhist architecture was close to that of China in material, construction, and form. But it showed subtler feelings for proportion, for qual- ity of roof curves, and for decoration.

Early Buddhist sculpture, based on Chinese Wei and T £ ang styles, expressed, by means of symbolism and archaic conventions, an intense fervor, tranquil- lity, and otherworldliness, a clarity of formal relationships, and a command of materials — wood and bronze.

Contributing rich color to the splen- dor of temple interiors, painting con- sisted largely of Buddhist frescoes much in the style of the Atjana Frescoes.

See the Bibliography on page 397.


W HILE the early cultures of India and China were slowly evolving from the Neolithic stage, the same proc- ess was going on in the Americas. The outlines of development are equally dim. What is clear is that about the close of the last glacial age (from 25,000 to 10,000 b.c.) there began a long-con- tinued series of migrations from Asia by way of the Aleutians (then probably a land passage) and Alaska. The migrants were Mongoloid nomads of the Stone Age, with no knowledge of agriculture but possibly some of basketry. Over the centuries they spread out, partly be- cause of pressure from oncoming immi- grants and partly because of the more favorable climate and living-conditions farther south, until they occupied the two continents. So widely and sparsely were they scattered over these great areas that, because of the differences of geography and climate and of lack of contact, there evolved from the same stem a great diversity of cultures. At some time (possibly about 3,000 b.c.) and at some place (some say on the Mexican highlands; others, on the An- dean) some of these nomads learned to cultivate wild grasses and thus began the maize culture which is basic in aboriginal America. As agriculturalists

they became a settled people, learned to make pottery and figurines of clay with a lively realism, and probably tex- tiles. On this base, which is known as the Archaic Cultures, there arose through long periods of time a large number of cultures, several of which reached a high level of attainment by the early centuries of the Christian era. 1 These are the Mayan and Toltec cultures in Middle America, the Chimu, Nazca, and Tiahuanaco cultures in South America.

Mayan Art of the First Empire

I N Middle America the (term fre- quendy used by archaeologists to designate what is now Mexico and Cen- tral America) we find a great variety of geographical and climatic conditions. The country lies in the belt of dry and rainy seasons. Great reaches of arid plateau land, fertile for raising maize and wheat wherever water can be se- cured, rise to heavily forested mountain

1 American chronology is in its infancy, and authorities differ widely. Hence all dates are tentative.



slopes and thence, at some places, to riculturally if man can only clear the

perpetual snow; or they descend to the land and steadily pursue his battle

moist tropical jungles of the coastal against the rank luxuriousness of na-

plains, which are marvelously rich ag- ture. The country is a volcanic region;


[a] Section of a Typical Mayan Building. {Holmes)

the volcanic rock, now coarse and now fine-grained, together with plentiful limestone furnished abundant material both for building and for carving.

In the Maya we find a people who early attained one of the highest levels of aboriginal American culture. In the early centuries of the Christian era they were in possession of the moist low- lands of Guatemala, northern Hon- duras, and southern Mexico, and had already reached a stage of civilization that presupposes a development of cen- turies. Their first and greatest climax, known as the First (or Old) Empire, came between a.d. 450 and 700 at such centers as Copan, Tikal, Palenque, and Quirigua. Then followed a period of chaos, for reasons not yet understood, and a migration of the tribe into the peninsula of Yucatan. The cities of the First Empire began to revert to the jungle.

Though the Maya were an agricul- tural people, their activities were mo- tivated by religious practices. Priests, astronomer-priests, and nobles com- prised an upper class; the mass of the

people were either farmers scattered over the country, visiting the cities only for the festivals and for the markets, or formed a servile class, which must have existed in large numbers to carry out the extensive building projects and to serve the gorgeous ritual. The govern- ment was in fact a theocracy, and the cities were great religious centers where gorgeous ceremonies and the display of magic power overawed the people. The gods, such as the sun god, the wind god, the maize god, and the death god, per- sonified the processes of nature. Some of these gods represented the powers of evil and some the powers of good; they were constantly at war with one an- other. In form these gods combined human, bird, and animal features.

It seems to have been largely in the service of religion that the Maya, in the first centuries of the Christian era, origi- nated a method of reckoning time which became one of the most accurate calen- dars known. They predicted eclipses, measured the solstices and the equi- noxes; and so accurate was their as- tronomical knowledge that they could orient a building in such a fashion that at a certain hour on a certain day the sun’s rays would strike a certain spot. The purpose of this calendar, besides its use for agricultural needs, was to assist the priests in their elaborate sys- tems of religious observance and festi- vals. The invention of the calendar necessitated a system of writing, only the numerical parts of which have been deciphered. Its characters, because of their decorative beauty, are an impor- tant motif in Mayan ornament. One of the astonishing facts about the Maya is that they could carry a Stone Age tech- nique to such levels. Copper was so rare that metal tools, if they existed at all, were negligible. Only stone tools, the hardest made of obsidian or flint, were used for the expert and intricate stone- carving.


[a] Temple of the Cross. Palenque. Dedicated a.d, 6gs. From a model in the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, N.T. {Brooklyn Museum)


In a theocratic culture, temple-build- ing is destined to be paramount. So it was with the Maya, though there re- main so-called palaces, which seem to have been used for habitation, perhaps by the priests or the nobles. As for the people, their houses were thatched huts. An abundance of excellent building ma- terial favored the Maya. They had quarries of evenly grained limestone; plenty of weathered stone suitable for making cement and concrete; and huge forests to furnish timber and firewood for the preparation of lime.

The most characteristic building was the pyramid temple (Figs. 233A, 41 ia), a temple standing upon a high pyram-

idal base and approached by a broad flight of steps. The base was a solid mass of concrete faced with stone; the thick walls were concrete faced with stone blocks smoothed on the outer face but left roughly pointed on the inner, to hold more tenaciously in the concrete. On the interior the courses projected inward, forming two corbeled arches that sprang from wooden lintels (Fig. 232A). Rooms so constructed could not be more than about twelve feet wide, but might be of unlimited length. Hence the temples consisted of one or two long, narrow compartments. Where there was one only, it served as the sanctuary; where there were two, the inner served this function and was sometimes di- vided into smaller units. In some build- ings, above the flat roof rose a false



[a] Toung Maize God. From Copan. Rhyolite. H. 18 in. c. a.d, 5/5. Peabody Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge. {Peabody Museum )

front or a pierced roof crest for deco- ration. The construction of such a build- ing — the quarrying of the stone, the transporting and lifting cf it to its high position — represents a prodigious amount of labor. The stone tools were primitive, and there were no transporta- tion facilities, not even beasts of burden.

A small temple at Palenque illustrates the type (Fig. 233A) . As the First Empire cities were located in a moist, devastating climate where the jungle encroaches overnight, the buildings are in such ruin that models serve best for an understand- ing of the temple. The base consisted of a series of receding terraces, with a stair- way leading to the temple itself. The building was rectangular, with a roof that sloped inward, and was surmounted

by an ornate roof comb. Elaborately costumed figures in relief flanked the doorway; carvings ornamented the slop- ing roof and the roof comb. Instead of being carved in stone, these figures were built up in stucco, the stone at Palenque being too difficult to carve with stone tools. The rough wall was covered with plaster, in which small stones were set to form a framework for the figure. Holes were cut in the wall at intervals, to give a firm hold for this stone skele- ton. On this the plaster was molded; and the final coat of fine stucco was polished and painted so that the sur- face was brilliant and shining. Color, undoubtedly determined by symbolic as well as artistic criteria, was used lavishly, so that the temple must have produced a jewel-like effect against the jungle green.

The temple did not stand alone, but was one of a group of other temples and palaces built about a court. For the Maya appear always to have placed and related their buildings in an orderly system.

Wealth of ornament is already evi- dent in the architecture of the First Empire. Where suitable stone was avail- able, as at Copan and Piedras Negras, it was carved with exuberance and vitality, but with a tendency to fill the space to overflowing. This is seen in the peculiarly Mayan stelae, commemora- tive or calendrical stone shafts, from five to twenty-five feet high, erected in the plazas. Most of them are crowded with carvings — - usually a figure in cere- monial dress, probably some important personage, in high relief, surrounded by hieroglyphs and other motifs in lower relief. The reliefs cover the four sides of the shaft. Sometimes each side is a unit in itself; sometimes the carving is continued from side to side — a device facilitated by the fact that the corners are rounded off. Curvature rather than angularity is inherent in Mayan art.



is all the more profound because of the

monumental simplicity of the form. The [a] Corn Stele. From Vieiras Negras. Lime-

head is a sensitively proportioned oval stone. H. 13 ft. 8th cent. a.d. University volume whose contour is clearly defined Museum, Philadelphia. ( University Mtiseum)



[a] Great Dragon or Turtle of Quirigua. Top view. W. 11 % ft. a.d. 795. ( Courtesy of the Ar- chaeological Institute of America)

by the framing hair that sweeps back in repeated curves and falls down by the ear plugs. The delicate play of light and shadow afforded by the broad plane of the forehead and the softly blended features is accentuated by the deeply cut curves of the hair and the counter- curves of the lofty headdress. The eyes are downcast, owing to the fact that the head was meant to be seen from below.

This intensity of inner life combined with an imperturbable aspect is even more dynamically seen in a half-length figure of the Maize God (formerly known as The Singing Girl). The features are more sharply cut into a masklike pat- tern, especially the eyes and the mouth, and the hair is more brusquely treated in comparison with the suavely curving locks of the Maize God of Figure 234A. This treatment of the face, the pose of the body, and the vital intensity of the figure are strongly reminiscent of Far Eastern sculpture, such as the Chinese Kuan-yins and Japanese Kwannons.

[b] Mayan Vase. From Copan. Peabody Museum, Harvard University , Cambridge. {Peabody Museum)


[a] Great Dragon or Turtle of Quirigua. Carved stone monolith. Front view. H. 7^ ft. a.e>. 7,95. {Courtesy of the Archaeological Institute of America)

The Mayan potter, like all aboriginal American potters, had no knowledge of the wheel but constructed his pottery by hand»shaping, by coiling, or by the use of a mold. Nor did he know of glaz- ing, but obtained a polish and a certain degree of imperviousness by rubbing. The cylindrical vases of the Maya are

boldly vigorous and richly warm in color: black against a yellow or orange ground, with details of red, brown, and white. Borders of hieroglyphs are fre- quent, as in Figure 236B, in which the chief decorative motif is derived from the quetzal. Again the decoration may be representational and narrative as in Figure 237B, which illustrates the visit of an inferior to his chief.

[b] Drawing from a Mayan Vase, (Joyce, Mexican Archaeology, G. P. Putnam's Sons)



[a] Temple of Quetzalcoatl. Teotiltuacan. Detail of sculptured mosaics.

Toltec Art

(about a.e>. 500-1000)

R OUGHLY contemporary with the » First Empire of the Maya was the Toltec civilization on the plateau of the Valley of Mexico, which developed a refined esthetic sensibility and skilled craftsmanship in all the arts. The Tol- tecs were an agricultural people who seem to have attained a cultural climax after a long series of archaic levels that are not as yet understood. They wor- shiped many nature gods, important among whom were the maize god and Quetzalcoatl , 1 a benevolent deity, in form a combination of the quetzal and the coatl, a serpent. In his bird mani-

1 Quetzalcoatl seems to have been a his- torical and legendary personage, a great Toltec king who introduced many useful arts, sciences, and industries, and finally went away, promis- ing to return. ■ ■

festation he appeared to typify the winds and thus had to do with the sky and the four directions; in his serpent manifesta- tion he was connected with water and rain. Sometimes he had the teeth of the jaguar and in his mouth a man’s head.

In the worship of their gods the Tol- tecs practiced human sacrifice. This was practiced by all the tribes of Mexico, for their religion called for it as an obli- gation to the gods, who had sacrificed themselves to create man. The sacri- ficial ceremonies were carried out with elaborate pageantry, to which the great pyramidal temples with their vast courts lent themselves magnificently.


The great center of the Toltecs was Teotihuacan (“Place of the Gods”), founded about the fifth or sixth cen- tury a.d. and reaching a climax from about the seventh to the tenth century. This great sacred city was carefully laid out in such a way that its pyramid tem- ples, each oriented for ritual by the ac- curate astronomical knowledge of the Toltecs, were all related and united by broad avenues. The largest and most imposing of the group is the Temple of the Sun. Though the temple itself is en- tirely gone, its pyramidal base, made in five tiers with one broad stairway, alter- nately single and double, leading from the base to the temple, must have pro- vided, in its simple monumentality, a contrasting setting for the elaborate pag- eantry of the rites. A smaller temple, the Temple of Quetzalcoatl (Fig. 238A), furnishes the one remaining example of Toltec architectural sculpture. Its ex- cellent preservation is due to burial by subsequent building. The pyramid con- sists of six terraces, each decorated with boldly projecting heads of the feathered serpent surrounded by leaves; these heads alternate with a masklike motif; and the


two are connected by highly convention- alized plumes, rattles, and shells carved in much lower relief (Fig. 238A). Traces of color indicate that the parts of the design must have been clearly differ- entiated by this means and that in the brilliant sunshine of this valley the total effect must have been gorgeous indeed.


Of the ancient American cultures, the Mayan was the first to reach a high level, probably the highest reached in the Americas before the coming of the Europeans. The Maya were a theo- cratic people and, in the service of ritual and agriculture, scientific in that they succeeded in evolving one of the most accurate of calendars and a system of writing. Their cities were chiefly eccle- siastical centers, and though they built some secular buildings, their principal


concern was the erection of temples raised on lofty pyramidal bases and dec- orated luxuriantly in reliefs and color — fit settings for their elaborate ritual. Wealth of ornament one discerns also in the commemorative stele and boul- ders, highly conventional in style, dom- inated by curving lines and intricate movement. Sculpture in the round is rare, but when found is infused with an intensity of inner life.

Another Middle American cultural climax was the Toltec. Here also was an agricultural people whose life was dominated by a theocratic government and whose ecclesiastical centers were carefully laid out, and dominated by pyramid temples; but these were less luxuriantly adorned than the Mayan. According to legend, from their plumed- serpent god Quetzalcoatl, they learned to become skilled and refined craftsmen.

See the Bibliography on page 417.



IN South America, high cultures de- veloped in the Andean region, chiefly in the area from Ecuador to northern Chile. This area, like that of Middle America, presents great con- trasts of geography and climate. Three well-defined belts run north and south, roughly parallel to one another: (1) a narrow coastal plain, where, as in Egypt, a hot desert is intersected by rivers from the highlands that create habitable and prolifically fertile oases; (2) the great Cordillera of the Andes, whose high peaks hem in plateau val- leys with a temperate climate; and (3)

the eastern slopes of the Andes, a hot, humid jungle. Both on the coast and in the highlands, cultures evolved, prob- ably from an archaic base as in Middle America, and perhaps with migrations from the latter. 1 From before the Chris- tian era to about a.d. 600 there floux- ished on the northern coast of Peru the Early Chimu (Muchik or Mochica); on the southern coast, tire Early Nazca;

1 The origin of the South American cultures is a question on which authorities differ widely. For opinions, see George C. Vaillant and Samuel K. Lothrop, The Maya and Their Neighbors, Ap- pleton-Century, 1940.



[a] Duck Jar. Early Chimu. Larco Herrera Museum , Trujillo, Peru. ( Larco Herrera Museum)

on the highlands around Lake Titicaca, the Tiahuanaco. About a.d, 600 the Tiahuanaco culture fused with the coastal to form the Tiahuanacan Em- pire, which spread over the Andean and coastal regions and flourished until about a.d. 900.

Early Chimu and Nazca Art


I N South America, on the Peruvian coast lived the Early Chimu (Mo- chica) and the Nazca, the former mak- ers of a lively realistic pottery with strong sculptural feeling, the latter pro- ducing ceramic products of a more col- orful conventional style and textiles of an extraordinary quality both estheti- cally and technically. On the highlands lived the austere Tiahuanaco peoples, great workers in stone and architectural stone sculpture. A mingling of the coastal and highland peoples, brought about by the Tiahuanaeans, produced an art combining elements of both.

[b] Portrait Jar. Early Chimu. H. u\ in. Henna and brick-reds on tan. American Mu- seum of Natural History, New Tor k City. (. American Museum of Natural History)

The Early Chimu, living in one of the fertile valleys, were agriculturalists, but their proximity to the sea made them fishermen also, as the sea motifs on their pottery reveal. Hunters and warriors they were too. Their proud chieftains lived in fine houses in large fortified towns. But as stone was not available, they built of adobe so that only mounds of ruin remain, many of which have not yet been excavated. They seem to have been a vigorous people, dramatic, with a lively interest in the daily activities of life and in the world of nature, which they translated,

SOUTH AMERICAN ART with high imagination and strong sculp-

tural feeling, into clay forms which con- stitute the chief source of our knowledge of the Chimu and their art. As the wheel was unknown to them, this pottery was either coiled or hand-shaped. In fact much of it gives a strong impression of the hand shaping the clay. Figure work predominates. Parrots, owls, ducks, frogs, fish and crabs, a fruiting branch of a plant, the head of a llama, people singly or in groups pursuing various activities — all this wealth of material is adjusted to the needs of a jar. One constant element, almost a mark of Chimu style, is the stirrup handle. The adaptation of animate life — that is, its conventionalization to a globular shape — • is particularly successful with the bird and animal figures, as in the Duck Jar of Figure 240A.

Probably the highest attainment of these sculptor-potters was the portrait jars (Fig. 240B), highly individualized portraits of haughty chieftains or nobles, modeled not only from the angle of rep- resentation but also from that of a fine feeling for clay, and then painted to vivify the impression. The Chimu did not appear to be interested in color as such, for their pottery is rather dull in that respect. All their lively imagination found expression in sculptural form.

The Nazca, on the contrary, though related to the Chimu and perhaps de- rived from them, reveal a very different habit of mind and therefore a different style. The drab pottery of the Chimu, imaginative and highly realistic in its content, gives way to Nazcan simple geometric shapes, decorated in colorful, highly conventional motifs. The globu- lar shape is popular, as is the double spout connected by a bridge. Flat, linear designs derived from plant, animal, and sea life and from gods and demons fol- low the curving surfaces in a freely ex- uberant manner and with a wide range of color: white, yellow, black, violet,

[a] Nazca Jar. Black, white, red, orange, yellow, pink, and brown. Gajfron Collection, Berlin. ( Lehmann )

blue-gray, and intermediate tones on a ground of white, red, or black. (Fig. 241 A)


In the field of textiles, too, the Nazca reached one of the highest achievements of the aboriginal American. Many ex- amples have been found in graves, pre- served by the dry climate. The women were the weavers, and their materials consisted of cotton for the warp and the wool of the llama and the vicuna for the weft and for embroidery. The articles woven were not objets d’art, but articles of everyday use — pouches, girdles, mantles, tunics. Since their looms were of the most primitive type, they de- pended largely upon skilled fingers to produce an astonishing variety of weaves — tapestry, pile, gauze, minute em- broidery — all worked with an incred- ible fineness which has never been surpassed. The range of hues was rather narrow — red, brown, blue, and green;



[A] Peruvian Textile. Slit tapestry weave. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. ( Boston Museum)

but these were used with the greatest subtlety of relationship and variation. Figure 242 a is a border of slit tapestry of extraordinarily fine weave, in which the chief motif is a zoomorphic figure repeated at equal intervals but infinitely varied in its details, as in the arrange- ment of the light and dark strips form- ing the body of the zoomorph. The fine slits not only help to define the color areas clearly but also give the fabric a vibrating texture. Embroidery in wool on a cotton base reached an astonishing quality, both in its rare color harmonies and in its technical accomplishments. This is particularly true of the textiles found at Paracas, north of the Nazca area. As embroidery technique admits the use of the curved line, the motifs are more curvilinear and the variations of tone extraordinary. In a Mantle (Ameri- can Museum of Natural History) the light border strongly contrasts with the dark ground; the repeat pattern of the ground, equally spaced in even rows.

carries the lighter colors into the dark area. This repeat motif, based on a hu- man figure, is never exactly repeated, but filled with such variation in color and tone that the effect is one of ex- ceeding richness. In chromatic richness, the Paracas textiles are among the world’s most notable.

Tiahuanaco Art

(a.d. 600-900)

HPHE starkness of the bleak highland A country around Lake Titicaca presents a different picture from the warm, luxuriant valleys of the coast. Isolated in these mountains, a people were paralleling the development of the coastal cultures until about a.d. 600, when they forced their rule upon the coastal as well as the highland areas from Ecuador to northern Chile. The

i '

- - '• '



[a] Monolithic Gateway . Tiahuanaco. L. c. if ft. H. c. 11ft. c a d. Coo-goo. {Chi- cago Natural History Museum and Archive of Hispanic Culture , Library of Congress)

center of this culture was Tiahuanaco, on Lake Titicaca. Though the Tiahua- nacans dominated politically, they fused culturally, and produced an art that partakes of both the starkness of the mountain culture and the warmth and imagination of the coastal culture.


As the highlands furnished an abun- dance of stone, fine and hard, there de- veloped a race of masons highly skilled in cutting and joining these hard stones. The Gateway at Tiahuanaco (Fig. 243A)

is monolithic, with a doorway cut through it and a sculptured frieze across the top. In the center of the frieze, above the doorway, is the image of Viracocha, the sky god, a short, squat figure standing on a pyramid, facing directly forward and holding spears and weapons in both hands. From his angu-


A similar style of carving in two shal- low planes is found at Chavin in the high- lands of central Peru. The Greater Chavin Stone (Fig. 245A) (several others have been found) gives one the impression of an elaborate conventional pattern. This consists of a central vertical motif, from which radiate diagonal lines terminat- in spirals and serpent a bilateral de-

ing alternately heads, the whole forming sign. Closer study reveals that at the base is a figure in frontal view, short, and built on rectangular forms except for the arms and the legs, which are slightly modeled; the features are so highly conventionalized that it is diffi- cult to identify them; each hand holds a bunch of staves. The panel above this figure is occupied by three masks with decorated protruding tongue and fangs. To see them it is necessary to reverse the illustration. This carving impresses one with its severe symmetry, its angu- larity, and its highly abstract decora- tive quality — decorative, though so much in contrast to the asymmetrical, curving, luxuriant carving of the Maya.

[a] Gold Cylinder . From Lambayeque, Peru. H in. Museum of the American Indian , Heye Foundation , New Fork City. (Museum of the American Indian , Heye Foundation )


lar face project rays terminating in circles and puma heads. This figure of the god is in high relief and thus stands out prominently against the low-relief border, which consists of rows of figures of condors and winged men, with weapons, running toward the center. A border of frets interspersed with masklike heads ties the design together. Each of the running figures with his weapons forms a square motif that is repeated with precision. Yet the move- ment within the square contributes ac- tion to what would otherwise prove static. Thus a combination of high re- lief and low, of static and dynamic ele- ments, produces, a decorative element that is in keeping with an austere gate- way in an austere setting.

Tiahuanaco pottery presents a com- bination of highland and coastal ele- ments. Large flaring cups show how the luxuriant curvilinear designs of Nazcan ceramics and the realism of the Mochican were affected by the sterner style of the highlands. This is evident in a dish in which is seated a figure whose simplified modeling and conventional decorative motifs produce an effect of startling vividness.

Gold, the lure of later conquerors, was known by these early Peruvians (being found plentifully in the streams or in surface veins) and was used for cups as well as for articles of adornment. On a cylindrical object (Fig. 244A) we see again the motif of the Ckavin Stom, worked in repousse.




During the first six centuries of the Christian era three civilizations arose in the Andean region.

The Early Chimu of the northern coastal valleys modeled stirrup-handled pottery jars of great vitality in the form of highly realistic representations of the life around them: animals, birds, human figures and groups, perhaps the finest being the expressive, individualized portrait heads of warriors. Though drably painted the jars often show in- genious adaptations of the subject to the shape and an understanding of clay as a medium.

The Nazca in the coastal valleys to the south produced less realistic, more geometric and decorative pottery, often globular with twin spouts joined by a handle. The colorful painted designs are stylized, fanciful representations of plant, animal, and human forms. Tex- tiles, though produced by primitive means, were their supreme accomplish- ment, and have never been excelled either in the fineness of the weaving or in the rich, imaginative coloring of the embroidered designs.

The highland people of Tiahuanaco are notable for the austere, monumen- tal grandeur of their stone sculpture and architecture. After 600 the Tia- huanacans extended their power till they dom i nated the whole Andean region with the result that their cul- ture fused with the arts of the coast to produce an expression combining elements of both. About 900, when the Tiahuanacan power declined, the coastal peoples re-established their own political and artistic forms.

See the Bibliography on page 420.

[a] Greater Chavin Stone. Carved greenish diorite monolith, H. 6 ft. N ational Museum of Archaeology, Lima.



[a] Ch‘en Jung. Wave and Dragon. Detail of the 36 ft. bamboo-paper Mine Dragon Scroll. Sung Dynasty. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. ( Boston Museum)



I N Europe and the Near East some of the ancient civilizations had run their course — the Egyptian and those of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. Others • — such as the Greco-Roman and the Iranian - — though they had likewise completed their cycles, lay submerged, but later were to contribute ingredients to new cultures evolving under the energizing forces of the new religions: Christianity and Muhammadanism. After the recognition of Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire, Christian art spread its forms over most of the Roman Empire and into Russia, more widely in the Eastern areas than the Western because of the breakdown of the Empire in the West at the hands of the marauding Eurasian invaders. With the rise of Muham- madanism, and the advance of this military missionary faith from Arabia and Egypt as far as India in the East and Spain in the West, a new style of art arose alongside the Christian; and though predominantly assimilative, it spread over this vast area its own characteristic forms. Contacts between Christian and Muhammadan areas were frequent, and motifs, techniques, constructional methods, and stylistic qualities passed between them.

In the Far East, Gupta and Classic India and Sung China were probably the most highly civilized areas in the world. China, under the stimulus of Zen Buddhism, reached a Golden Age in all the arts as it expanded geo- graphically south and west. India also attained one of its highest levels with the renascence of Brahmanism, and expanded into Indo-China and the East Indies. In the thirteenth century the rise and spread of the Mongol Empire from the Pacific to central Europe brought close intercourse between the khans and the Western peoples. This not only broadened the horizon of the Europeans as they learned of the magnificence and the luxuries of the East, but also led to a demand for those luxuries and hence to an increase in trade by land and sea, and of travel to those fabulous countries by such intrepid travelers as Marco Polo. Iran continued, as in ancient times, to be a cross- roads by which Eastern forms came to Europe to find a place in European art. This movement was intensified by the activities of the Crusades.

Still completely isolated, and unknown to Eurasia, were the Americas. In Middle America the second empire of the Maya spread its influence to neighboring areas until it fell under the domination of the Toltecs, who in turn succumbed to the warlike strength of the Aztecs. In South America the Incas absorbed both highlands and coastal areas into an empire that marked a high level of civilization. Between these two areas the Isthmus of Panama seems to have been a link for interchange of influence. North of the Rio Grande, the Pueblos evolved the highest level of culture, though the Hopewell people of the Eastern United States created noteworthy works of art, in some of which appear motifs clearly derived from Middle America.

Two other isolated areas, Africa (except for the northern coast and Egypt) and Oceania, were to influence the modern world profoundly when contacts between them and the Eurasian and American peoples were established.



ABOUT the year a.d. 300 we see l \ Rome still outwardly splendid — a highly organized despotism, inter- nally decayed and externally hard- pressed by foreign barbarians or by cultivated indigenous peoples struggling for self-expression. Meanwhile the Chris- tian Church, growing at first in se- cret, and strengthened by persecution, emerged victorious as the real successor of Rome. Constantine, by changing the capital in a.d. 330 to Byzantium, which he renamed Constantinople, cut the Empire into two rather sharply divided parts, the East and the West. Let us note a few of the important movements in each.

The lands about the eastern Mediter- ranean had always been Hellenic rather than Roman at heart. In many places the traditions of the older civilizations — those of Egypt and of Babylonia- Assyria, for example — were still dom- inant. Long before Christianity became officially the Roman state religion, vig- orous Christian communities began to

flourish in Persia, Egypt, Asia Minor, and in Syria, that great highway of war, commerce, and ideas. Under the stimu- lus of the new faith, brilliant creative work began in church-building and was Unhampered by the weakening Roman power. But Constantinople, because of its wealth and prestige, became the point at which the various Eastern in- fluences coalesced with the Hellenic and the Roman to form what is known as Byzantine art, or, as it has well been called, the Christian art of the East. In the reign of Justinian (a.d. 527-565) this art reached its first climax under the patronage of the Church and the court. But some of the forces that were shaping it — the prejudice of the early Christian against everything pagan and of the Semitic peoples against the repre- sentation of sacred personages; the in- fluence of Islam 1 ; and the impersonal, mystic attitude of the East — these forces inevitably led to the iconoclastic (image-destroying) controversy (a.d.

1 See Chapter 15.



726-824), which in denouncing the use of images guided creative impulses into the channels of rich ornamentation based upon floral and geometric motifs, and into a dependence upon richness of color and texture. But a compromise led, under Basil I and his successors, to a second climax of Byzantine art, whose purpose was “to render vis- ible the mysteries of the supra-natural world. ... If God might be painted after all, not only in innocence and majesty but in the commonplace and degradation of earthly life, then paint- ing should be worthy and attempt the highest.” 1 Hence arose “a mystical re- nunciation of the transient phenomena of earth for the universal in-being Real- ity — enshrined in a fixed iconography whose rigid apportionment of subject and space alone could put intelligible bounds to so immeasureable an aim.” 2

The Western half of the Roman Em- pire presented a different picture. For centuries the barbarians had been threatening the Rhine and Danube frontiers, and the decaying government could no longer hold out against the Strong vitality of the North. On all sides the uncouth barbarians poured in, fi- nally reaching Rome; and though they may have had some reverence for the magnificence they saw, with no capac- ity for appreciation they cared little about maintaining it. The Colosseum was merely a mine from the stones of which could be drilled out the iron clamp to tip the spear of a Goth. The one power to hold firm was the Church, the ear- nestness and zeal of whose leaders, such as Saint Augustine and Saint Gregory, laid the foundations, for its supremacy in the Middle Ages.

Although the history of the two halves of the Roman Empire continued so dif-

1 Brdiier, Mart chrMkn; quoted by Robert Byron and David Talbot Rice, The Birth of Western Painting> Knopf, 1931, p. 15.

2 Ibid.

ferently, there were close relations be- tween them. The establishment of the exarchate at Ravenna brought a flow of Byzantine work westward. Byzantine builders came to Italy at the summons of patrons whose own country was no longer producing trained artists. The iconoclastic outbreak drove artists to Italy to seek employment; and pilgrims and traders brought with them such portable objects as enamels, ivories, manuscripts, and textiles.


Rome, notwithstanding its pitiable condition, 3 offered ample incentive for building. Here were the sacred places, the sites of martyrdom and burial of saints. Hither came pilgrims from all Christendom, despite hazardous travel — throngs so great that men and women were trodden under foot. Ample build- ing material was at hand, to be had for the taking - — the finely cut stones, columns, and marble veneers of the huge Roman structures. With the emergence of Christianity from secrecy we ob- serve a type of church established — the basilica — which, though known in the East, 4 became predominant in Italy.

Figure 251 a illustrates the plan of the basilica, a rectangular building en- tered through an open colonnaded court, the atrium (f), one side of which forms the narthex or vestibule (e); the body of the church consists of a nave (a), aisles (b), an apse (d), and a trans- verse aisle or transept (c) inserted be- tween the nave and the apse and slightly projecting beyond the walls, making the plan T-shaped. Figure 338AI is simpler, with single aisles and no transept, but shows the place of

3 See Grant Showerman, Eternal Rome, ne-w ed., Yale University Press, 1925, for a good description.

4 Particularly in Syria. See PI. C. Butler and E. B. Smith, Early Churches in Syria, Princeton University Press, 1929.

[a] Plan and Section of Section of Old St. Peter’s , Rome. Restored. W. c. 2x5 ft. a.d. 336. Destroyed to make way for the present cathedral, a. nave; b. aisles; c. transverse aisle; d. apse; e. narthex; f. atrium.

the altar immediately in front of the dows. Both the nave and the aisles of apse, and the choir with two pulpits such a basilica carried wooden roofs, occupying about half of the nave. The but the apse was usually vaulted. The nave walls rest on columns (Fig. 251 a) origin of the basilica is difficult to deter-

and rise higher than the side walls, mine. In many respects it is close to the

forming a clerestory for lighting (Figs. classical basilica, the name of which it

252 a, 2 55 a) and leaving wall space bears; yet certain elements, such as the

between the colonnade and the win- atrium and the transverse aisle, seem

[a] Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Rome, Late 8 th cent. ( Anderson )

to be derived from the Roman private house, where the early Christian con- gregations met in secret and whose whole arrangement suited the liturgical needs of the service.

Santa Maria in Cosmedin well illustrates a modest basilica. 1 Its plain exterior shows an unadorned narthex, above

1 Built in the sixth century a.d.; enlarged in the eighth century; restored in the twelfth. The bell tower (campanile) is Romanesque. The church has frequently been remodeled, notably in the late .Renaissance, when a Renaissance facade was added; it was restored in 1894-99 to its eighth- and twelfth-century form. This continuous remodeling of churches, especially in Rome, each in the style of the period of the remodeling, makes many churches a confus- ing composite of early Christian, Romanesque, Renaissance, and Baroque, and leaves but few in the style in which they were originally built.

For a sensitive understanding of the formal relationships in Santa Maria in Cosmedin see Lc Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture, pp. 160 ff.

which rises the clerestory of the nave. The interior (Fig. 252A) is a rectangular space, so designed that interest focuses on the altar standing in high relief against the rich mosaics of the apse. The columns supporting the walls are of different sizes and designs, and well illustrate the practice of securing ma- terial from the structures of pagan Rome. Should one ruin fail to supply enough columns for a basilica, another would be stripped of its material, ap- parently with little concern for the matching of the columns. It was even the practice to prop up short columns to the required height with additional bases. Thence also were procured the fine marbles of the choir rail, pulpits, and floor for this church. The choir (for the clergy who participated in the serv- ice), with its two flanking pulpits, one for the reading of the Gospels and one




[a] St. Paul’s Outside the Walls. Rome. Founded a.d. 386; rebuilt after the fire of 1823, which destroyed almost all except the transept. {Anderson)

for the Epistles, occupied a considerable part of the nave (see also Fig. 338A1), The walls were originally covered with frescoes and the simple wooden roof was brightly painted. A large and elab- orate basilica is that of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls (Fig. 253A) , built over the tomb of Saint Paul, very resplendent in col- ored marbles, gilded coffered ceiling, and mosaics.

The interior of a basilica was colorful. Of the many mediums used to obtain color, mosaic transcended all others. By means of mosaic the Byzantine builders clothed the surfaces of the apse and often of the walls too, if funds permitted, with mural decoration of unsurpassed splendor, equally satisfactory for deco- rating a dim interior and for conveying the ideas of the Christian faith. Its forms are conventional because of the nature of the medium, and symbolic be- cause of die nature of the ideas ex-

pressed. By mosaic is meant a design worked out by means of small pieces of colored glass or stone, called tesserae , set in cement. It is clear that to carry out a design in this medium, the artist must make the drawing so simple that the form becomes almost a flat pattern, with sharp contours and little light and shade. It affords ample opportunity, however, for broad massing of color and for deep glowing tones, especially when gold is used liberally either as a background for the figures or as a back- ing for the tesserae (Figs. 255 a and b, 256A, 257A, 258A).

As the basilicas in Rome have been so repaired and remodeled that few give an adequate picture of their original appearance, those at Ravenna will serve to illustrate how relatively barren, yet impressively frank and rugged, was the exterior of the early basilica (Fig. 254A) ; relatively, in contrast to the interior



[a] Sant’ Apollinare in Classe. Ravenna, a.d. 534-538. ( Alinari )

(Fig, 255A and b), where the half-light from translucent marble panels and per- forated marble windows discloses rich colors, gold, carvings, and stately hier- atic figures. Here is the atmosphere of another world, of enfolding peaceful- ness and mystic calm. With symbolism prominent in the mental outlook of the age, one wonders whether the early Christian thus symbolized the contrast between the hard externals of his life and the beauty of the inner spirit.

Early Christian art, both in the East and in the West, was an art of symbols. Prominent among Christian symbols are: the fish, not only an acrostic but a symbol of water, baptism, and in general of the faith; the ship (Latin navis, whence “nave”), symbol of the Church in which the faithful were car- ried over the sea of life; the vine, sym- bol of Christ; sheep, especially with the shepherd; the stag, the soul thirst- ing for baptism; and the peacock, em- blem of immortality — an illustration of how the early Christians infused

pagan symbols (the peacock was the bird of Juno) with new meaning. Thus symbols constitute a language; and as they tend to isolate and emphasize some dominant element of the person or thing symbolized, they tend in their form toward the highly generalized and the abstract, and thus are more than likely to be peculiarly decorative as well as expressive of intense inner sig- nificance.

The iconography of early Christian art — that is, what is represented and how and where — was strictly regulated by the Church. Old Testament person- ages and scenes were plentiful: the patriarchs and the kings, the Genesis stories, the prophets. New Testament scenes focused on the childhood and the atoning life and death of Christ: the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Flight into Egypt, the Adoration of the Magi, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the Ascension, episodes which were cele* brated in the festivals of the Church: Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter.

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[a] Sant’ Apollinare in Classe. Ravenna. (Ande

The Transfiguration. Mosaic of the apse of Sant’ Apollinare in Classe , Ravenna.


Scenes from the public life of Christ were also used — • among others, the Baptism, the Temptation, the Last Supper — as well as stories from the lives of the saints. For example, in the apse of San? Apollinare in Classe is a representation of the Transfiguration (Fig. 255B). The purpose is to tell the story symbolically in the language of conventions established by the Church and at the same time to decorate the surface of the apse. Against a gold ground is a large blue medallion with a jeweled cross, symbol of Christ. Just above, the hand of God and the dove issue from the clouds on an axis with the cross (the three together symbol- izing the Trinity). On each side in the clouds appear the figures of Moses and Elias; below are three sheep, the three

Disciples who accompanied Christ to the foot of the mountain. Beneath, in the midst of green fields with trees, flowers, and birds, stands Saint Apolli- naris with uplifted arms, accompanied by twelve sheep symbolizing the twelve Apostles and forming, as they march in regular file across the apse, a wonderfully decorative base. Thus in a language that was understood by all Christians the story is told, and the saint to whom the church is dedicated is brought before the observer. And at the same time the resplendence of the wall as abstract design intensifies the emotional reaction to the scene and hence its significance.

In Sant" Apollinare JVuovo (Fig. 25 7A) the side walls above the columns glow with mosaic. Here a procession of



[a] Sant’ Apollinare Mom, Nave wall with mosaic decorations. Ravenna. 6 th cent. {Alinan)

saints, stately and hieratic, moves in quiet rhythm toward the altar. Each saint, richly dressed and carrying a crown, stands isolated, separated from the next by a palm tree. Thus two themes interweave to carry the move- ment. Note that though the figures and the trees at first glance seem identical, they contain an infinite number of vari- ations on the main theme. Here is an art of line and subdued mellow color which is highly successful not only as mural decoration but as an evocation of a mystic mood.

At Ravenna we meet the other im- portant type of church building, — the type commonly called central — which, though not unknown in Rome, 1 seemed

1 Santa Costanza and San Stefano Rotondo are examples.

less at home there than it did m Ravenna, which had direct connections with the East, where this type of build- ing reached its highest development. A simple form we find in the Mausoleum ofGallaPlacidia (Figs. 258Aand b, which is built in the form of a Greek cross, with a dome over the intersection of the two arms that is enclosed and con- cealed from the exterior view by a low rectangular tower. The building is of the plainest brick construction and unadorned except for the blind cades and dentils along the cornices. But stepping within, we find our- selves enveloped in mellow light and quietly rich color. Above the yellow- marble paneling blue-ground mosaics sheathe the entire surface, deep-toned blues with accents here and there of


[b] San Vitale {in the middle background) and the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia (in the fore- ground) . Ravenna . (Alin nari)

other hues and with a restrained use of gold. The same incredibly rich interior we find in a church of the central type, San Vitale (Figs. 256A, 258B). The brick construction, presenting an almost barnlike appearance on the outside, is entirely concealed on the in- side by marbles and glowing mosaics.

This central type reaches a climax in the East, specifically in Santa Sophia , or Hagia Sophia, Church of the Holy Wisdom, in Constantinople (Fig. 259A). The ground plan (Fig. 262A), however, re- veals some features of the basilica. Though almost square, it contains a nave, with side aisles separated from it by columns, and is roofed with a combination of dome and half-domes. An apse, a double narthex, and an atrium complete the plan. 1 * 3 - The ex-

1 The minarets and heterogeneous buildings about the base were added by the Muslims when

they converted the church into a mosque after the capture of Constantinople hi 1453. The

atrium no longer exists.

[a] Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ra- venna, c. a.d. 450. Floors and walls of marble; vaults , lunettes, drum , and cupola covered with blue ground mosaic . (Anderson)



[a] Santa ( Hagia ) Sophia. Istanbul a.d. 532-537. ( Publishers ’ Photo Service)

terior view shows a compact mass of brick, of great solidity at the corners, covered with a low lead-covered dome and half-domes. But entering (Fig. 26 1 a), one stands amazed at the won- derful spaciousness, obtained through the simple but daring design of the building, which consists of an arrange- ment of arches and half-domes moving rhythmically, with increasing size and volume until they unite in the all- embracing dome, which seems to rest easily and lightly over the great space. Space is the first impression, then sump- tuousness. The richest materials 1 of all kinds were used — rare marbles of all

1 The mosaics, which were largely painted over by the Muslims, are how being uncovered. See Thomas Whittemore, The Mosaics of St. Sophia at Istanbul, Oxford University Press, 1933.

colors and literally acres of gold-ground mosaics — yet every detail is subordi- nate to the powerful space-organization. Listen to the poem of Paulus Silentiarius, court poet of Justinian, written to commemorate the dedication of the church, “About the center of the church, by the eastern and wes- tern half-circles, stand four mighty piers of stone, and from them spring great arches like the bow of Iris, four in all; and, as they rise slowly in the air, each separates from the other to which it was at first joined, and the spaces between them are filled with wondrous skill, for curved walls touch the arches on either side and spread over until they all unite above them. ... The base of the dome is strongly fixed upon the great arches . . . while



[a] Two methods of erecting a dome over a square area. a. a dome on pendentives; b. a dome on squinches. In pendentive construction , the Byzantine solution of the problem, the dome rests upon what is in effect a second and larger dome from which segments have been sliced , to form the four arches bounding the square and to receive the base of the upper dome. By transferring the weight to piers rather than to the wall itself pendentive construction enabled the builder to secure a lofty , unobstructed interior space (Fig. 261 a). In squinch construction , the solution favored by the Muhammadan builders, the dome rests upon an octagon formed by building arches (or corbeling or lintels) across the four corners of the square. Squinches were frequently ornamented with stalactites and colored tiles (Fig. 303A).

above, the dome covers the church like the radiant heavens. . . .

“Who shall describe the fields of marble gathered on the pavement and lofty walls of the church? Fresh green from Carystus, and many-colored Phrygian stone of rose and white, or deep red and silver; porphyry pow- dered with bright spots; emerald-green from Sparta, and I assian marble with waving veins of blood-red and white; streaked red stone from Lydia, and crocus-colored marble from the hills of the Moors, and Celtic stone, like milk poured out on glittering black; the precious onyx like as if gold were shin- ing through it, and the fresh green from the land of Atrax, in mingled contrast of shining surfaces.

“The mason also has fitted together thin pieces of marble figuring inter- twining tendrils bearing fruit and flow- ers, with here and there a bird sitting on the twigs. Such ornament as this surrounds the church above the col- umns. The capitals are carved with the barbed points of graceful acanthus all gilt; but the vaulting is covered over with many a little square of gold, from which the rays stream down and strike the eyes so that men can scarcely bear to look.” 1

The decoration of Santa Sophia, how- ever, is by no means merely abstract. It is filled with meaning. Tb^e charac- ters or episodes move in hieratic suc-

1 W. R. Lethaby, “Santa Sophia, Constanti- nople,” Architectural Review, April, 1905, p. 122.


- v

Pfi; - |

[a] Santa ( Hagia ) So- phia. {Drawing by J. B. Fulton in the Architec- tural Review)

masonry that we noticed at the ex- terior corners. For the dome of Sa?ila Sophia differs from that of the Pantheon structurally in that its load is concen- trated at four piers rather than dis- tributed along a circular wall. The triangular segments that carry the load to the piers are known as pendentives and a dome so constructed is called a dome on pendentives (Figs. s>6oa, gAe). This structural method solved the problem of erecting a perfect dome over a square area and of keeping the space free of load-carrying walls; or, in other words, of concentrating the load at the fewest possible points, thus creating a largely unbroken interior space. Though the origin of this solution of the structural

cession from the more human scenes on earth, scenes relating to the life of the Virgin and of Christ, through the fig- ures of angels, saints, and prophets on the walls, to the four cherubim in the pendentives, and finally to the Panto- crator, the Ruler of the Universe, in the crown of the dome: “Know and behold that I am.” Thus the movement of lines and volumes is paralleled by a literary movement of ever-increasing sanctity and awe culminating in the symbol of the heart and mystery of the Christian faith.

The dome, as has been said, appears to rest lightly and without effort, yet we know that it exerts a tremendous weight, which is met by the massive



[a] Santa ( Hagia ) So- phia, Istanbul. Section and plan. The atrium, origi- nally built in front of the church , no longer exists and is not shown in this draw- ing.

problem is of uncertain date and place, it appears to have been the result of many experiments in vaulting by the builders of the Near East and to have been passed on by them to the West, where we meet it in St. Mark's in Venice, in the Romanesque churches of southern France, In the domed cathedrals of the Renaissance, such as St. Peter's, and in many domed build- ings of modern times.

The stone carvings in Santa Sophia though often based upon the acanthus and other classical motifs (Fig. 263 a), differ from the classical in their insist- ence upon the surface which they decorate (contrast Figure 157A). This type of carving is obviously of Eastern origin, as is apparent in the Mshatta Frieze (Fig. 263B). Richly carved mold-

ings finish the edges of a long border that is decorated with a zigzag and rosettes, which, together with the en- tire background, are luxuriantly carved with acanthus and vine scrolls in which are interwoven vases, animals, centaurs, and other fantastic beings. Here, as in Santa Sophia , the carving is done by drilling into the background, and leav- ing the original surface cut into a flat pattern, rather than by modeling with the chisel, leaving an uneven relief sur- face, as did the Greeks and the Romans. Zigzag and rosettes add vitality and rhythm to the delicate allover pattern.

Stone-carving played a large part in early Christian and Byzantine orna- ment, and was applied to capitals, screens, railings, and pulpits. Byzantine capitals (Figs.. 264A* 256A) appear to be



derived from the classical Corinthian type, though they afford a great variety of detail. From the square abacus, the carver gradually merged his stone into the circular shape of the column and covered the surface with carvings — the basket type, so called because of its basketlike interlacings; the melon type, in which the stone is cut in ridges like those of a melon; or that with the inter- laced-circle motif which is so frequently found in medieval ornament. An en- tirely new feature, however, is the im- post block, of much the same shape as the capital itself, inserted between the abacus and the springing of the arch. The purpose of this is not quite clear. It may have been to obtain greater height, or to bring the weight of the arches directly upon the shaft rather than on the outer edge of the abacus. Sometimes the impost block was richly carved; sometimes it simply bore a monogram (Fig. 264A) ; and sometimes it was omitted, as in Santa Sophia (Fig. 263A) . The stone railings afforded a large area for decoration. They were carved with patterns very much like those on the capitals; or with animals and birds in a balanced bilateral arrangement — a scheme of decoration that probably originated in the Near East and found

great favor in all the arts.

The central type of church on the Gi'eek-cross plan continued, modified, in the second Golden Age of Byzantine art (Fig. 264B). The angles of the arms

[b] Frieze from Mshatta , a Palace in the Syrian Desert. H. 15 ft. 4th~6th cent. a.d. Berlin. {Berlin Museum )



[a] Byzantine Capitals. San Vitale , Ravenna. ( Alinari )

[b] Plan of a Byzantine Church of the Second Golden Age. North Church, S. Saviour Pantocrator i Istanbul. Early XII cent. Com- pare with Fig. 274Aa.

were filled in and frequently covered with domes; the domes themselves be- came more conspicuous by being lifted up on high drums (Fig. 265A) . External decoration found a place, in the form of patterned brickwork, sometimes polychrome, as well as in carvings. On the interior, colored marbles and mo- saics or frescoes covered the walls (Fig. 266a). Even more strict now was the control over the monographic scheme, the guides or manuals prescribing in detail the place of each subject, the composition, and the forms, even to the detail of the color of the Virgin’s hair. Hence arose the similarity of type and composition seen in all Byzantine painting. Such a procedure precluded any study of nature and insisted upon continual copying and recopying until the figures were so fixed in the mind that they could easily be reproduced from memory. In other words, the painters were using a language under- stood by all and at the same time ex- traordinarily effective in its austere splendor.



[a] Church at Daphne , Greece. Late nth cent. ( Alinari )

Besides the colored marbles, mosaics, and frescoes, many other features con- tributed to the richness of a Byzantine church interior: the iconostasis 1 with its elaborate decoration and colorful icons, the gold, ivory, and enameled vessels, and the rich stuffs of the vest- ments. When we see all these in the dim light of candles and through clouds of incense, we feel that the Byzantine artists did not fall short of their ob- jective: “to render visible the mysteries of the supra-natural world.”

St. Mark's in Venice, with its many domes, is an example of this type in Italy, for there was a close connection between Venice and the Near East, From Alexandria the body of Saint Mark, patron saint of Venice, was

1 The panel or partition with doors and tiers of icons (whence the name) found in Eastern (Orthodox) Catholic Churches, which separates the sanctuary from the nave. Only the clergy may enter the sanctuary.

brought secretly to the city, and the church was founded to house the relic. Marbles, mosaics, carvings, and the famous Pala d’Oro (Altar of Gold) ■ the retable of the high altar, a magnifi- cent example of Byzantine gold work rich with enamels and jewels - — make the interior one of great splendor. Many of the materials for the church were brought from the East, including the four bronze horses above the main portal.


The function of the painter in the early Christian and the Byzantine world was to decorate the walls of the churches with mosaics and frescoes, to paint panels for the iconostases of private chapels and miniatures to illus- trate books. The early paintings are strongly Hellenistic or Roman. Before the emergence of the Church from



[A] Church of the Monastery of Xeno - phontos, Mt. Athos, showing frescoes, i ith cent. {Millet, Monuments de P Athos)

secrecy, the early Christians decorated the walls of the catacombs with fres- coes such as the vine, which is an echo of the carved floral pattern so common in Roman ornamentation and was a favorite Christian theme because of the frequent symbolic use of the vine in the New Testament. They also used figures, such as those representing brotherly love that are close to the Pompeian frescoes of Cupids and Psyches in the House of the Vetiii. Thus there was no break with the classical tradition bn the part of those who forsook the pagan faith; the early Christian painter merely gave the traditional forms new meaning. Among the mosaics, the apse of Santa Pudenziana (Rome) of the late fourth century well illustrates the Hellenistic phase. Among the paint-

ings, the Joshua Roll 1 (Fig. 267a) re- produces a detail in which Joshua, near the walls of Jericho, is prostr ating himself before the angel; in the lower right-hand corner is a female figure crowned with a tower, the personifica- tion of the city. Though the subject is Christian, the method of expression is Hellenic — the personification of the city, the naturalism of the figures, the way in which they fit into the land- scape, and the perspective in the archi- tecture. But soon a change occurred, a trend away from Greco-Roman nat- uralism toward a conventional, highly abstract expression. In the Good Shep- herd mosaic in the Tomb of Galla Placidia the landscape is flattening out, though there is still some depth and some use of shadow in the rocks and the sheep to indicate volume. The complete reduction into one plane and to ab- stract form we find in the mosaics of the apse of Sant’ Apollinare in Classe (Fig. 255B), and in the Theodora and Justinian portrait groups in San Vitale. In these mosaics the figures are thor- oughly noncorporeal, are gorgeous symbols of bodies, and are highly decorative because of their very flat- ness.

The effect of the iconoclastic con- troversy and the compromise that fol- lowed it has already been noted. A rigid iconography; materials rich in color, texture, and gold; impersonal forms far removed from an illusion of

1 This manuscript was originally a continu- ous roll 32 feet long and 1 foot wide, with pen- and-ink and color illustrations of the Hebrew conquest of the Promised Land, which occupy most of the space, interspersed with the text in Greek. It has now been cut into sections and mounted for preservation. The manuscript be- longs to the period when the long roll used by Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans was being superseded by the codex — a book made of separate pages bound together, the usual modem method. The change was probably due to prac- tical considerations, since passages can be found much more readily in this form.

[a] Joshua before the Walls of Jericho. Detail from the Joshua RolL fh~6th cent. a.d. Vatican, Rome. (Munoz)

the actual world; abstract representa- tions of this world and symbols of an- other world — all these combined to produce mosaics and frescoes which were monumentally austere but quite definite in their objective. “The pic- tures have the same object as the liturgy; they possess the same sacra- mental character and form the requi- site setting for the mystery of the Eucharist.” 1

Mosaic 2 met perfectly the Byzantine requirements of splendor of effect, but was costly. Fresco, it is often suggested, was used when economic conditions demanded a less expensive substitute.

1 Br6hier, Dart chretien, quoted by Byron and Talbot Rice, op. cit.

2 Daphnes in Greece (eleventh century), Palermo in Sicily (twelfth century), Kahrie Djami in Istanbul (fifteenth century) are ex-

amples of mosaics.

Whatever the reason, there developed a great school of Byzantine painting that paralleled the mosaics, both of which were strongly affected by a re- vival of the study of Plato and of Greek humanism in general. Forms became less austere, more human; otherworld- liness partook somewhat of this earth. For three centuries, from the thirteenth to the fifteenth, the Byzantine painters covered the walls of the churches and monasteries of Greece with frescoes in which the forms, though humanized, are still abstract, built up of light and color. 3 In the Lamentation over the Body of Christ (Fig. 268a) a dramatic subject is expressed with emotional in- tensity through “a tempestuous rhythm of light and dark.” The faces, the gar-

3 For a detailed exposition see Byron and Talbot Rice, op. cit.



[a] Pieta {Lamentation over the Body of Christ ) . Fresco . Xenophontos, Mt. Athos. 1544. {Millet)

ments, the body of Christ, and the rocks are constructed into various patterns of light and dark, sharply darting areas of light against dark, a contrast em- phasized by the juxtaposition of com- plementary hues; and these individual patterns are organized into long sweep- ing curves and sharp angles.


Monumental sculpture was produced only to a very limited extent in early Christian art, because the statue in the round was even more closely akin than painting to the graven images of the pagan. In a rare example, the Good Shepherd of the Lateran Mu- seum (Rome), we recognize an archaic Greek motif, imbued with a new sig-

[b] Christ Crowning Romanics and Eu- docia, Rulers at Constantinople. 1068-71, Ivory. Bibliotheque Rationale, Paris.

nificance. This again is a striking ex- ample of the continuity of the old tradition.

One of the chief expressions of sculp- ture we find in the sarcophagi. In some the surface is entirely covered with reliefs representing scenes from the Old and New Testaments, crowded together one upon another for the pur- pose of narration, with little regard for design, a continuity again of Roman third-century style, and the use of clas- sical figures, to express Christian ideas.

Another style is represented by the Sarcophagus of Theodore (Fig. 269A) . Here there is no crowded relief, in fact no figures, but a piece of beautiful decora- tion composed of symbols, each of which by itself and in conjunction with the others carries a clear, definite mes- sage. In the center of the side is the


[a] Sarcophagus of Theodore, yth cent. a.d. Sant’ Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna. (Alinari)

sacred monogram 1 in a circle, facing which are two peacocks, symbols of eternity. Behind them are scrolls of fruiting vines and birds; on the lid are the inscription and three wreaths enclos- ing sacred monograms; carved mold- ings frame the design.

The ivory-carver was important, not only for the intrinsic quality of his work but also because his craft carried on the tradition of sculpture until its emergence as a major art, hundreds of years later, about the portals of the churches. The carved figure followed at first the general idiom of the Hel- lenic style. But Hellenic naturalism soon yielded to Eastern influence. This is very pronounced in the so-called Throne of Maximian (Fig, 2 70 a), an epis- copal chair covered with panels of

1 This monogram consists of the first two letters in the Greek name of Christ, chi and rho; in the side angles formed by the chi are the Greek letters alpha and omega, frequently used to symbolize the divinity of Christ.

richly carved ivory. On the front are five niches, containing figures of Saint John the Baptist and four Apostles which have markedly individual char- acteristics, vary in pose and drapery, and appear to have been studied from nature. The borders above and below, however — with the monogram, the spiraling vines which enclose figures of peacocks and various animals, and (in the lower panel) the rampant lions flanking a central vase from which issue vines interspersed with animals — recall in their flat patternlike forms against a dark ground the stone carv- ings of Mskatta (Fig. 2631?) and of Santa Sophia (Fig. 263 a).

The iconoclastic controversy affected ivory-carving much as it did the other branches of art. The trend was from naturalism to austere conventionaliza- tion, then to a modified naturalism. The last stage we see in Christ Crowning Romanus arid Eudocia (Fig. 268 b ), In the center, Christ, with the halo of


[a] Bishop's Chair , Called the “ Throne of MaximianT Wood , inlaid with ivory panels and borders. 6 th cent. a.d. Archiepiscopal Palace , Ravenna. {Anderson)

divinity, elevated on a dome-shaped pedestal fringed with windows like the dome of Santa Sophia , is placing crowns upon the heads of the emperor and the empress, who by their gestures ac- knowledge His sovereignty. The royal pair are dressed in garments of rich stuff, which form a flat pattern in con- trast to the simple unadorned robe of Christ that falls in seminaturalistic folds with long unbroken lines. The group is fitted with acute sensitiveness into the shape with its oval top, a theme repeated insistently along the vertical axis in the halo and the circles of the pedestal, and in the pedestal and in the lower border

interweaving with the square theme seen in the garments. Insistent verticals balance equally insistent horizontals; roughly textured areas act as a foil to smooth. Everywhere is a balance of components, viewed with even greater clarity when seen in the original color. For ivories could not remain uncolored in a total cultural expression that was so colorful. In this ivory, then, one finds a particular flavor of style com- pounded of the austerity of the early Byzantine and the naturalism of the Hellenic,


Great demands were made upon craftsmen in this period by the lux- urious courts of the East and by the Church. Both needed fine fabrics for costumes and for hangings; jeweled ornaments; books, which, to suit cur- rent tastes, might be written in gold letters upon purple-tinted vellum or decorated with bright miniatures on gold grounds, and bound in gold, ivory, enamel, and jewels; vessels for the service, 1 which must be of the finest material and workmanship to be worthy of the Church.

A craft to contribute color and sumptuousness was that of the enam- eler. Most of the Byzantine enamels are of the cloisonne type. Because of the precious material used and the long, tedious process, the enamels were small and were used chiefly to adorn larger objects (Fig. 27 ib). To an even greater extent than the mosaic-worker, the enameler must reduce his design to its simplest terms, for the beauty of the finished product is dependent upon its line, pattern, color, and texture. To

1 See W. R. Lethaby and Harold Swainson, The Church of Sancta Sophia, at Constantinople, Macmillan, 1894, for a description of the great quantities of sumptuous vessels used in this church.



[a] Saint Peter. Enamel and gold plaque. JD. 4. in. 10th cent. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New Tork City. (. Metropolitan Mu- seum)

attempt to represent the human figure in so difficult a medium is daring; for the technique requires not only the utmost economy of line but, even within that, the greatest precision in placing the cloisons — a slight deviation in the face, for example, would bring about a ludicrous expression. Yet the Byzan- tine craftsman did net hesitate, as is seen in the plaque representing Saint Peter (Fig. 271 a), in which a surprising amount of character has been ex- pressed in the face framed by the white hair and beard. Geometric or more abstract design, however, emphasizing as it does the massing of color and tex- ture, was usually found more suitable to this medium. These enamels are so satisfactory because the Byzantine craftsman in enamel, as in mosaic, never overstepped the severe laws that govern the technique.

The application of enamel plaques to larger objects is illustrated by a chalice (Fig. 27 ib) made of sardonyx, mounted in silver and decorated with enamels, gilt, and pearls — an illus-

[b] Chalice, nth cent. Treasury of St. Mark’s , Venice. {Alinari)

(ration of the sumptuousness of the age.

Weaving also was an important art in early Christian times, both for the quality of its products and for its in- fluence on the arts of western Europe. In the early centuries of the Christian era, the Coptic textiles of Egypt show patterns in wool upon linen, sometimes woven directly in the garment or hang- ing, and sometimes on borders or medallions to be appliqued. In Figure 2 72 a, the design is made up of a vine scroll with leaves and fruit — - at which birds are pecking — on a black ground. In both plant and bird forms there is a fine underlying observation of nature; yet all the forms have been subordi- nated to the decorative scheme, so that the birds, the leaves, and the grapes have been flattened out, simplified, and so massed that they are splendidly adapted to fill without crowding the spaces made by the undulating wave line of the stem.


[a] Coptic Textile. Linen , with tapestry weaving in colored wools on black. W. in. 4th or yth cent. a.d. Victoria and Albert Museum , London. ( Victoria and Albert Museum )

Silk fabrics, however, were the most important textile product of the East and were used for garments, hangings, vestments, and furnishings; and as wrappings for the dead and for the bones and other relics of numerous saints, which must be shrouded in the finest material procurable. For several centuries before the time of Justinian, Persia had held a monopoly of the silk industry, controlling not only the manu- facture of these fabrics but their sale as well. Because of this monopoly in the trade of an article much desired by the wealthy Byzantines, Justinian intro- duced the industry into the Empire, with the help of two monks, so the story goes, who smuggled the eggs of the silkworm out of China in hollow staves. A hunting scene is frequently found on these stuffs and is evidently of Persian origin (Fig. 2 73 a). The de- sign is a medallion repeat pattern within which hunters and game offer materials for a symmetrical composi- tion of flat decorative units. In all the surviving textiles of the Byzantine period the pattern reveals its salutary dependence upon the basic technique of any textile — the creation of a sur- face by interlacing fibers at right angles.


Early Christian and Byzantine art was a natural consequence of the fusion of the East and the West: the impersonal, mystic East whose ideal was transcendental and whose forms were abstract; the individual, anthropocen- tric West, whose ideal Was humanistic and whose forms were naturalistic. In this fusion originated an art based upon nature yet with no intention of producing an illusion of natural appearance. It consisted of a con- vincing formalism free from the acci- dents of actuality and in perfect accord with the ideals of the Church: “to ren- der visible the mysteries of the supra- natural world. 55 It was a hieratic and aristocratic art, in the service of the Church and of the courts. To carry out its aims, two types of church evolved, the basilican and the central, the latter of which, with its domical construction, displayed an extraordinary feeling for interior space organization. Both types, austerely plain on the exterior, on the interior concentrated a lavish use of low-keyed mosaics, colored marbles, carvings, and gold and silver vessels set with jewels and enamels — all of which through symbols and conventions



[a] Byzantine Textile. Silk. Detail showing one of a series of circular medallions, interspersed with floral motifs, which covered the fabric. D. in. Syria. Jth cent. Met- ropolitan Museum of Art , New fork City. (. Metro- politan Museum)

were intended not only to decorate sumptuously but also to teach clearly the lives of sacred personages and the tenets of the faith. At its best, under the spiritual power and driving force of a new faith all forms of this art expression were remarkably successful in evoking an ineffable mood of otherworldliness.


Anthony, Edgar W., A History of Mosaics, Sar- gent, 1935

Bayley, Harold, The Lost Language of Symbolism, 2 vols., Lippincott, 1913

Brooklyn Museum, Coptic Egypt, Museum, Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, 1944 ' ■

- — - — r— Pagan and Christian Egypt: Egyptian

Art from the First to the Tenth Century A.D . , Museum, Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, 194.x

Butler, Howard C., and Smith, E. B., Early Churches in Syria, Princeton University ■ Press, 1929

Byron, Robert, The Byzantine Achievement, Knopf, 1929

— - — • — The Station, Athos: Treasures and

Men, Knopf, 1928

— — and Talbot Rice, David, The

Birth of Western Painting, Knopf, 1931

Gonant, Kenneth J., A Brief Commentary on Early Mediaeval Church Architecture, Johns Hopkins Press, 1942

Gunynghame, Henry H. S., European Enamels , London, 1906

Dalton, Ormonde M., Byzantine Art and Archae- ology, Oxford University Press, rgi 1

, East Christian Art, Oxford Uni- versity Press, 1925

Diehl, Charles, Byzantine Portraits, tr. by Harold Bell, Knopf, 1927

— — — History of the Byzantine Empire ,

Princeton University Press, 1925 — ■— — : — Manuel d’art byzanlin, 2d ed. rev., Vols. I— II, Paris, 1925-26

— • La peinture byzantine, Paris, 1933

Diez, Ernst, and Demus, Otto, Byzantine Mosaics in Greece: Hosios Lucas & Daplmi, Harvard University Press, 1931

Early Christian and Byzantine Art, Walters Art Gal- lery, Baltimore, 1947

Frothingham, Arthur L., The Monuments of Christian Roms from Constantine to the Renais- sance, Macmillan, 1908



Gluck, Heinrich, Die christliehe kunst des ostens, Berlin, 1923

Hamilton, John A., Byzantine Architecture and Decoration, Scribner, 1934

Jackson, Sir Thomas Graham, Byzantine and Romanesque Architecture, 2d ed., 2 vols.. Uni- versity of Chicago Press, 1920

Jacobus de Varagine, The Golden Legend, tr. and adapted from the Latin by Granger Ryan and Helmut Ripperger, 2 vols., Longmans, Green, 1941

Jameson, Anna B. Murphy, Sacred and Legendary Art, 2 vols., Houghton Mifflin, c. 1911

Lanciani, Rodolfo Amadeo, Pagan and Christian Rome, Houghton Mifflin, 1893

Lethaby, William R., Mediaeval Art, new ed., Scribner, 19x3

— — — — and Swainson, Harold, The Church

of Sancta Sophia, Constantinople, Macmillan, 1894

Lowrie, Walter, Monuments of the Early Church, Macmillan, 1901

Maskell, Alfred O., Ivories, Putnam, 1905

Millet, Gabriel, Le monastire de Daphni, Paris, 1899

Morey, Charles R., Christian Art, Longmans, Green, 1935

— — ■ — - — — Early Christian Art , Princeton University Press, 1942

Mediaeval Art , Norton, 1942

Muratov, Pavel Pavlovich, La peinture byzantine, Paris, 1935

Peirce, Hay ford, and Tyler, Royall, Byzantine Art , Stokes, 1926

Porter, Arthur K., Medieval Architecture, 2 vols., Baker and Taylor, 1909

Rivoira, Giovanni Teresio, Roman Architecture, Oxford University Press, 1925

Schultz, Robert W., and Barnsley, S. H., The Monastery of Saint Luke of Stiris, in Phocis, London, 1901

Sherrill, Charles H., Mosaics in Italy, Palestine , Syria, Turkey and Greece, London, 1933

Showerman, Grant, Eternal Rome, rev. ed., Yale University Press, 1925

Strzygowski, Josef, Origin of Christian Church Art, tr. by O. M. Dalton and H. J. Braunholtz, Oxford University Press, 1 923

Swift, Emerson H., Hagia Sophia, Columbia University Press, 1940

Talbot Rice, David, Byzantine Art, Oxford Uni- versity Press, 1935

Van Millingen, Alexander, and Traquair, Ram- say, Byzantine Churches in Constantinople, Mac- millan, 1912

— Byzantine Constantinople, London,


Victoria and Albert Museum, Catalogue of Tex*, tiles from Burying-Grounds in Egypt, 3 vols., Museum, London, 1920-22

Warner, George F., Illuminated Manuscripts in the British Museum, ser. 1-3, Museum, Lon- don, 1910

Whittemore, Thomas, The Mosaics of St. Sophia at Istanbul, Nos. 1-3, Oxford University Press, 1933-42 (Report of the Byzantine Institute)

See also the General Bibliography, pp. 791-92

[a] Plans of Russian Churches, a. Church of the type qf St. Dmitri, Vladimir (Fig. 277 A); b. Church of the Transfiguration, Kizhi (Fig. 278 a); c. Church of St. John the Baptist, Taroslav (Fig. 280 a).

[a] Iconostasis, Uspenski Cathedral , Moscow, iyth cent.



(tenth to eighteenth century a.d.)

T A THENCE came the original Slavic in Kiev and other cities along the

V V peoples of Russia? This is a moot western rivers when Vladimir I (about

question. The peoples who early col- 956-1015), through close relations with

onized along the Black Sea and who Constantinople, accepted Eastern Or-

roamed the great steppes were Hellenic thodox (or Greek) Catholicism as the

or Iranian. Whatever their origin, state religion and imposed this faith

these early pagan Russians were settled upon his subjects.



Russia at this time consisted of a group of loosely federated cities situ- ated on the great water trade route between the Baltic and the Black seas. This route lay along the Dnieper and northern lakes and rivers, with Kiev the chief city of the south and Novgorod that of the north (Fig. 276A). In this land of sweeping areas — vast steppes in the south and unmeasured swamps and woodlands in the north — the natural trade routes of long navigable river systems connected by short por- tages determined the city sites. These great distances, as well as differences of climate and geography, on the one hand militated against unity, political and cultural, but on the other, enabled the northern cities to remain compara- tively independent and out of reach of

the Asiatic invaders who were surging west over the great steppes.

At first Byzantine influence was strong. But inevitable expansion east- ward (eleventh and twelfth centuries) into the valley of the Volga, another great trade route, and the change of the capital from Kiev to Vladimir (nog) brought the Russians into rela- tions with Caucasia and Transcaucasia. In the thirteenth century the great cultural development at Vladimir was halted by the invasion of the Mongols (1238) ,* who held sway over Russia until the rising principality of Muscovy at first defied and then defeated the in-

1 The same westward movement of the Mon- gols under Jenghiz Khan which captured and destroyed Baghdad in 1258 and set up the Mongol dynasties in Persia. See Chapter 16.



vaders (1480) and finally, under Ivan the Terrible, expelled the last of them (i552)-

In the meanwhile northwestern Russia, centering at Novgorod and free from the Tatar domination, developed its native arts, into conformity with which it brought the imported Byzan- tine traditions. Though Novgorod was a member of the Hanseatic League and was on the direct trade routes to the East, it was in a comparative isolation, so far as cultural influences were con- cerned, that the arts evolved. In the fifteenth century, with the eviction of the Tatars, Russia again established close relations with the Byzantine Empire. Byzantine painters came to Novgorod and Moscow, and Novgorod painters and Pskov builders helped build the new Moscow. So that as Mos- cow became a cultural as well as a political center, here was consolidated a truly Russian style, which translated borrowed forms into its own modes of expression.


The architecture of medieval Russia was chiefly ecclesiastical, at first strongly under the influence of Con- stantinople, if not actually produced by Greeks. 1 * Examples are Santa Sophia at Kiev and a similar though less pre- tentious Santa Sophia at Novgorod. Both are built on the posticonoclastic plan of the Byzantine church (Fig. 264B)

that at Kiev with five apses and some

1 The only book in English which adequately treats medieval Russian architecture is D. R. Buxton, Russian Mediaeval Architecture, Mac- millan, 1934, to which the author is largely in- debted for the material in this section. The basic authority on Russian art is the history by

I. E. Grabar, which unfortunately has not been translated from the Russian but which is in- valuable for its illustrations and to which the

author is indebted for many of the illustrations in this chapter.

[a] Church of St. Dmitri. Vladimir. View showing the three apses, ngp-gy. (Buxton)

very fine Byzantine mosaics?; that at Novgorod with three apses, bulbous domes, and frescoes instead of mosaics ~~ for Novgorod was not so affluent as Kiev, not being the seat of royalty. At Novgorod and at near-by Pskov the bulbous dome vividly colored had al- ready appeared, 3 as had external gal- leries, covered stairways, and separate bell towers — all characteristic fea- tures of Russian churches.

Two churches at or near Vladimir, St. Dmitri (Fig. 2 77 a) and the Church of the Intercession , are built on the typical plan of a square enclosing a Greek cross and crowned with a dome (Fig. 274Aa), in these churches a single dome on a high drum. They are built of stone,

2 Only the central part of the present church at Kiev, with apses, belongs to the original church of 1037.

3 Apparently a native Russian form. Its origin is uncertain, though a plausible explana- tion is that it sheds the snow.



[a] Church of the Transfiguration. Kizhi , Lake Onega. Early 18th cent. For plan see Fig. 2J4Ab. ( Grabar )

which is rare in Russia, where brick, stucco, and wood are the usual mate- rials. With very few openings, the wall spaces are decorated effectively with moldings, some of which, rising un- broken from the ground to the roof, divide the wall into panels; others, much shorter, form blind arcadings. At St. Dmitri the surface within the arcadings is elaborately carved in low re- liefs peculiarly adapted to stone, and in subject matter and form close to Sas- sanian and other west- Asiatic carvings.

A truly native style 1 of church build- ing originated in the north in the vast

1 Though these timber churches all date after 1600, Mr. Buxton feels that they are the cul- mination of a long tradition, the earlier expres- sions of which have been lost through the perishable nature of the material, and particu- larly through fire.

rural districts dotted with villages, where timber was abundant. Free from Byzantine and Eastern influences and undisturbed by Mongol invaders, the Russian evolved out of his simple domestic buildings constructed of tree trunks laid horizontally the type of church seen in the octagon “tent- roofed” church of St. Mcholas (Fig. 279A), of which the Church of the Trans- figuration at Kizhi (on an island in Lake Onega) is an elaboration (Fig. 2 78a) . In the latter the octagon plan has been converted into a cross by extending four of its sides (Fig. 274Ab), and the mass of the church is as compact as its plan, notwithstanding the fantastic covering of roofs, which look like hori- zontally extended bulbous domes. Each roof carries a dome, and together they mount vivaciously to the crowning



members — an extraordinary group- ing of twenty-two domes into a com- pact conical mass.

So deeply traditional was this native wooden type that when requirements of greater permanency demanded brick or stone, the type was translated quite literally into the new medium, as we see in the Church of the Ascension (Fig. 280s) at Kolomenskoe (near Mos- cow). This practice reaches a fantastic expression in St. Basil at Moscow, in which all the elements noted above are used in excess, in exaggerated form and with intense color. Yet “a rare beauty of proportion emerges from apparent confusion — an impression of tranquility, not chaos,” especially when the building is "seen from the distance in some happy play of sun or moonshine.” 1

The fusion of Byzantine, Eastern, and native timber styles 2 took place in Muscovy, where at Moscow and Yaro- slav one finds, from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century, the climax of the national style. In Moscow, the Cathedral of the Annunciation (Fig. 281 a) is an example. It is built on a square plan with eastern apses and is covered with bulbous domes. Around three sides run external galleries approached by covered stairways; on the roof, leading up to the domes, are "encor- beled” arches. 3 In this cathedral there is also evidence of the fact that as early as the late fifteenth century Italian

1 Buxton, op. tit., p. 44.

2 The relation of the timber style to that of Moscow, like the origin of the bulbous dome, is controversial, as are, in fact, many points of origin and influence connected with this art, which has received but little attention up to the present time.

3 This extraordinary external decorative feature originated in a structural device, on the part of builders in Pskov, of superposing cor- beled arches above the four great arches of the crossing in order to make the transition from the square base to the dome a problem solved by the Byzantine builders with pendentives.

[a] Church of St. Nicholas the Wonder - Worker. Panilowo, Gov. Archangel, 1600, (Grabar)

architects were arriving in Moscow and were introducing into the native style Western elements — classical moldings, for example.

In Yaroslav, however, a great trade center still free from foreign influence, these Italian elements are lacking, and the church of St. John the Baptist (Fig. 2 80 a) is consistently Russian, following closely the standardized plan which, according to an edict issued in 1650 by the Patriarch of Russia, required all churches to use the square plan with five domes — a central one over the crossing and one over each angle be- tween the arms of the cross (Fig. 274AC). Notable in this church are the ex- ternal brickwork, the glazed tile deco- ration around the windows, the fine porches, and the general magnificence of the church as a whole.

28 o


[a] Church of St. John slav. 1687. See plan , Fig. 274AC.

[b] Church of the Ascension. Kolomenskoe (near Moscow). 1532. ( Grabar ) This brick church derives from its wooden prototypes a conical tower , superposed arches , and a high >ered stairways and galleries.

Only the exteriors of these Russian churches have been described. As the window openings are few and small, the interiors are dim. However, the great wall spaces lend themselves to mural decoration, as did those of their prototypes, the later Byzantine churches (Fig. 266 a ). A few wealthy churches used mosaics, the others fresco, but in either case according to a strict iconography. An important feature was the iconostasis (Fig. 2 75 a) , the many-tiered screen that separates the sanctuary from the main body of the church, with three doors, the central one — the royal door — reserved for the priests only. The iconostasis contains the sacred images, arranged according to rigid regulation. It is deco-

rated elaborately with carvings, gild- ing, and metalwork, and before it hang magnificent candelabra. Very resplend- ent is such an interior, its very dimness adding to the effect. The congregation stands, the liturgy contains long chants and a cappella music, with frequent censing. In flickering candlelight and through clouds of incense the rich vest- ments of the clergy combine with the brilliant color and ornament of the iconostasis to create a focal point, which is surrounded by dim walls covered with figures that rise in hieratic succession to the Pantocrator of the dome. Thus every element contributes to produce the effect of otherworldli- ness, the aim of the Byzantine artists.





To decorate the walls of churches, to paint icons for private shrines and for iconostases and miniatures for the sacred books, were the functions of the painter. Again, it was an ecclesiastical art. Like the buildings, the early mo- saics, frescoes, and icons are Byzantine in style. Some icons were probably im- ported from Constantinople or Greece. This was probably the case with the Vladimir Madonna (Fig. 283A), one of the icons held most sacred because it was believed to protect the Russians against the Mongols. For this reason it held a place of honor in the lowest tier of the iconostasis of the church at Vladimir. It is a typical Byzantine painting , 1 in

1 There are at least six layers of repainting; only the faces show the original surface. As the icons were quickly blackened by the incense, it was a usual practice to repaint them, which was often done, unfortunately, by an inferior painter. For the cleaning of this and other icons by the Central National Restoration Workshops of the Soviet Government, see M, S. Farbman, ed., Masterpieces of Russian Painting, London, 1930.

which two figures are compactly united into a majestic group that fills the panel with its flat pattern, a silhouette with unbroken sweep of virile contour within which the figures are tied together both as to form and as to sensitive feeling.

The development of the iconostasis into the elaborate screen with more than five tiers had an important effect on icon-painting. For the purpose of these paintings was to enable the worshiper to read pictorially. Clear pictorial legibility in wavering candle- light and through clouds of incense required strong pattern, firm lines, and intense color. For this reason the rela- tively sober hues of the early Byzan- tine paintings gave way to the more characteristically Russian colors, in- tense and contrasting.

This style we find in the work of the Novgorod and Pskov painters, in the Saint Basil (Fig. 283B), for example, which is dynamic in feeling, and star- tling in its angularity and contrasts. The sharp angles and strong curves re- peated in every detail, the precise out-

- 1 . : ' . ‘ !


[a] Rublev. Old Testa- ment Trinity. Trinity Cathedral in the Mon- astery of Sergievo. c. 1410. (A. H. Ban , Jr.)

lining of the parts of the head and of the features, the sharp color-contrasts, the elongated proportions — each of these elements contributes to an abstract pattern of brusque forcefulness and vigorous movement that is little con- cerned ■with a representation of visual perception.

As in architecture, it was the assim- ilation of outside influences with this native dynamism that produced a Russian style. As in architecture, again, with the waning of the Mongol dom- ination, during which Byzantine in- fluence was cut off, Greek painters again appeared at Novgorod and Mos- cow, among them Theophanes of Mistra. Under this renewed Byzantine

influence and through the requirements of the iconostasis, which was just at that time reaching its highest develop- ment, a climax of Russian painting was reached in the work of Andrei Rublev (about 1370-1430) whose monumental Old Testament Trinity (Fig. 282A) is a masterly design in line and color. About a table are seated the three angels who appeared to Abraham near the oaks of Mamre. The figures, each framed with a halo and sweeping wings, almost fill the panel, and are clearly and definitely related to each other and to the space by a design of horizontals and peculiarly suave curves, free from clashing oppositions, which produces a tranquillity like that of the Vladimir



[b] St. Basil the Great. Right half of a pair of royal doors. 14th cent. Museum of Tver. (Figs. 283A and b, A. H. Barr , Jr.)

Vladimir Madonna, nth cent. Historical Mu- Moscow. Formerly in the Cathedral of the iption at Vladimir but removed to Moscow in 1395 ted the city from a Tatar invasion.

green: “one is amazed at a recurrent gamme of color different from any that Western art has produced or attempted to produce until recent years, in the extraordinary copy of Rublev’s Trin- ity, the unforgettable Saint Demetrius robed in vermilion with a vermilion shield, the black-winged archangels, Michael and Gabriel. The dominant scale of color is distinctly Oriental — parchment white, golden buff, tur- quoise, blue, vermilion, malachite green, an occasional note of plum

Madonna. Yet sufficient angularity in the table, the chairs, and the folds of the garments provides contrasting mo- tifs. These forms are constructed of color, each detail an area of color, which is frequently intensified by the juxtaposition of a complementary hue. The intense blue and green folds of the cloak of the central figure stand out starkly against the deep-red robe and gilded orange wings. In the figure on the left the high lights of the orange cloak are a pattern of opalescent blue-



heightened by the uncompromising accent of unrelieved black. It could be matched by grouping Chinese, Korean, and Persian ceramics. The enamel- like purity and brilliance of the pig- ment constitute an almost unparalleled triumph in the technique of painting.” 1 We should not forget in considering this rich ecclesiastical art of medieval Russia the indispensable part played in the entire ensemble of a church in- terior by other arts: the carvings and rich metalwork of the iconostasis and the finely wrought jeweled halos and other ornaments on the icons; the can- dlesticks and candelabra; the miters and ecclesiastical robes stiff with gold, embroidery, and jewels; the illuminated books bound in gold or ivory inlaid with jewels and enamels; the crosses, croziers, sacred vessels, and processional banners. Each contributed with its amazing richness of texture and color to the total effect.


The common objective of Russian art in the Middle Ages — to create visibly and emotionally an effect of transcendent otherworldliness — pro- duced one of the loftiest expressions of Eastern Christianity, It was an art that took much from other cultures, yet by adapting these borrowings to its own vernacular produced something strangely individual. In the quiet, if not monotonous, landscape a vivid, picturesque mass of domes and steeple-

1 Lee Simonson, Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, January, 1931, p. 6.

like tent roofs “gleams like a jeweled clasp on a sober robe.” The dim, re- splendent interior, to whose effective- ness builder, painter, and craftsman contributed, is perhaps the most com- prehensive expression of the common objective.


Bunt, Cyril G. E., A History of Russian Art, Studio, 1946

Buxton, David R., Russian Mediaeval Architec- ture, Macmillan, 1934

Eliasberg, Alexander, Russische Baukunst, Mu- nich, 1922

Farbman, Michael S., ed., Masterpieces of Russian Painting, London, 1930

Halle, Fannina W., Alt-russische Kunst, Berlin,


Kondakov, Nikodim Pavlovich, The Russian Icon, tr. by E. H. Minns, Oxford University Press, 1927

Lukomskii, Georgi; Kreskentevich, History of Modem Russian Painting, Hutchinson, 1945

Maskell, Alfred O., Russian Art and Art Objects in Russia, London, 1884

Metropolitan Museum of Art, A Catalogue of Russian Icons, with introduction by I, E. Grabar, Museum, New York City, 1931

Miliukov, Paul N., Outlines of Russian Culture, 3 pts., University of Pennsylvania Press, 1942: Pt. Ill, Architecture, Painting and Music

Muratov, Pavel Pavlovich, Les icones russes Paris, 1927

— - — • — — — La peinture byzantine, Paris, 1935

Newmarch, Rosa J., The Russian Arts, Dutton, 1916

Olsufiev, Yoori A., ‘ ‘The Development of Russian Icon Painting from the Twelfth to the Nineteenth Century,” Art Bulletin, Decem- ber 1930

Talbot Rice, David, ed., Russian Art: An Intro- duction, London, 1935

Voyce, Arthur, Russian Architecture, Philosophical Library, 1948

See also General Bibliography, pp. 791-92.



WHILE the early Christian and Byzantine culture was evolving from a fusion of Greco-Roman, Near Eastern, and Northern elements, another culture, energized by an extremely dynamic religious force, was also rising. This was destined to meet the Christian religion at certain points and to fuse some of its forms, especially in Spain and Hispanic America, with those of Christian medieval art; in the Far East it met and fused with the arts of Far Asia. This was the Muhammadan religion.

When we think of the Muhammadans, we think not of a nation in the modern sense of the word, with sharply defined geographical boundaries, but of groups of people of varying cultures, widespread geographically but bound together by a burning and at times fanatical religious faith. The Muhammadans call this faith Islam, which means obedience to the will of Allah (God); and their creed is embodied in the prayer chanted by the muezzin from the minaret as he calls the faithful to worship: “God is great, God is great, God is great. I bear witness that there is no god but God. I bear witness that there is no god but God. I bear witness that Muhammad is the Apostle of God, I bear witness that Muhammad is the Apostle of God. Come to prayer. Come to prayer. Come to security. Come to security. God is great. God is great. There is no god but God.” This religion, originating in Arabia, spread both east and west with amazing rapidity, chiefly by means of the sword; for the Muslim became an invincible soldier because of his fatalistic belief in the will of Allah, and because he was lured by the promise of immediate entrance into the Garden of Paradise if he died upon the field of battle fighting for the Islamic faith.

Because of geographical extent and lack of traditional unity, Muhammadan art has manifested itself in diverse ways, strongly affected by local tra- ditions, sometimes merely grafting upon the native art a few of its requirements. At first the Muslim conquerors, Arab nomads with no arts of their own, 1 did just what the Persians under Cyrus did when they conquered the older civilizations borrowed or adapted what they found at hand. For example, when they conquered Constantinople they converted the church of Santa Sophia into a mosque merely by in- serting a niche, whitewashing the mosaics containing figure work, and erecting the minarets. Soon, however, they so transformed their adaptations by their own means of expression that Muhammadan art became a strikingly individual thing. Because of this di-

1 No visual arts. Pre-Muhammadan Arabic poetry is of a high order.

versity, our discussion will be confined chiefly to Egypt 2 and to noting some of the characteristic features of Islamic art.

Egypt was a province of the Byzan- tine Empire at the time of its conquest by the Muslims in 641, and already the early Christians of Egypt, the Copts, had evolved from the strongly en- trenched Hellenistic art centered at Alexandria a very vital nonmaterialistic expression much more consistent with their own traditions. It was an expres- sion augmented by influences from the East, as we saw in their textile de- signs (Fig. 2 72 a). Ruled first by gov- ernors appointed by the caliphs of Damascus or Baghdad, Egypt finally set up an independent government under the Tulunids (868-904), which continued under the Fatimids (969- 11 71), who founded a new capital at Kahira (Cairo) in 969 and in their art expression reached a climax of refine- ment and dynamic vitality. Succeeding them as rulers were the Mamelukes (1252-1517) — Tatar slaves of the sultan who rose from servitude to become for nearly three hundred years independent Muslim sovereigns of Egypt. Politically it was an age of intrigue and murder. The Mamelukes were still barbarians and merciless cutthroats; rarely did a Mameluke reign more than a few years, and very few died a natural death. Yet the arts flourished with an amazing vigor and displayed a rare and refined taste — one of the startling contrasts of history, as Mr. Lane- Poole suggests.

Against sumptuousness and license of all kinds the Koran decreed puritan- ically. Yet the Muhammadans, par- ticularly the Mamelukes, with their Oriental love of color, fine silks, jewels, and richly inlaid vessels, managed in var-

2 Although possibly the finest early mosques and fortified palaces important for their stone construction are to be found in Damascus and Aleppo. For Muslim art in Persia see Chapter 16, and for Indian Art, Chapter 19.



[a] Plans of Mosques. 1. Mosque of Ibn Tutun (Fig. 285A ); 2. Tomb-mosque of Sultan Hassan (Figs. 288a, 289 a); 3. Tomb-mosque of Sultan Kait Bey (Figs. 290A, 291 a). Al- though apparently diverse in plan they have several features in common: a. court; b. fountain ; c. niche (mihrab) indicating the direction of Mecca; d, pulpit (mimbar); e. tribune (dikkeh) ; f. tomb; g. recess (liwan); h. minaret. In (1) covered arcades instead of recesses surround the court , which is 300 ft. square; in (2) the angles formed by the recesses of the court are filled with rooms for schools, offices, and apartments for the attendants.

ious ways to circumvent these decrees. With great wealth at their command, they adorned their homes, and even their traveling tents of gold-shot silk, with rich hangings, fine rugs, and ex- quisite utensils; and they clothed them- selves in the most splendid apparel. In

spite of many fastings, prayers, and pilgrimages demanded by the Koran, life was gay with festivals, feasts, and sports. 1

1 For a picture of Muhammadan life, see Stanley Lane-Poole, The Art of the Saracens in Egypt, London, 1886, Chap. I.



Since the Muhammadan was fa- natical in religious belief and at the same time zealous in the pursuit of pleasure, it is natural to find his archi- tecture devoted chiefly to the mosque and the palace. As far as worship was concerned, his needs were simple: a se- cluded place, away from the noise of the streets, where a fountain provided water for ablution (for he must bathe before going to worship), and a place protected from the hot sun where, with face turned toward Mecca, he could pray. This direction was indicated to him by a niche in the wall of the mosque, beside which was a pulpit from which the Friday (the Muham- madan Sunday) sermon was preached; a little in front of these stood the raised platform from which the Koran was recited and prayers were chanted. These simple but universal features con- stitute the sanctuary of a mosque (Figs. 287A, 29 1 a).

[a] Mosque of Sultan Hassan. Cairo. 1356-59. The dome indicates a tomb-mosque. Of stone taken from the Pyramids of Giza.


[a] Mosque of Sultan Hassan. Court, looking toward the sanctuary .

The early cloistered mosque of Ibn Tulun (Figs. 285A, 287 ai) adequately supplies these needs. It consists of a great open court with a fountain in the center, surrounded by covered arcades two deep on three sides but five deep on the sanctuary side (the end facing to- ward Mecca), the special place of prayer; and a girdle wall standing fifty feet out- side the mosque walls on three sides, which gives the building added se- clusion. The exterior presents a plain, massive wall with a row of small win- dows and simple unadorned doorways, the only decoration being a crenelated parapet. At one side rises the minaret, the tower from which the muezzin calls to prayer; it is rectangular, partaking of the same simple boldness and massive-

ness as the rest of the mosque. An ex- ternal ramp provides a means of ascent which carries the mind back to the ramp towers of Babylonia (Fig. 83A).

The mosque of Sultan Hassan (Fig. 288a) is more complex in plan (Fig. 287 A2). On each side of the court is a barrel-vaulted recess (liwan) with pointed arch, the largest constituting the sanctuary, behind which is the dome- covered tomb. The angles of the re- cesses are filled with rooms for schools, offices, and apartments, for Muslim educational institutions are usually con- nected with the mosque. This mosque is an austere mass of stone (appropri- ated from the Pyramids of Gizeh, just as the early Christians appropriated stone and marbles from the classical Roman



[a] Tomb-mosque of Sultan Kait Bey. In the environs of Cairo. 1472-76. Of red and white freestone. ( Photoglob )

buildings to build their churches), with decoration concentrated at the lofty portals and in a frieze beneath the crenelation. The interior (Fig. 2 89A), ex- cept the great arches, is made of brick

stuccoed with decorative carvings and [b] Pulpit of Kait Bey. Door. Wood and

a particularly fine border (Fig. 288b) at ivory. H. 7 ft. Late 15th cent, Victoria and

the spring of the vault.

Smaller mosques enabled the builders to decorate more lavishly; as we see in the mosque of Kait Bey (Fig. 290A), the small size, lightness, and elegance of which contrast with the grandeur and unadorned simplicity of Ibn Tulun and Sultan Hassan. The mosque with its minaret and the tomb with its dome are massed asymmetrically, as is indi- cated in the nonaxial plan (Fig. 287A3). The tall arched portal, a character- istic feature of the mosque, is elabo- rately ornamented with carvings and

Albert Museum^ London, {Victoria and Al- bert Museum)

stalactites. 1 Shallow recesses enclosing the windows break up the wall surface. The slender, graceful minaret, with projecting galleries from which stalac- tites depend, is ornamented with niches and carvings; the contrasting dome with its virile sweep of line is covered

1 Pendent architectural ornaments resem- bling the icicle-like deposits (stalactites) found in caverns.

[a] Tomb-mosque of Sultan Kait Bey (Figs. 290A, 28ja$). Sanctuary showing the pulpit (mimbar), the niche (mihrab), and the richly colored glass windows ; at the upper left is a segment of the horseshoe arch.

with arabesque carvings. The usual crenelation finishes the walls, for the overshadowing cornice rarely finds a place in Muhammadan architecture. In this mosque the place of ablution is a small room at the left of the entrance. The court is roofed with a hexagonal lantern rich in color and gold, and on it opens the sanctuary, with a pointed horseshoe arch of alternating light and dark stone (Fig. 291 a). The floor is paved with marble slabs, and the lower part of the walls is faced with variously colored marbles through which gleams mother-of-pearl. The niche is orna- mented sumptuously with marble and mosaic, and the pulpit with carvings. Above, the wall is pierced with small windows of brilliantly colored glass. From the ceiling are suspended chains

that originally held inlaid metal or enameled-glass lamps. The impression of such a sanctuary with its subdued light is one of great richness of material and splendor of color.

Even a superficial glance at Islamic art — not building only but all the arts — discloses its love of an orna- mentation which impresses one with its dynamic vitality and decorative beauty. Its motifs were very limited. Islam for- bade the representation of human and animal figures, and though the decree was not followed except by the ortho- dox and except in the case of objects used in the mosque, still it turned the eye of the artist to geometry and the world of plant life for subject matter.

From plant life — no one has dis- covered just where or when — was




[a] Carved Wood Panel. From the mosque- hospital of Sultan Kalaun , Cairo. 1284. (After Prisse <P Avenues)

derived the arabesque, that universal Muslim motif which is one of the most characteristic marks of the style. The arabesque is a flowing, spiraling, inter- lacing pattern with palmette- or half- palmette-like motifs, suggestive but not at all imitative of leaf forms (Fig. 293A). It was adaptable to almost every material, and with its capacity for spiraling with infinite variations well satisfied the Muslim’s Strong impulse to cover surfaces. For a horror vacui

possessed him. Another universal mo- tif in Islamic ornament was Arabic calligraphy. Writing was a fine art and both styles, Kufic and Neskhi, 1 re- vealed decorative possibilities, the Kufic (Figs. 288B, 297B) providing con- trasting angularity, the Neskhi flowing into the curves of the arabesques (Fig. 295 a). A third Islamic motif found from Spain to India was the stalactite used with such effectiveness in the mosque portal.

Plaster, used wet, was a particularly adaptable medium for the freely flow- ing line that distinguishes Muhamma- dan ornament, for here the hand could move easily and spontaneously. It appears in the earlier buildings — for example, about the arches in the mosque of Ibn Tulun — but was largely replaced by stone or marble about the fourteenth century. The Kufic frieze (Fig. 288b) that decorates the sanctuary of the mosque of Sultan Hassan well illustrates stucco ornament. The bold, angular letters are particularly monu- mental, and contrast effectively with the delicate floral arabesques from which they emerge.

Though plaster and stone were used largely in architectural ornament and even occasionally for a pulpit, wood was the material most favored for deco- rating the furnishings of both mosques and palaces. It was not only carved but frequently inlaid with ivory and ebony. This is well illustrated by a mosque pulpit, which stands at the right of the niche as one faces the sanctuary (Fig. 291 a). Approached by a high door, it consists of a stairway that leads to a small covered platform surmounted by a cupola. Elaborate decoration, geo-.

1 Kufic: the older, formal, angular style, so called from the city of Kufa in Mesopotamia, where the best calligraphers lived. Neskhi: a cursive script, Kufic was used for inscriptions and for copying the Koran, though later Neskhi was used for the latter purpose, with Kufic reserved for chapter headings.


metric, floral, and stalactite, covers the surface. A door from one of these pul- pits (Fig. 290B) illustrates the abundance of the carving. Arabesques, with panels inserted for the inscriptions, cover all the surfaces except the panels of the doors, which are filled with geometric patterns whose incisive angularity af- fords a happy contrast to the gliding lines of the rest of the carving. The geo- metric patterns are made up of many small polygons, each framing a floral motif and finished with a molding. The polygons are ingeniously fitted to- gether so as to allow for warping, which is expected in the Egyptian climate. In these geometric designs we see the same fertility of invention as in the ara- besque. 1

In an example of Fatimid wood- carving which is notable for the virility of its design (Fig. 293A) the wood is undercut so as to create a light pattern on a dark ground, thus bringing into prominence the strong central motif terminating in the horses’ heads, and its integration, carried out with such inevitability, into the lighter rapid arabesques. Another panel (Fig. 292A), from the Hospital of Kalaun , makes greater use of human and animal fig- ures, some of which are suggestive of Eastern textiles. Broad sweeping bands form a heart-shaped motif repeated with variations and playing into the narrower spirals. Thus two systems of movement interplay throughout the panel. Broadly sweeping lines inter- twine and knot, now terminating in floral forms that fill the ground and now forming geometric areas that con- tain human, bird, animal, and griffin forms. In the large central medallion is a kneeling man carrying a slain deer on his shoulders; above him are two eagles in balanced position, and at the sides two cockatoos whose long sweep- ing tails repeat the curves of the scrolls; the four circular medallions are filled

[a] Wood Door Panel, Carved with ara- besques and the heads of two horses. W. c. gin. nth cent. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New fork City . (Metropolitan Museum)

with griffin or deer on whose backs are eagles with outspread wings. Details are omitted, and the forms are flattened out, simplified, and pleasingly adapted to the curving lines of the geometric areas.

Color and gilding played an impor- tant part in Muhammadan ornament. Both stucco and wood-carvings were vividly painted. Another method of ob- taining color was by marble inlay and stained glass. Panels of variously col- ored marbles — red, yellow, black, green — perhaps combined with blue tile, or bordered with a geometric pat- tern of colored glass and mother-of- pearl, faced the sanctuary of the mosque or formed a dado around the palace room. A most brilliant effect of color came from the windows, which were



[a] Window . Stucco and glass. H. 30 in. Victoria and Albert Museum , London. (Vic- toria and Albert Museum)

made by filling a wooden frame with plaster about an inch thick, scooping out a pattern in the plaster while it was still soft, and then filling in the perfora- tions with bits of colored glass. In Fig- ure 294A the design consists of a palm tree with spreading branches that curve to fit into the arch in which it stands; below are plane trees and flowers. The process is very simple and crude in comparison with the leaded windows of the Gothic period (Fig. 354A); but the masses of color when penetrated by the Egyptian sunshine are rich and jewel- like in their effect.

The Cairene house was, and is today, a flat- topped structure of several stories built about an open court — the typi- cal Mediterranean house plan — with one part reserved for the women, who live in seclusion. It stands flush with the narrow street and often has a

carved, metal-studded wooden door and overhanging windows with infi- nitely varied wooden lattice. Although provided with these windows, the house faces the court, which in the better homes is a garden with fountains. The furnishings are extremely simple, but the carpets and cushions, inlaid metal, and carvings produce the same rich- ness of effect that we have observed in the mosque.

The palaces of the Muslims, from India to Spain, are magnificent houses for luxurious living. In Spain the Moors established themselves in the southern part of the country, though their in- fluence penetrated the entire penin- sula. Cordova in the tenth century was one of the most enlightened cities of Europe and, with its great libraries, a center for learning. Its astronomers, mathematicians, musicians, and sur- geons were famous, and in the Great Mosque its architects had worked out a system of ribbed vaulting two cen- turies before the Gothic builders. Here in Iberia was firmly implanted a style that was to continue after the expul- sion of the Moors and was to be influ- ential in the Hispanic colonies in America. Marks of this style are: the horseshoe arch; geometric ornament with an insistent surface character; carved and polychromed wood ceilings and doors. The Alhambra illustrates the Moorish version of the Muhammadan palace. It is built about several courts, with tiled fountains and shaded por- ticoes along the sides. The lower part of the walls is covered by tiles deco- rated with geometric designs in sub- dued tones harmonizing with the shady part of the court. Slender columns sup- port arches and walls, the surfaces of which are richly covered with stalac- tites, intricate geometric ornament, and inscriptions, molded in stucco and painted and gilded. This decoration, though profuse, is orderly, and each


motif is sensitively related to the area — wall space, soffit of an arch, spandrel, or capital — and held to that area, and its delicacy is brought out clearly by color.



The furnishings of the palaces as well as of the mosques satisfied the Muslim’s love of rich and sumptuous effects. With both painting and sculpture banned, he must needs depend upon the carvers in stone and wood, the mo- saicists, the workers in various metals, the glassmaker, and the weaver to satisfy his needs. The same motifs — the arabesque, floral, and geometric de- signs and interlacings, calligraphy — appear in all the crafts, and are a rev- elation of the flexibility of this narrow range of ornament, for rarely does one find exact duplication.

Islamic metalwork maintains the high quality that has characterized this art in the Near Eastern lands through- out the ages. Basins, often huge in size, ewers, candlesticks, trays, perfume- burners, jewel cases, writing-boxes — many objects for use in the mosque and the home — were made of wrought copper or brass, engraved and inlaid with silver, with the base sometimes covered with a black substance to set forth the silver inlay more sharply and

[a] Brass Bowl , Inlaid with silver. The inscrip- tion reads: “ His Excel- lency , generous , exalted , lordly, great Amir, wise, ruler, leonine, fighter for the Faith, warden of Islam (liegeman) of El-Melih En-Nasir” (a Mame- luke ruler of 14th cent.).

British Museum, London.


thus create a resplendent effect. In Figure 295A, for example, effective use is made of the Arabic calligraphy; the chief band of decoration consists of an inscription in large letters, broken by rosettes which are made of a central whorl surrounded by a ring of flying ducks. A narrower band of scroll pat- tern, broken at intervals by whorls, separates the broad band from the diaper pattern of flowers and birds on the bottom.

Very brilliant was the enameled glass, particularly effective in the mosque lamps. The glass of these lamps is blown, with many bubbles and streak- ings, and is usually slightly yellow or green. In Figure 2 96 a, the broad, tall neck tapers toward the rather squat body, which carries six loops or handles for the silver chains by which it was suspended to the beam or ceiling of the mosque. The surface is covered with bands of arabesques and arabesque- entwined inscriptions worked in enamel — blue, white, yellow, green, red — with a liberal use of gold. Inside the lamp a small glass vessel, with oil and wick, is hooked to the rim, so that the light brings out the decorations with a rich soft glow. The effect of a con- siderable number of these lamps in such a sanctuary as that of Kait Bey must have been magnificent.

Woven fabrics and leather were of great value for their contribution of



[a] Mosque Lamp. Enameled glass. H. 13 in. The inscription on the neck from the Koran reads , li In the house that God hath permitted to be raised for His name to be commemorated therein, men celebrate his praises morning {and evening).” 14th cent. Victoria and Albert Museum , London. {Vic- toria and Albert Museum)

texture and color. When the Arabs came into Egypt, the weaving craft had already reached a high level of attain- ment among the Copts, as it also had in Sassanian Persia , 1 whose fine silks not only were highly prized but domi- nated textile design throughout the Near East . 2 At first the Arabs employed the Copts to work for them, and from these expert weavers they learned the craft. By the time of the Fatimids Arab fabrics were famous (Fig. 297A) .

1 See Chapter 16.

2 It is interesting to note how many of our names for textiles originate in Near East weav- ing centers — damask, muslin, and taffeta are examples — indicating tire fame of these centers for producing fabrics.

The fabrics were made usually with a fine linen warp and silk weft, and the patterns were based upon the usual Islamic motifs — the arabesque and calligraphy — and upon Coptic and Sassanian designs of interlaced circles containing birds and animals or two bilaterally balanced figures.


Two peoples, at least, practiced the art of writing as a major art: the Chi- nese and the Muhammadans. With the latter, fine writing was used not only for books — for at this period all books were written by hand — but also, as we have seen, as one of the peculiarly Islamic decorative motifs. Perhaps the highest point of achievement was the Koran (Qur’an), the sacred book of Islam. The calligrapher’s work con- sisted not only in the shaping of the letters but also in illumination as rich as the decoration of the mosque sanc- tuary (Fig. 297B). The first and last two or three pages generally contain a richly decorated panel with the usual inscription — “Let none touch it save the purified” —-in Kufic letters, and a margined medallion. Frequently the text is written in gold letters. Vivid blue predominates in the decoration, with a little red and white, black or green, and a great deal of gold. The splendor of the effect is perhaps equaled by the delicacy of the infinite detail, even more intricate than the carvings and engravings, for the brush is more facile than the carver’s tools.


Among the Muhammadans we find an art with unusually narrow restric- tions. The mosque and the palace with their sparse furnishings illustrate the range of art expression. There is a con- spicuous absence of pictures and sculp-



ture and few representations of the human or animal figure except for secular use, and then infrequently. In their stead are delicate carvings of stone, stucco, wood, and ivory or marble inlay’ rich stuffs, brilliantly colored glass,’ and resplendent metal. Every- where is line, pattern, color. All the arts are inextricably interwoven, not only in creating the ensemble but in interchange of ideas and motifs; for the geometric inlay on the helmet finds its way to the carvings of the dome; the stone or stucco carved band on the mosque, to the pages of a Koran; and the textile design, to the silver inky of a bowl. The very restrictions of this art, however, seem to be responsible for its particular bent. For with concentration upon decoration, and with that, too, dependent upon a few fundamental geometric and floral motifs, the Muslim created an endless variety of carvings, now the angular geometric pattern, now the smoothly flowing, intricate

[a] Fatimid Silk T 'extile. 13th cent. Met- ropolitan Museum of Art , Mew York City. ( Metropolitan Museum )

arabesque. But each work, no matter what the medium, was apparently a fresh and vital creation, displaying, in spite of narrow bounds, great inven- tiveness and amazing exuberance.

[b] Illuminated Page from a Koran. 1368- 88. Khedivial Library , Cairo. ( Moritz )



Gliick, Heinrich, and Diez, Ernst, Die Kunsi des Islam, Berlin, ig25

Grousset, Rene, The Civilizations of the East, tr. by G. A. Phillips, 4vols., Knopf, 1931-34, Vol. I

Hobson, Robert L., A Guide to the Islamic Pottery of the Near East, British Museum, London, 1939

Kendrick, Albert F,, Catalogue of Muhammadan Textiles of the Medieval Period, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1924

Kcechlin, Raymond, Vart de ITslam: Les ce- ramiques, Paris, 1928

and Alfassa, Paul, Vart de ITslam ,

Paris, 1928



Sassanian Persian Art

(a.d. 226-641)

I N the third century a.d. a new power had arisen in Persia, the Sassanian, so called From a priestly Iranian family who lived in a secluded part of southern Persia and there maintained the old traditions and religion of their race. Having conquered the Parthians, the Sassanians, notwithstanding the welter of Hellenistic, Roman, Parthian, and early Christian influences in the Valley of the Two Rivers, brought about a revival of Iranian culture, especially of the ancestral faith of Zoroaster. This Sassanian empire, with capitals at Istakhr (near Persepolis) and at Ctesi- phon (near Baghdad), reached a cli- max under Chosroes (Khosrau) I (a.d. 531-579) and Chosroes (Khosrau) II (590-628), when Ctesiphon became

Lane, Edward W., An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, 3d ed., Dutton, 1908

Lane-Poole, Stanley, The Art of the Saracens in Egypt, London, 1886

Migeon, Gaston, Les arts musulmans, Paris, 1926

Nicholson, Reynold A., Translations of Eastern Poetry and Prose, Macmillan, 1922

Rivoira, Giovanni Teresio , Moslem Architecture, tr. by G. McN. Rushforth, Oxford Uni- versity Press, 1919

Ross, Sir Edward Denison, ed., The Art of Egypt through the Ages, Studio, 1931 See also General Bibliography, pp. 791-92.

a fabulously rich city and one of the most influential centers of the Near East. These rulers were great patrons of the arts and encouraged all workers in the crafts, particularly the weavers of fine silk textiles, which were in de- mand by the luxurious Byzantine court and which, through their intro- duction into the West, became a strong influence in the evolution of European ornament. When Justinian, in his zeal to propagate the Christian faith, closed the pagan schools of Athens, the art- ists and scholars fled to the court of Chosroes I, carrying with them the classical traditions and learning, with the result that the Sassanian court was one of the broadest and most en- lightened of the Near East. But, not- withstanding its power and vigor, this empire was short-lived, for it was one of the first to fall before the fanatical invincibility of the Muslim invaders (a.d. 641).



[a] Palace at Ctesiphon. Sassanian. {Sane and Herzfeld)


Sassanian art is an example of the great assimilative capacity of the Iranian. Whatever he took he trans- lated into his own idiom and infused with his own dynamic vitality. As with the Achaemenids, the palace is the type building, of which the Palace at Ctesiphon (Fig. 2 99 a ) is the outstanding example. Though the columnar Hel- lenic style had penetrated the East through the conquests of Alexander the Great and had continued under Roman and Parthian rule, the Sas- sanian revived the native tradition of vaulted construction, though Western influence is seen in details. What little is left of the Palace at Ctesiphon is elo- quent of monumental grandeur, and when one recalls the stucco decorations and — upon reading of the booty taken by the Muslim — the marvelous car- pets and furnishings, one can easily be- lieve in its fabulous magnificence. An imposing elliptical barrel vault of brick which roofs the throne room dwarfs human beings by the magnitude of its

scale. It is buttressed by a solid facade, and decorated with engaged columns and blind arcadings, which do not fol- low the superimposed system of the Roman style, but show a striking variety of arrangement in the stories that re- veals an unhampered versatility . 1


Monumental vigor through largeness of design distinguishes Sassanian rock- cut sculpture: the colossal equestrian re- liefs of Ardashir I and Shapur I at Naksh-i-Rustum near Persepolis, and of Chosroes II at Tak-i-Bostan, a villa near the modern Kermanshah that was a famous park in Sassanian times. Here, in an arched recess cut in a rock at the base of a cliff which borders a small lake, is the statue of Chosroes II. His char-

1 Excavations at Ctesiphon have brought to light a large number of fragments of stone and stucco ornament and other objects. See the Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, August, 1932. See also reports of excavations by the Uni- versity Museum at Damghan and by the Oxford- Field Expedition at Kish.



[a] Stone Carving with Winged Griffin . Detail from a relief of Chosroes II, (Sane)

ger Shabdiz (a name meaning “Black as Night”) is heavily caparisoned, and the rider is clothed in armor. Though the statue has been badly mutilated by the Muslim, it still impresses with its monumentality, with its feeling for stone, and with the virility of every line and detail, which are so carved that they imbue the entire figure with an intense vitality as well as surface decora- tive beauty — qualities that are evi- dent also in the recently discovered stucco fragments of horses and decora- tive panels.


This same pulsating vitality, com- bined with a sensitive relationship of forms, controls the work of the silversmiths and weavers. Behind the Sassanian metalworker lay a long tra- dition of extraordinary quality, which his own cups and plates maintain. The winged griffin is a popular motif, in early examples expressed with all the vigor of the carvings (Fig. 300 a). Later this acquires more elaboration, elegance, and ease of line, as in the shallow cup with a plumed griffin in

the Victoria and Albert Museum. An easy facility of line combined with a vigor of conventional form is seen in a Silver Plate (Fig. 30 ib), which is deco- rated with a lithe animal walking along the banks of a river, indicated by swirl- ing lines, from which rise lotus flowers to fill the vacant spaces. Another popu- lar motif is the hunter. In Figure 301 a six figures are composed into a unit determined by a circular space. Dy- namic curves and countercurves, now flowing together, now meeting at sharp angles, create a forceful pattern through which conventional motifs for drapery, muscles, manes, and fur carry rapid minor rhythms.

Weaving reached a high stage of ac- complishment. The silk-weaving craft had made its way westward from China and became a flourishing industry in Persia, where the craftsmen wove fabrics not only for home use but for Byzantium and western Europe as well. An all-over pattern based upon large medallions connected by small ones is a distinctive feature of these stuffs. In Figure 301c the hunter motif appears. Two kings on winged horses, arranged with perfect bilateral balancing, are



[a] Silver Plate, Partially gilt. Chosroes I hunting ibexes . D. < 9 § in. 6th cent. Metro- politan Museum of Art , Mew Tork City. (. Metropolitan Museum )

[b] Silver Plate. Partially gilt. Carved and engraved with a fantastic animal and lotuses. D. id in. glh-xoth cent. Biblio- Mque Maiionale, Paris. (Giraudon)

[c] Silk Textile with the Hunter Motif Sassanian. c, 600. Kunsigewerbe Museum, Berlin, (Lessing) Compare this with the more naturalistic rendering of the same motif on a Byzantine textile [Fig, 273 a).

holding aloft the cubs of the lioness they have been hunting. The forms of all the figures are so highly generalized that they have become decorative pat- terns splendidly adapted to the circular space. The astounding amount of vigor in the forms, and the highly simplified drawing necessary for a successful textile pattern, are harmonized with extraor- dinary skill in the Sassanian fabrics.

Muhammadan Persian Art

(a.d. 641-1736)

r lPHE kingdom of the Sassanids was X short-lived because of the invin- cible fighting power of the Muslims, who swept eastward in their conquests in the seventh century a.d. and in 762 established Baghdad as the seat of the caliphate, a final blow to the life of Gtesiphon. Baghdad became the cen- ter not only of a gorgeous and pleasure-



[a] Royal Mosque . Isfahan. 1612. ( Arthur Upham Pope )

loving court, the famed city of the Thousand and One Nights, but also of a culture and art that was ostensibly Islamic but at heart Iranian. For it was the age of the Iranian Abbasids, of that famed ruler Harun-al-Rashid (786-809) ; the age of Firdausi (940- 1020), the great epic poet who gathered together the heroic legends of the Ira- nian people into the Shah-nama , or Book of Kings; of Nizami (1141-1203), the famous romantic poet of Persia; of Omar Khayyam (died 1123), who took for the setting of his quatrains the luxu- rious, pleasure-seeking aspect of life; and of the Sufi mystics, who provided the poets a complete contrast to the sensuous element in Omar Khayyam in their concepts of a joyful, ecstatic ap- prehension of divinity permeating all animate life.

Meantime the Mongols, or Tatars, moving westward under Jenghiz Khan ( 1 162-1 227), captured Baghdad in 1258, and came to rulership, bring- ing with them the traditions of China.

Thus Persia has been the melting-pot of many influences: the Babylonian, the Assyrian, and the Achaemenian, with an admixture of Egyptian; through the conquests of Alexander and the Romans, the Hellenic influence, the Roman, and their successor the Byzantine; after the revival of the Iranian by the Sassanids, the Islamic influence; and with the Mongol invasion, the Chinese. But despite these converging influences, one feels the constancy and the tenacity of the Iranian tradition. The Mongol rulers of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, with their capital at Samar- kand, accepted Islam. The dynasty of the Timurids (1396-1500), founded by (Tamerlane), was a period of prosperity and wealth, and under their patronage were produced some of the finest books, carpets, and metal. The Safavids (1 502-1 736) at the time of Shah Abbas I (1587-1628) reached an- other climax. But already overelegahce, easy grace, and a naturalistic trend were foretelling the decline.



[a] Recess Decorated with Stalactites of Colored Tile. Royal Mosque , Is- fahan (Fig. 30 2 a ). (Arthur Upham Pope )


In Islamic Persia it is the mosque as well as the palace that engages the builder. And the garden assumes ex- traordinary importance in this semi- desert land, an importance that finds expression in poetry as well as in paint- ing and in the garden carpets. For Persian art “is inseparable from the very land of Persia, where, against an ever-present background of mauve and golden desert, set in a frame of rosy mountains, a few dead mountains standing out against the horizon like some landscape in the moon, a slender stream of water, a few poplars, and an old crumbling wayside inn suddenly assume a totally unexpected artistic value.

“And in addition to this incessant re- minder of the desert there is the light air of the high plateaux with its incom- parable purity, which adds an unvary- ing delicacy to every tone. Against this sky of a tender blue the favorite colons of the Persian architects acquire an extraordinary value — the mellow tone of the brick of the ancient mosques of

Hamadan and Varamin or the fairy- like blue of the great domes of Isfahan or the gold of the dome of Qum, brood- ing and solitary in the infinite space of the desert. A profound harmony exists between this country and its art, an intimate relation which transcends human factors and will survive them, for here ruin assumes the aspect of the very soil of the country, while the desert itself possesses the tones and ap- pearance of its ruins.” 1

The Royal Mosque (Masjid-i-shah) of Isfahan (Fig. 302AI reflects this descrip- tion. It faces a great open square about which are located the imperial palace, mosques, and markets. Rising from a group of subsidiary cloisterlike build- ings and courtyards with gardens and fountains, it presents a composition of pointed, bulbous dome, pointed arches framed by rectangles, and cylindrical minarets — all sheathed in brilliantly colored glazed tile. There are evident here several traditions of the Valley of the Two Rivers: brick, with a limited use of stone, for material; the arch sys-

1 Rene Grousset, The Civilizations of the Bast, 3 vols., Knopf, 1931, Vol. I, p. 393.


[a] Mirak. Laila and Majnun. 16th cent. Metropolitan Museum of Art , New Tork City. (, Metropolitan Museum )

tem of construction; and intensely color- ful ceramic decoration. Structurally, the erection of a dome on a rectangular or polygonal plan brings the problem of the transition from angular to spher- ical volumes, a problem met by the Byzantine builders with the pendentive (Fig. 26 1 a), by the Persian with the squinch (Figs, 260A, 290A) .

The ceramic decoration at Isfahan (Fig. 303 a) is a continuation of the tra- dition we have followed in the Valley of the Two Rivers from the blue tile of the sanctuary of the % iggurat at Ur (Fig. 83 a) by way of Khorsabad (Fig. 91 a) and the Ishtar Gate (Figs. 96A, 97A) to Susa and Persepolis. The motifs are geometric patterns, arabesques, or in- scriptions, sometimes slightly in relief, and the colors are rich blues of many

tones, green and yellow, black and white-— now used with strong con- trast, such as a white arabesque on the deepest blue or black ground, now more nearly in the same key. Yet whatever the color combination and however in- tricate the design, the surfaces are never broken. The clear, definite or- ganization of a few simple masses, with the help of the shadows in the arched recesses, keeps the rich surface decora- tion entirely subordinate, just as in Santa Sophia (Fig. 261 a), where the rhythmic movement of arches and domes holds under control the sump- tuous detail.


Although frescoes are by no means unknown, 1 our chief criterion of Per- sian painting and probably its greatest expression is found in the miniatures. The shahs were great lovers of fine books. They spared neither time nor money to obtain them and maintained trained calligraphers at court; often these included the most famous artists of the day. Among the early books, in addition to splendid copies of the Koran, are copies of the Manaji al- Hayawan (or Bestiary). In the Bullock (Fig. 305A) the bulky figure, with its firm lines and its strong dark stripes and horn balanced by dark areas in the hoofs and the tail, stands massively against the lighter wavering movement of the foliage, which is painted in the style of Chinese ink painting (which came to Persia with the Mongols).

The truly Persian style and some of the greatest triumphs of Persian paint- ing are found in the secular books of the Timurids and the Safavids, such as the poems of Firdausi and Nizami

1 For the recently discovered frescoes at Isfahan, see Persian Fresco Paintings, American Institute for Persian Art and Archaeology, New York, 1932. ...■



[a] Bullock . From a Manafi al-Hayawan ( Bestiary ) . Late 13th cent. Pierpont Morgan Li- brary, Mew York City. ( Metropolitan Museum )

illustrated by a whole galaxy of paint- ers, famous among whom were Bihzad (about 1440-1553) and Mirak and Sul- tan Muhammad, court painters of Shah Tahmasp (1524-1576), a great art patron. Although the shahs were Muslims, orthodox Islamic restrictions regarding the figure did not affect their secular arts, so that the gay scenes of their life of pleasure — the hunt, the feast, flowers, music, and romance — and battle scenes fill the pages of their books. One looking at them feels the luxury, the splendor, and the fleeting happiness of Omar. The cool gardens with fruit trees always blossoming and tall slender palm trees waving gently against the blue sky; the palace or mosque that gleams with enamel- like walls of lustrous faience; or the rocky hillsides where the hunters or warriors dash by on slender horses — these form the setting for the tales.

From one of Nizami’s romantic poems is the Laila and Majnun (Fig. 304A). The scene represents a school, apparently in a mosque. Seated on a rug is the turbaned priest, the teacher, lash

in hand, listening to a youth reading; round him are other youths studying, all seated on their knees and heels or with one knee raised, the customary sit- ting postures in the East. Here and there are the cross-legged bookrests. In the foreground one boy is pulling his companion’s ear, and at the left, near the large water jar, two are playing ball. In the middle distance are the lovers Laila and Majnun, each obvi- ously aware of the other’s presence. There is a good deal of vivacity in the narrative element. The figures are drawn expressively with delicate, flow- ing lines; but they are flat, with no chiaroscuro and with but a hint of perspective; the tiles in the court and the rugs on the floor appear to be hang- ing vertically. The painting is con- ceived from the point of view not of natural appearance but of pattern and vivid color. To this end the tones are kept bright and clear. The decorative quality of the miniature is emphasized by the broad margins of the page, which is tinted pale-blue and flecked all over with gold. The opposite page of the



[a] Ewer. Brass inlaid with silver and ornamented with inscriptions and festal scenes. H. n in. 1232. British Museum , London. (. British Museum )

book is designed to harmonize with the illustrated page, for the area containing the writing is equal to that of the minia- ture and the margins are of the same gold-flecked pale-blue. The writing, a beautiful example of the Arabic script, is the work of a famous calligrapher who says in the colophon that the book was “finished with God’s help by the hand of the poor and obscure Sultan Muhammad Nur.” The binding of brown leather, embossed and gilded, gives an impression of quiet richness and elegance and is an example of the rare skill of the craftsman in gold- tooled leather. 1

1 Sec H. A. Gardner, Understanding the Arts, Harcourt, Brace, 1932, pp. 253 ff., for a de- scription and illustrations of this book.



The tradition of the metalworker, as has been said, is very old in the Valley of the Two Rivers and seems never to have ceased in spite of the rise and fall of dynasties and the influence of foreign invaders. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, after a period of suppression at the hands of orthodox Muslims, there appears to have been a revival of this work, probably due to the coming of the Tatars, who though converted to Islam still held but slight regard for its decrees. The center of the craft was near great copper mines at Mosul, from which it spread to other localities, ap- pearing in Egypt in such a work as a brass bowl (Fig. 295A), in which in- scriptions and arabesques furnished the motifs of decoration. In the Mosul products, however, figure work is an important element, as we see in a ewer (Fig. 306A) in which the figures of men, animals, and birds in hunting, fighting, and feasting scenes are inlaid in silver on an engraved brass ground. On the silver also were engraved details such as features, drapery, plumage of the birds, and manes of the horses, so that the effect of the contrasting metals and the delicate chasing is one of rich splen- dor.

Behind the products of the ceramist, as of the metalworker, lay a long tra- dition, including ceramic wall decora- tion on a large scale as well as the more usual smaller products. And as the former made the walls of mosques and palaces glow with color, so the latter provided accents of texture and color to the interior. For shape and color were the potter’s objective, and to its realization he brought a spontaneity and an ease of expression based upon an innate sensitivity and a technical ability handed down from generations. In short, these Persian potters were



[a] Rhages {Ray or Rayy ) Bowl Showing a Court Scene. 13th cent. Metropolitan Mu- seum of Art , New York City. {Metropolitan Museum)

[b] Lustered Rhages {Ray or Rayy). c. 1200. Metropolitan Museum of Art , New York City). {Metropolitan Museum)

master ceramic designers. Their shapes — bowls, cups, bottles, pitchers, plates, jars — are usually true clay shapes, not sharply precise like metal, and their decorations in every detail relate to the shape. The vital lines and contours are in perfect harmony with and in purposeful contrast to the rim of a plate (Fig. 307B) or to the curving surface of a pitcher; and all appear to be dashed on the surface spontaneously and with great ease, yet with a perfect conviction of their exact rightness.

The coarse base of most of this pot- tery required a slip or coat of opaque enamel to provide a surface for the painting. In the Rhages (Ray ) 1 bowl (Fig. 307A) the ground is turquoise- blue, on which are painted in many colors, with dull red and blue pre- dominating, and a little gold, a sultan, on his throne with courtiers on each side and seated figures in the surround-

1 So called from the city of Rhages, near Teheran, a great center of pottery-making, and one of the most splendid cities of Persia before its destruction by Jenghiz Khan in the thirteenth century.

ing compartments. About the rim runs a Kufic inscription, and on the outside, in cursive hand: “Glory, triumph, power and happiness, generosity and safety, to the owner.” Many of the jars and plates have a creamy glaze with decorations in a soft brown that has a peculiarly fleeting charm when covered, as it often is, by a transparent luster. For then, viewed at a certain angle, there appears an iridescence of violet, dull gold, and copper. Move slightly, and the sparkling color disappears. Thus is produced a subtle, evanescent form of decoration highly suggestive of the joy of the passing hour. There is none of the sobriety of Egypt or China, or of the intellectuality of Greece, but rather the restless joy of Minoan art. Delight in the happiness of the present hour expresses itself in the sparkling, fleeting beauty of the luster vases.

In the Rhages bowl (Fig. 307A) one notes that the faces are Chinese in type; and in other examples we find motifs (phoenixes, peonies, and scrolls) and color schemes of Chinese origin. Persian shahs and nobles imported



Chinese porcelain, which their cera- mists succeeded in imitating. Yet the Persian potter, like other Persian artists, was able to assimilate these influences from the Far East and to produce a unique fabi'ic that ranks among the world’s finest.

This pottery was an aristocratic art, and like the books and many of the fine carpets was produced under royal pa- tronage. Carpets, however, were pecul- iarly expressive of the people as a whole. The land itself produced all the necessary materials, and the need of

[a] Ardebil Carpet. Detail. Wool. 34^ x iyi ft.

mosaue of his familv at ArdehiL Victoria and Albert Museum. London. ( Victoria

museum) ± ne inscription at me oouom oj me jieta reads:

“/ have no refuge in the world other than thy threshold;

There is no place of protection for my head other than this door.

The work of the slave of the threshold, Maqsud of ' Kashan in the year gg6 (a.d. 1540).”



[a] Wool Animal Rug . Detail c. 1520-30. Metropolitan Museum of Art. New fork City. ( Metropolitan Museum )

protection against the winter cold made them indispensable both in the nomad shepherd’s tent and in the shah’s palace. And in each case the intimate relation of the carpet to its makers and to its function determined its design, as we realize in comparing a small shepherd rug of bold primitive pattern with the huge royal carpets of subtle richness. In the houses and palaces of Persia, built of brick, stone, plaster, and glazed

tile, the carpets contributed a contrast- ing texture as floor and divan coverings and wall hangings.

Carpet-weaving was an inherited craft among the Persians, attained through generations of effort. Many a pattern, or perhaps the secret of making a particularly fine dye, was handed down from father to son. The wool was obtained from the sheep which grazed on the mountainsides of this rugged



country; and the dyes, few in number, from plants.

The success of a Persian carpet re- sults from color massing and texture. The royal Ar debit Carpet (Fig. 308A), a large example of the medallion type, depends for its effectiveness upon a simple massing of large elements of design enhanced by a wealth of sub- ordinated detail. These main elements are the single unifying tone of the field, the central and corner medallions, and the finishing borders. The field is a rich blue and is covered with leaves and flowers (chiefly peonies, a Chinese influence) attached to a framework of delicate stems which weave a spiral de- sign over the whole field. The central medallion is of yellow, surrounded by small oval panels of yellow, red, and green, from one of which is suspended a mosque lamp; quarter-sections of this medallion group fill the corners. The broad border has alternating medallions of red and yellow on a deep-purple ground; the narrow borders make a happy transition from field to border.

In the Ardebil Carpet there are no human or animal figures, since it was made for a mosque; but another car- pet (Fig. 309A) from Ardebil illustrates how the Persian weavers used the ani- mal form. Lions and other animals are attacking spotted gazelles while boars are running rapidly away; other ani- mals and various flowers fill the field; and Chinese cloud banks carry a rapid movement in the border. All these forms, whether flora or fauna, show an extraordinary combination of simpli- fication with naturalism, for each can be clearly identified. The decorative pattern enabled the weaver to mass shapes and colors into an underlying abstract design whose movement is confined by the borders, each of which contains in its motifs rhythmic move- ments of varying tempo around the central field.

Technically, these great royal car- pets represent the work of a group of weavers, probably a group belonging to the court. Pile weaving is a slow process at best, and since a carpet like the Ardebil often has more than three hundred knots to the square inch, it would have taken one skilled weaver (ac- cording to an estimate) about twenty- four years to weave such a carpet — an unthinkable length of time for a shah to wait.


Scale and monumentally mark the buildings of the Sassanian Persians; dynamic vitality, their sculpture; and virile strength, their fine textile designs. Islamic Persian art in all its manifesta- tions — the mosque, the carpet, the illuminated page, the Rhages bowl, in- laid metal — reveals its delight in the massing of color to obtain brilliant ef- fects. It delights in the flat pattern sug- gested by human, animal, or plant form as an element of decorative power, as is evident in the hastily sketched figures on the pottery, in the silhouettes of the slender-legged horses that dash across the pages of the manuscripts, in the flat swaying palm trees, in the in- finitely varied flowers of the rugs, and in the inscriptions of silver that shine forth from a dark metal ground. Nor are there, in this art, profound abstract expressions. It is rather a frank re- flection of a life of luxury, splendor, and romance, delighting in the pleas- ures of the present — lively, joyous, worldly, and transitory. It is the spirit of Omar Khayyam expressed by the potter, the weaver, and the metal- worker. Influences from all directions converged upon Persia, where great highways crossed. But the Iranians, always successful in assimilating foreign elements, preserved their identity and traditions. Though they accepted the


mosque from the Muslims, they used their traditional materials and con- structional methods, and made it color- ful by sheathing all its surfaces with their traditional glazed tile. For their palaces they produced equally colorful pottery and. carpets; and to lighten their leisure, some of the most beauti- fully written and illustrated books ever made. The meeting of the Far East and the Near East is evident in the Chinese motifs found in the carpets and in the Mongolian types and motifs seen in the pottery and miniatures. These influ- ences, however, were absorbed into a truly Muhammadan Persian type of expression.


Arnold, Sir Thomas Walker, Painting in Islam , Oxford University Press, 1938 Binyon, Laurence, Wilkinson, J. V, S., and Gray, Basil, Persian Miniature Painting , Ox- ford University Press, 1933 Blochet, Edgar, Musulman Painting, Xlllh-XVIIth Century , tr. by G. M. Binyon, London, 1939 Bode, Wilhelm von, Antique Rugs from the Near East, tr. by R. M. Riefstahl, 3d ed. rev., Weyhe, 192a

Dimand, Maurice S., A Guide to an Exhibition of Islamic Miniature Painting and Book Illumina- tion, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, 1933

Firdausi, The Shah-namah, described by J. V. S.

Wilkinson, Oxford University Press, 1931 Gray, Basil, Persian Painting, London, 1930 Hannover, Emil, Pottery & Porcelain, 3 vols., Scribner, 1925

Hawley, Walter A., Oriental Rugs, Antique and Modern, new ed., Tudor, 1937


Jackson, Abraham V. W., Persia Past and Present, Macmillan, 1906

Kendrick, Albert F., Catalogue of Muhammadan Textiles of the Medieval Period, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1924

— — and Tattersall, C. E. G., Fine

Carpets in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1924

KcEchlin, Raymond, and Migeon, Gaston, Oriental Art: Ceramics , Fabrics, Carpets , tr. by Florence Heywood, Macmillan, 1928 Martin, Fredrik R., The Miniature Painting and Painters of Persia , India, and Turkey, 2 vols., London, 1912

Mayer, Leo A., Saracenic Heraldry, Oxford Uni- versity Press, 1933

Mumford, John K., Oriental Rugs, rev. ed., Scribner, 1915

Nizami, Ganjavi, The Poems of Nizami, described by Laurence Binyon, Studio, 1928 Persian Fresco Paintings, American Institute for Persian Art and Archaeology, 1932 Pope, Arthur U., An Introduction to Persian Art since the Seventh Century A.D., Scribner, 1931

— : — Masterpieces of Persian Art, Dryden

Press, 1945

— - — and Ackerman, Phyllis, eds., A Survey of Persian Art from Prehistoric Times to the Present, 6 vols., Oxford University Press, 1938-39

Ross, Sir Edward Denison, ed., and others, Per • sian Art, London, 1930

Sarre, Friedrich P. T., and Trenkwald, Her- mann, Old Oriental Carpets, tr. by A. F. Kendrick, a vols., Vienna, 1926-29 Tattersall, Greassey E. C., Notes on Carpet- Knotting and Weaving, rev. ed., Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1933 Victoria and Albert Museum, Brief Guide to the Persian Woven Fabrics, Museum, London,


Guide to the Collection of Carpets,

with an introduction by A. F. Kendrick, 3d ed. rev., Museum, London, 1931 See also the General Bibliography, pp. 791-92.



[a] Church at Moissac. Tympanum of the south portal, c. uoo. Contrast , in style, with the tympanum of Fig. 321A. (Giraudon)



(ABOUT A.D. 500-1150)

"I A 7 HILE the long-continued Byzan- chaos the elements that were to form

V V tine tradition was following a the foundation of western Europe were

more or less unbroken course in the meeting and mingling — Roman, bar-

Near East, chaos ruled in the West from barian, and Christian. Rome, through

about a.d. 500 to 1000. Through the its provincial system, had built cities

close relations of Constantinople with over a large part of western Europe,

Venice and Ravenna, and through connecting them by magnificent roads,

trade and pilgrimages, especially the and there had established its customs

Crusades, interchange was constantly and culture. In swept waves of bar- bringing Byzantine and Far Eastern barians, illiterate but of the fresh, vig-

ideas westward. During this period of orous blood of the North. In their new


environment they continued to govern by tribal methods instead of accepting Roman law; and when this law ceased, and with it order — for their kings were usually powerless — a natural outcome was feudalism, because people of neces- sity bound themselves to anyone who could provide some measure of safety from the dangers and outrages of the times.

The one power to remain strong was the Christian Church. It was steadily perfecting its organization and increas- ing both its spiritual and its temporal power. At the head of each unit of its organization stood the bishop, who lived in the largest city of his diocese. In the church of this city was the bishop’s chair, called the cathedra. Hence his church was known as the cathedral. As feudalism was the dominant system, the bishop became practically a feudal baron. With the increase of its power and wealth, the Church was weakened by elements of decay, and in protest against its degradation arose the monas- tery. This institution, with its triple vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience, had originated in. the East; it was intro- duced into Italy by Saint Benedict in 526, and thence spread rapidly over western Europe. At the head stood the abbot, and his church was known as the abbey church.

In Figure 315A we see the plan of a typical monastery of the period. Near the center, dominating the group, is the abbey church, of basilican type with an apse at either end and a cloister at one side. About it arc grouped the living-quarters, the bakehouse, store- rooms, shops for the goldsmith, the blacksmith, the fuller, and other crafts- men, gardens and cattle yards, hospitals and schools — • a complete commu- nity in itself where daily needs were supplied without communication with the outside world. As a protection against robbers and feudal barons, some

monasteries were surrounded by a for- tified wall. Thus the monastery was much more than a church. In it cen- tered most of the learning of these centuries, for it was the industrious monks who kept alive whatever ancient culture had survived. It was, in fact, church, school, library, and hospital all in one; furthermore, it was the steady- ing hand throughout this whole forma- tive period.

With the exception of the large cities, which could withstand the attacks of the barbarians, there were few towns up to about the year 1000. The people lived in rural communities, and were attached, practically as serfs, to the es- tate of some feudal lord, abbot, or bishop. Because of the dangers of travel, there was little intercommunication or commerce. But the members of feudal society — the lord, the bishop, and the abbot — were far from secure in their positions. There was constant warfare. The strife between the bishops and the abbots, who were jealous of each other’s power, added to the turmoil.

The one brilliant spot in the early part of this period was the reign of Charlemagne, when for a short time order was restored, education and learning were revived, and the arts were stimulated. But after his death Europe descended to its lowest level, and even the Church sank to deepest degradation, from which it was ulti- mately rescued through the influence of such monasteries as that of Cluny, which was established in 909 and for two hundred years served as the spir- itual guide of Europe.

About the year 1000 a new spirit be- gan to infuse Europe. We hear of up- risings against the feudal barons, the establishment of towns, the opening- up of communication, the organization of trade guilds, and the growth of commerce. Religious faith developed into a religious enthusiasm of great



vitality. This culminated in the First Crusade, which, though participated in by many for the sake of adventure, was nevertheless an indication of the religious faith of the age. This new spirit caused a vigorous artistic ac- tivity which swept all Europe. 1

Universities and schools of learning were founded. The various vernaculars were becoming mediums of literary ex- pression. The troubadours were sing- ing their songs at the gay feudal courts of southern France, while the Song of Roland and the legends of the Grail were stirring men with the ideal of chivalry.

Thus while five centuries were years of chaos, during which the different basic, elements were fusing, the eleventh and twelfth centuries were the early flowering of this fusion, a powerful archaic age with institutions and art forms centered in the monastery and the feudal court, peculiarly expressive of the entire outlook of the age as well as a prelude to the full flowering of medieval culture in the Gothic age.


As the monastery was the predomi- nating power during the Romanesque period, it is chiefly the abbey church that furnishes examples of building and sculpture. In fact, with its furnishings and equipment, it illustrates the entire range of the arts, as does the mosque in Islamic art. Before the year 1000 there was little building, as the barba- rians were incapable of it and the Latins inactive in it because of the dis- order. But the new spirit discernible about that year was an incentive to church-building.

1 Note that this synchronizes with the second Byzantine Golden Age; and it now seems prob- able that not only the stimulation but also many of the forms in building, sculpture, and other arts are directly attributable to the East.

In studying the architecture of the Romanesque period, one important fact must always be kept in mind: Very little remains in its original con- dition; there are few structures with no additions or restorations of a later period. Another important fact is that the architecture is not homogeneous, but manifests itself differently in dif- ferent parts of Europe. Hence we shall look at a few examples in several coun- tries, beginning with Italy.

In the sixth century the Po Valley had been occupied by the Lombards, whose name to this day designates this part of Italy. Of the buildings that they erected in the eleventh century, the most important is San? Ambrogio (Fig. 3 1 6a) . It is a plain building, with an un- broken sloping roof which shows that there is no clerestory. The facade, which is approached through an atrium, consists of a two-storied arcade flanked on either side by a sturdy square tower. The decoration consists of a corbel table along the cornices and on the tower. The whole design is one of dignity, with no suggestion of elabo- ration, and is saved from heaviness by its reserved decoration.

The plan (Fig. 338A2) shows a Chris- tian basilica without a transverse aisle. Now the early Christian basilica had a wooden roof, which the builders real- ized was neither permanent nor fire- proof. Hence a central problem of the Middle Ages was to roof over the basil- ica with a vault. This means two things — • to construct the vault and to sup- port it adequately. The Romans had constructed great barrel and groin vaults (Figs. 174A, 1 79 a) that rested upon massive walls heavy enough to withstand the thrust of the vault. The Byzantine builders preferred a domi- cal vault on pendentives (Figs. 26oAa, 26 1 a) and the Persians, a domical vault on squinches (Fig. 26oAb) . The Byzan- tine type, though found in western Eu-

[a] Monastery of St, Gall. Switzerland. Plan , drawn from a manuscript. The various ac- tivities indicated here constitute a complete social unit. {Porter, Medieval Architecture, Tale University Press)

rope , 1 did not appeal to the medieval builders so much as did the basilica.

Let us see how this problem is met in Sant 9 Ambrogio. As we look at the nave (Fig. 317A) we see that instead of carrying a long barrel vault it is divided into sections, or bays, by trans- verse arches or ribs; and that each bay is covered by a groin vault with four diagonal ribs built along the lines of the groins. Why are these ribs here, and of what value are they in the construc- tion of the building?

In building a barrel or a groin vault, a large amount of centering — wooden scaffolding to hold the vault during its erection — is necessary. Soon the builders discovered that by separating the long barrel vault into bays by trans-

1 St, Mark's, Venice, and Angoulem and Pirigueux, France are examples.

verse arches, they could vault one sec- tion at a time, thus economizing on the centering. Next they noticed that these arches offered a convenient ledge on which to rest the vaulting; and then it occurred to them that it would be equally convenient to build ribs diag- onally across each bay, following the lines of the groins and intersecting at the crown, on which to rest the four sections of the vault. Thus they dis- covered that they could erect a skele- ton of ribs to support the vaulting which could be made of much lighter material than that used in a barrel or a groin vault without ribs, and hence afford much greater freedom in con- struction. In fact, the application of the rib vault to the roofing of a basilica was the greatest constructional discovery of the Middle Ages. The builders now had



[a] San? Ambrogio. Milan. Early 12th cent. A rare example of the sur- vival of the atrium. ( Ali - nari)

the means of lightening and raising the skeleton framework; two hundred years later, it reached the majestic height of the nave of the Gothic cathedral (Fig. 345 a). But they were not guided by the structural problem alone. With a sen- sitiveness to design, they appreciated the rhythm and the decorative effect of the ribs. Compare, for example, the heaviness and barrenness of the barrel vault with the lightness, rhythm, and emotional uplift of the Gothic nave.

We have now studied the principles on which the vault in San? Ambrogio was constructed. Let us see how it is sup- ported. In Figure 31 7 a, it will be noticed that the transverse arch springs from a pilaster rising from the floor; the diagonal rib, from an engaged column also rising from the floor; the longitu- dinal rib that encloses the double arcade separating the nave and aisle, from a thin pilaster; and the smaller arches; of the arcade, from pilasters or engaged columns. That is, each rib of the skele- ton frame of the vault is supported by a member rising either from the floor or from the second story, all of which

unite to form a compound or clustered pier.

These piers, however, are not ade- quate of themselves to support the weight of the roof. Gross walls are built over the transverse arches of the aisles at right angles to the clustered pier, where the thrust of the vault is con- centrated (Fig. 340A2). These, together with the vaulted aisles, carry the thrust to the outer thick walls, which in turn are reinforced by pier buttresses at the points where the cross walls meet them. Thus while we have in San? Ambrogio a structural principle worked out for constructing the vaults, we still have the heavy walls for buttressing them. How this latter problem was met, we shall see later in France.

San? Ambrogio is important, therefore, because it is an early example of rib vaulting and clustered pier. These in- novations, however, did not appear at once. The rib was known to the Ro- man and to builders in the Near East, and possibly its use was a rediscovery rather than a discovery. First these principles were tried out timidly in the


[a] San? Ambrogio. Nave. ( Alinari )

aisles, then finally some courageous builder ventured to apply them in the nave. Even here at San? Ambrogio timidity is seen in the fact that there is no clerestory, as if the builder did not dare raise the ribs high enough to allow for that. Hence the interior is low and dark.

These important structural innova- tions, however, did not develop further in Italy. The Lombards themselves were perhaps too much embroiled in political strife to continue a develop- ment so splendidly begun, and builders in general seemed to be more interested in mitigating the rugged austerity of the basilica by means of decorative ele- ments. These elements were: porches with sculptured decorations; open ar- cadings; brickwork and contrasting light and dark stone; and marble inlays. It Was chiefly in northern Italy, in the Cathedral of Modena , for example, that

we see a successful attempt to enliven the plain fa5ade by open arcades and by the addition of a porch, with sculp- ture about the doorways. All of this not only accents the entrance but, with its projections and recessions and broken surfaces, creates a pattern of light and dark and infuses movement into the design. Recumbent lions serve as bases for the columns (a common motif in medieval art), and reliefs representing scenes and characters as various as those in actual life — Biblical and legendary scenes, romantic and military, imagina- tive monsters, and everyday people in- tertwined with foliate spiralings — are carved on pilasters and arches and on the capitals of the interior. AH this orna- ment is filled with a spirit of great energy and vitality and is carved in a consistently clear manner in rather low relief. In these portals, sculpture as a major art began to revive.



[a] San Miniato. Flor- ence. Fagade of marble inlay and mosaic. Begun 1013. ( Alinari )

[b] St. PauVs Outside the Walls . Rome. Detail of the cloister. (Anderson)

Arcadings as a decorative element were used more elaborately in the Cathedral of Pisa, a basilica with vault- ing over the aisles and a small dome over the crossing, but with a wooden roof over the nave. The group as a whole — cathedral, campanile, and baptistery (chiefly Gothic) — impresses one with its splendor when compared with the more rugged Sand Ambrogio. Blind arcades with colored marbles fill the ground story, and open arcadings, subtly irregular in height and spacing, the stories above. 1 It is not surprising to find arcading on many of the Italian churches, for this was one of the most characteristic elements of Roman archi- tecture, and the numerous examples of it in Italy could hardly fail to impress the Northerners and to suggest to them its use as a means of impressive decora- tion. The campanile (the famous

1 See Ruskin’s detailed analysis in his Seven Lamps of Architecture.


[a] Marble Inlay on the Fagade of San Michele. Lucca.

“Leaning Tower”) repeats the decora- tive scheme of the cathedral.

This external embellishment and at- tention to proportions transformed the campanile from the almost unbroken cylinder at Sant Apollinare in Classe (Fig. 254A) into the generally rectangular (at Pisa, round) towers, still free-stand- ing, lightened by openings, and en- livened by moldings and colored inlays which are one of the most stirring forms in Italy in their fine balance between solidity and grace.

In central Italy, notably in Tuscany, open arcadings and sculptured door- ways tend to disappear in favor of a one-plane facade encrusted with marble inlays of a severely geometric sym- metrical pattern, chiefly angular even when enclosed by arches, as we see in SanMiniato (Fig. 3 1 8a) and the Baptistery of Florence. In the Cathedral of San Michele at Lucca (Fig. 319A), however, we find a combination of Romanesque decorative elements : contrasting courses of light and dark stone; and open ar- cadings, whose shadows effectively set forth the rhythmic movement of the arches, which holds together the almost

fantastic richness of minor elements in columns, capitals, and inlays. Each column and each capital is different in design, and the spandrels are filled in a lively fashion with geometric, animal, and imaginative figures.

Marble inlay was carried into the in- terior of these buildings also, and forms a contrasting note to the gaily colored wooden-beamed ceilings above. Floors as well as walls were Covered with marble, but with a greater variety of design than that found on the exterior, including both animal and geometric forms. Some of these — especially the bird or animal figures enclosed in cir- cles-— closely resemble the textiles of the Near East. The spiral flutings found in the colonnettes of such a cloister as that of St. John Lateran or St. Paul's Outside the Walls { Fig. 3 1 8b), repeating the inlaid surfaces above, lend a note of shimmering richness to the court. These cloisters constitute one of the most charming elements of the Roman- esque building.

Farther south, especially in Rome, interior marble inlays take the more elaborate and more colorful patterns



[a] Pulpit Decorated in Cosmati Work . ■Ravelin, 13th cent. ( Alinari )

that are known as Cosmati work. 1 Altar fronts, pulpits (Fig. 320A), and candela- bra are sumptuously decorated with a design composed of squares or circles of red porphyry or green serpentine sur- rounded by borders, frequently inter- lacing, made up of small pieces of marble and glass cut into various shapes.

The richly colorful quality of Cos- mati work rises to greater resplendence in Sicily. This island, at the crossroads of conquerors, had been Occupied by Greeks, Romans, Lombards, Muslims, and Normans. The last-named accom- plished the remarkable feat of assimi- lating these various cultural elements, so that Sicily, like Spain, became a great center of learning, with Islamic scientists and Greek scholars, Christian and Muslim, equally patronized by the court. The Cathedral of Monreale in- corporates these diversified elements.

1 So called from the Cosmati family in Rome, Who were particularly skillful in this technique.

In the nave, the floor and lower part of the walls are covered with marbles, above which the walls are entirely in- crusted with Byzantine mosaics which culminate in the magnificent Pan- tocrator in the apse. Columns with Corinthian capitals support Islamic stilted and pointed arches. Yet all these diversified elements are blended into a resplendent unity. On the exterior of the apse the interlacing arcades sound a note of Normandy.

In France, the southern part of the country had been thoroughly Latin- ized by the Romans. Flourishing cities existed at Nimes, Arles, and Orange, whose theaters, arches, temples, and baths could not but influence the medi- eval builders. We see their influence in the churches of St. Gilles (Card) and St. Trophime (Arles). In plan St. Trophime is basilican with a cloister, as is usual in abbey churches. It is roofed with a barrel vault, as are the covered passages of the cloister. This plan and construc- tional system, with variations, is com- mon in southern and central France as in the Madeleine (Vezelay), which has transverse arches with groin vaulting. Other plans and constructional sys- tems are illustrated by St. Front (Peri- gueux), the central type with the Greek cross roofed with domes on pendentives; and by St. Pierre (Angouleme), basilican in plan, and roofed with a series of domes.

To return to St. Trophime, the faqade (Fig. 321 a) reveals the basilica type with nave, clerestory, and lower side aisles, and is quite barren except for the richly carved portal. Above the plain base runs a broad band of decoration, with columns resting on the backs of lions or grotesques, and with statues of saints in niches tied together by a continuous frieze. Above the door a sculptured tympanum surrounded by concentric, slightly pointed arches breaks the upper part and accents the



[a] St. Trophime. Arles. Portal. 12th cent.

entrance; a bracketed cornice parallel to the roof finishes the design. Thus the builder divided his space effectively, concentrating his ornament on the central band like a piece of embroidery on a plain garment, and setting it off by the contrasting plain surfaces about it and by the vigorous arches above the door. A closer inspection of the de- tails shows that the brackets of the cor- nice, the Corinthian capitals, the fluted pilasters, the acanthus, and the fret are classical; the figures in the niches, the tympanum, and the friezes are related stylistically to Byzantine ivories and

■ miniatures.

In the tympanum is the seated figure of Christ, surrounded by an aureole, one hand holding a book, the other raised in blessing. About him are grouped the four beasts of the Apocalypse,

which symbolize the four Evangelists — the winged man, Saint Matthew; the winged lion, Saint Mark; the winged ox, Saint Luke; and the eagle, Saint John. On the lintel below are the twelve Apostles, seated; to the left are the blessed going to heaven; to the right, the damned, chained together and being led to hell. The representation of Christ surrounded by the symbolic beasts had already become a con- ventional representation in Christian art and is found very frequently, not only over the doorways of the churches but in the illuminated manuscripts, the ivories, and the enamels. For art in the Middle Ages was subject to the author- ity of the Church. As in Byzantine art, certain subjects must be represented in a certain way and placed in a certain position on the building, and the au-



[a] St. Peter. On the jamb of the south portal of the church at Moissac (Fig. 31 2 a). Contrast with the static figures of Fig. 321 a.

thorized use of symbols and attributes must be strictly followed. Yet while the medieval sculptor or painter was limited by convention, he could use his individual imagination to a surprising extent.

To illustrate this let us look at the south portal at Moissac (Fig. 31 2 a), which consists of a vestibule covered by a barrel vault, with both doorway and sides richly carved. In the tympanum we find the same subject and the same general arrangement as at St. Trophime, except for the addition of angels and of the twenty-four elders arranged in zones below and on each side of the central group. But at Moissac the figures are filled with life and movement; they are even twisting and writhing; the draperies flutter, and the elders strain their necks toward the figure of Christ. Thus, while the subject matter, the

arrangement of the figures, and such details as the attributes are the same in both, yet the feeling is diametrically opposed. St. Trophime is tranquil and static, with all parts harmoniously re- lated and balanced. Moissac is energetic and dynamic, with forceful oppositions in the movement surging through; the lower relief has a lineal quality (a mark of Northern art) peculiarly fitted in its dynamic rhythms to express the fervor of the Northerners, and for the sake of which the figures are twisted and distorted. A comparison of the St. Peter (Fig. 322A) on the doorjamb with one of the saints of Si. Trophime will illustrate the difference, though in both styles the forms are archaic, and the drapery, clouds, hair, and other details are expressed by conventions with a linear beauty which adds to their deco- , rativeness. 1

At Angouleme (Fig. 323A) the sculp- ture, instead of being concentrated at the portal, is more widely spread over the surfaces and, with the blind arcadings, enriches the broad unbroken surfaces and at the same time, because it is carved in the actual masonry, retains a unity with it. Angoulime , like most Romanesque churches, is solid, firmly rooted, and presents a picturesque mass- ing of volumes — a rectangular basilica, domes, and a bell tower which is in- corporated into the structure rather than free-standing, as in Italy.

Romanesque ornament (Figs. 319A, 325A, 326B) is always spirited, in- finitely varied, and highly decorative. On the lintel of the doorway of Moissac (Fig. 312A) we see, at each end of the lintel, a chimeralike creature from the East, out of Whose mouth issue cords that enclose finely carved rosettes, all slightly different and unequally spaced. Fantasy manifests itself particularly in

1 See Jurgis BaltruSaitis, La Stylistique Orna- mentale dans la Sculpture Romane, Paris, 1931, for analyses of Romanesque tympani.


the ‘‘storied capitals,” where characters from the Bible, and creatures of the imagination, centaurs, and hunters — many of Eastern origin — find a place, often intertwined with scrolls and foliage. Strikingly effective are many of the Romanesque recessed portals, about which was concentrated much of the decorative carving. We note in par- ticular that all this carving is an inte- gral part of the stone capital or the stone masonry. In fact it is the stone, with its original surface retained but enlivened by the vigorous carving of conventional motifs of a calligraphic character organized into a highly deco- rative pattern.

Romanesque architecture and sculp- ture in Spain are similar to those of southern France, largely because of the famous pilgrimage route to the shrine of Saint James the Great at Santiago de Compos tella, along which art concep- tions and forms, if not actual copies, were conveyed by the pilgrims and by the traveling builders and craftsmen. 1 But the style was first modified by climatic conditions. Roofs were flatter and windows fewer, even to the sup- pression of the clerestory to dim the strong light of the Southlands. In the second place, the presence of the Moors and the rich exuberance of their orna- ment influenced the carvers toward a more abundant, complex expression. This is evident in Santiago (Compostella) and in San Isidoro (Leon) .

Turning to northern France, we re- call that this part of the country had been occupied by the Normans, who, like the other barbarians, had no no- table arts of their own. Furthermore, the dwellers in northern France, unlike those in the southern part of the coun-

1 See A. K. Porter, Romanesque Sculpture of the Pilgrimage Roads, 10 vols., Marshall Jones, 1923, pp. 1 71 fif., for a discussion of the pil- grimage as one of the most vivid and influential institutions of the Middle Ages.

[a] St. Pierre. Angouleme. 1105-28. Note the domical vaulting. See p. 3 15, note 1.

try, had no large Roman cities to teach them. Their own accomplishment, in which they were probably aided by builders from Lombardy who settled there, is illustrated by the Abbaye-aux- Hommes (Fig. 324A). The first impression of the church, as we think of St. Tro- phime and Angouleme, is its plainness and its rugged vigor. We notice that the fagade with its two flanking square towers is divided into three vertical sections separated by pilaster buttresses and emphasized by a triple doorway, indicating a triple division of the in- terior — a nave and two side aisles; the doorways and two rows of windows indicate that the structure is three stories high. We notice also the almost entire lack of decoration except the arcading in the upper stories of the towers. There is no monumental por- tal; no figure sculpture.

As we look at the interior (Fig. 324B) we realize that here is something that


[b] A bbaye-aux-Hommes (St. Etienne). Nave. Vaulting constructed c. 1135.

[a] Abbaye-aux-Hommes (St. Etienne ) . Caen. 1064-77. The spires were added in the 12 th and 13th cent.

we have not seen since we left Sant * Ambrogio in Milan (Fig. 317A). There is a similarity in the principles of struc- ture, such as the ribbed vaulting, the division of the nave into bays, and the clustered pier. On the other hand, there is a distinctive difference in the height of the vaults. At Sant ’ Ambrogio , in his timidity the builder omitted the clere- story; in the Abbaye-aux-Hommes the dar- ing Norman had the courage to add it and thus to obtain both height and light . 1

Let us see how the Norman buttressed his vaults. A cross section of this abbey

1 The present vaults of the Abbaye-aux- Hommes are later than the original roof, but the arrangement of the piers indicates that the original plan must have been on the Lombard principle.

(Fig. 340A3) shows us that the principle adopted was similar to that of Sand Ambrogio (Fig. 340A2) ; that is, the heavy vaults and cross walls of the aisles are strong enough to hold the nave vault- ing. But in the Abbaye-aux-Hommes > in- stead of a complete barrel vault over the aisle, a half-barrel vault springs from the outer wall to abut on the nave wall. Here it is evident that the builders realized that the thrust from the nave vaults was not equally distributed along the entire length of the nave wall, but concentrated at the points where the ribs converged; that is, at the clustered piers. Hence it followed in their understand- ing that much of the half-barrel but- tressing vault was unnecessary; so when they built a neighboring church, the Abbaye-aux-Dames , they cut away, as it



were, the unnecessary parts, leaving those sections only that abutted on the nave wall where the piers stood, and thus created a rudimentary flying but- tress. But it was still concealed under the sloping roof of the aisle.

Thus in Normandy we find further development of the principles estab- lished at Sanf Ambrogio. The nave vaults have been lifted higher, admit- ting the clerestory as a means of light- ing; the principle of the flying buttress has been applied, making the whole structure much lighter; the triple facade, with its two flanking towers and triple portal, has become an acknowledgment of the internal structure. These prin- ciples, we shall see, reach their culmi- nation in the Gothic cathedral.

The Norman builders carried with them to England the principles evolved in northern France and there, usually in a picturesque setting, built massive, sturdy structures characterized by a heavy rectangular tower over the cross- ing, such as Durham Cathedral. Norman ornament, originating away from the highways of trade — which, as we have said, are always highways of ideas — was used at first very sparingly, and consisted of conventional motifs, among which the zigzag, with variants, was important. In England, the Norman builders produced some very delightful doorways, such as those at Iffley and Kilpeck (Fig. 325A). The thick Norman wall permitted a deeply recessed door- way, with a series of decorated shafts in the jambs and several orders of deco- rated arches surrounding the semi- circular tympanum.

In Germany, the Rhine Valley be- came an active center of building as well as of other arts, for the German has always been pre-eminent as a thorough craftsman. An abundance of excellent building stone led him early toward vaulted structures, although the great forests of Germany tempted him to

[a] Doorway of the Church at Kilpeck. 12th cent. ( The County Studio , Monmouth)

wooden roofs. The cities of the valley were strongly organized politically and economically, and had rapidly become a firm stronghold of Christianity, with many abbey churches, such as the Church of the Holy Apostles at Cologne (twelfth to thirteenth century), and cathedrals, such as Speyer (eleventh to twelfth century), Mainz (chiefly thir- teenth century), and Bamberg (Fig. 327A). As the Rhine Valley was one of the great trade routes between northern and southern Europe, close relations with Italy, especially Lombardy, are reflected in the fine vaultings based upon the Lombard system, and also in the exterior arcadings reminiscent of Pisa. These cathedrals show not only structural excellence, but a massive, picturesque appearance that results from the multiplicity of structural ele-



[a] Stave Church of Gal. 1000-1500. Now in the Bygdoe open air museum near Oslo.

ments boldly and interestingly grouped. For the apse and the towers are fre- quently used at both ends of the nave 1 ; a polygonal tower rises over the cross- ing and also at the west end of the nave. But when the apse is repeated, it de- prives the building of the spacious portals that so distinguish the facade designs of the French cathedrals.

Mention at least should be made of an individual variant of the Roman- esque basilica in another material, the stave churches of Norway (Fig. 326A). The wealth of timber in the forest- covered mountains of this land led to its almost exclusive, in fact prodigal, use in both secular and ecclesiastical

1 The reason for the double apsidal plan of the German Romanesque churches has not been satisfactorily explained.

building. With the coming of Chris- tianity about 1000 the basilica plan was adopted, a low enclosing passage, like an extended narthex, being added. The church was of solid timber con- struction, strong posts providing sup- port, with upright planks (staves) be- tween — a vertical timber construction in contrast to the horizontal used in secular buildings and in the wood architecture of northern Russia (Fig. 279A). Externally, the building empha- sizes verticality in its proportions and in its steep-pitched roofs. The additional passage affords not only ample gather- ing-space and protection for the sup- ports of the building against rain and snow, but also repeats the roofs above, and makes the building more compact and the base broader and more solid.



About the portals the heavy timber is carved into low relief of great decora- tive beauty and of a peculiarly ' archi- tectural quality, for it is carved in practically two planes and retains an extraordinary feeling of identity with the doorpost (Fig. 326B). The designs are frequently very intricate, and combine natural, geometric, and zoomorphic motifs into linear patterns. The roof lines were made fantastic by affixing conventionalized dragon heads and tails — the same motifs that the Viking builders and carvers attached to the prows and the sterns of their ships.


Although great series of frescoes deco- rated the stretches of wall space in the Romanesque churches, they have al- most all disappeared , 1 2 so that very little can be determined concerning them, except that they show the same type of work that we see in the manu- scripts of the period, which therefore serve as the best criterion of Roman- esque painting.

The manuscripts, largely religious in subject — copies of the Bible, in whole or in part, prayer books, and liturgical books — were written in Latin.

A highly individual kind of illumina- tion was that of the Celtic monks of Ireland and Britain, who had a pref- erence for intricate initial letters that sometimes cover an entire page, as we see in the Quoniam page of the Book of Lindisfarne 2 (Fig. 3 28a). The circular

1 A considerable number of Romanesque paintings have been recovered from overpaint- ing and whitewash, especially in Italy and Spain. Easily accessible are the frescoes from the apse of Santa Maria de Mur, Catalonia, now in- stalled in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

2 This page contains the Latin word Quoniam, with which the Gospel of Saint Luke begins. The Book of Lindisfarne is also known as Saint Cuth- bert's Gospels, because it was written in honor

of Saint Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne,

[a] Cathedral. Bamberg. 1185-1274. For the plan of a church with two apses see Fig. 315A. Compare with Figs. 323 A, 324A.

part of the Q,is decorated with particu- larly fine spirals; the motif of the all- over pattern filling the irregular space below is made by interlacing four birds. The stems of the letters and the borders are filled with spirals, interlacing birds, and elongated dogs, with dottings and delicate diaper patterns as a back- ground for the letters.

Perhaps the most famous of the Celtic books was the Book of Kells. 3 Some of its pages contain textual material with interlaced zoomorphs along the borders. Others are elaborately decorated With letters filled with various motifs —

3 The Book of Kells is a book of Gospels and miscellaneous matter that came from the monas- tery of Kells in Ireland. Records tell of a gold cover now lost.



[a] Qitoniam Page from, the Book of Lin- disfarne (St. CuthberPs Gospels) . H. 13% in. c. 700. British Museum , London. (British Museum)

some geometric, such as interlaced bands and knots, spiral and quatre- foil; others naturalistic, such as foliage, birds, reptiles, grotesques, and occa- sionally a human form. All are inter- woven with a facility, an intricacy, and a fine sweep of line that leave us as- tounded at the possibility of such exe- cution, and also at the vigor, the fancy, and the infinite variety found in one initial. Comparable with Celtic illu- mination in intricacy of design and delicacy of brush work are some of the Korans (Fig. 297B). But in compari- son with the latter, the Celtic work is more varied, more sweeping in its linealism, and more restrained in ef- fect because it employs almost no gold. And one should mention the fact that, like the Korans, these Celtic manu- scripts, in particular the Book of Kells , contain some of the most beautiful cal- ligraphy of the Middle Ages. The mo-

tive for the incredible patience and utter disregard of time which must have characterized these artist-monks is well epitomized in the colophon of the Book of Lindisfarne — “For the love of God and Saint Cuthbert.”

Important work was produced also at Canterbury, and particularly at Winchester, then the capital of Eng- land. Some of the illuminations are close to Byzantine models and some show an art of vigorous penwork with light washes of color, in which the fig- ures have the same twisting movements, elongations, energy, and linear decora- tiveness as those in the carvings at Moissac (Fig. 312A).


As we looked at the ground plan of the monastery of St. Gall (Fig. 3 1 5 a) , we noticed that rooms or separate build- ings were provided for the various craftsmen, so that while some of the workers were clearing the land, plant- ing the gardens, and tending the cattle, others were carving ivory crosiers, shaping gold chalices and reliquaries, and decorating them with jewels and enamels; others were copying and illu- minating manuscripts, painting minia- tures to illustrate the text, and fashion- ing splendid covers for them of gold and silver, ivory, jewels, and enamel. The point of view of these monks, and the relation of their art to their religion, are seen in a treatise on painting, enam- eling, metalworking, and other crafts written by a monk named Theophilus in the eleventh or twelfth century. The prologue to the third book reads:

“David, that most excellent of proph- ets . . . collecting himself with all the attention of his mind to the love of his Creator, uttered this saying among others: ‘Lord I have loved the beauty of Thine house.’ And — albeit a man



[a] Gospel Cover. Of oak covered with plates of gold set with enamels and \ stones . H. 10 in. 12th cent. Victoria and Albert Museum , London. {Vic- toria and Albert Museum)

l/AT t M ~ * H-‘ « !

xQL&Ul&j tH&A]

of so great authority and of so deep an understanding called this house the habitation of the court of 'heaven... yet it is certain that he desired the adornment of the material house of God, which is the house of prayer. ... Wherefore, most beloved son, make thou no long delay, but believe in full faith that the Spirit of God hath filled thine heart when thou hast adorned His house with so great beauty. . . . Work therefore now, good man, happy in this life before God’s face and man’s, and happier still in the life to come. . . . Kindle thyself to a still ampler art, and set thyself with all the might of thy soul to complete that which is yet lacking in the gear of the Lord’s house, without which the divine mysteries and the ministries of God’s service may not stand; such as chalices, candelabra,

thuribles, chrism-vases, crewets, shrines for holy relics, crosses, missals and such like, which the necessary use of the ecclesiastical order requireth. Which if thou wouldst fashion, begin after the manner thus following.” 1 This spirit of devotion and reverence not only per- meated the monastery but was basic in the social solidarity of the commu- nity as a whole.

It was “the adornment of the mate- rial house of God” that motivated the metalworkers and ivory-carvers also. Liturgical books were as sacrosanct as the vessels on the altar, and their covers equally sumptuous. In Figure 329A, the rich effect is obtained through the com-

1 Quoted by G. G. Coulton, A Medieval Garner , London, 191 0, p. x 66. See also A. P. Laurie, The Materials of the Painter's Craft in Europe and Egypt, Lippincott, 1911, p. 152.



[ a ] Ardagh Chalice. Of silver, brass, and gilt bronze, with decoration in gold and silver filigree with enamels, blue glass, and amber. D. gb in. c. yoo. Royal Irish Acad- emy, Dublin. ( Royal Irish Academy)

bination of many materials. In the cen- ter panel is the figure of Christ, done in gold repousse, surrounded by a narrow border containing an inscrip- tion in cloisonne enamel in opaque white on a luminous blue ground. The wider border is decorated with a con- ventionalized floral pattern, and both borders are set with stones irregular in size, shape, and color. The broad outer border is made up of gold plaques deco- rated alternately with various jewels and with filagree and enamel. The shimmering gold, enhanced by the massing of color, the luminous blue of the enamel that is all the deeper be- cause of the opaque white and the rich color of the other stones, produce a richly decorative effect. Other covers were made entirely of carved ivory or of ivory surrounded by a gold and jeweled border.

Among the metalworkers — and they were many and important — the Celtic craftsman again produced individual work, in style akin to the illuminations, with regard for difference of medium. Brooches, staffs, and ecclesiastical ves- sels of all kinds were constructed of var- ious materials and decorated with

enamels, jewels, repousse, and filigree. The Ardagh Chalice (Fig. 330 a ), for ex- ample, is of a round bowl shape, with two handles, a short stem, and a broad base — a design of strength rather than of elegance. The rich ornamentation neither overloads nor interferes with the structural lines, being concentrated about the handles, on the two disks on the body of the chalice, and in the bor- ders that decorate the top and the foot. In the details we discern the spirals and the interlaced animal forms of the Book of Kells executed in gold and silver, worked both in repousse and in filigree of almost incredible finesse.

The bronzesmiths and ironworkers of Hildesheim in Germany were another group of great craftsmen. Their bronze church doors and candlesticks were famous for both their spirited designs and their masterly execution. 1

Fine textiles were in great demand for reliquaries and vestments, and those of the East were highly prized. The Mus- lims, always skilled weavers, had made Palermo famous as a weaving center

1 See the doors of St. Michael at Hildesheim, and the large Paschal candelabra at South Kensington, London, and in Milan.


and thus not only introduced into West- ern manufacture Eastern design, but built up a lively traffic in fabrics to meet the demands of a West awakening to the luxuries of the East. This traffic was much accelerated by the Crusaders, who returned with whatever was port- able from their pilferings of Santa Sophia and other Eastern buildings.


In every aspect of the Romanesque period we have observed enthusiasm, experimentation, accomplishment. Out of the chaos that marked the early part of the period order was emerging, largely through the steadying hand of the monastery. The barbarians, Chris- tianized, were going to school to the old traditions of the Mediterranean civilizations, but were transforming them with the fresh vitality of the North. North, South, and East were mingling.

^Romanesque was an ecclesiastical art and manifested itself differently in different countries. In architecture, in Italy it contributed to the revival and the advance of vaulting, and added decorative elements — arcadings, mar- ble inlays, and sculptured portals — to soften the austerity of the basilica. In southern France and in Spain, the builders erected solid, massive struc- tures, but laid still greater stress upon the sculpture at the portals, upon carvings about doors, windows, and on capitals. All of these were conven- tional in style, and of great decorative beauty as well as profound symbolic meaning. | In northern France, Ger- many, mid England interest again centered, as in Lombardy, on construc- tion. The need to furnish the “House of God” with worthy equipment led to making books with the finest callig- raphy, illustrations, and covers; and

vessels of gold, silver, ivory, and jewels. All this Northern expression is per- meated with a characteristic dynamic, highly decorative linealism.

  • Adams, Henry, Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Houghton Mifflin, 1913
  • Allen, John R., Celtic Art in Pagan and Christian Times, Jacobs, 1908
  • Baltrusaitis, Jurgis, La stylistique ornementale dans la sculpture romane, Paris, 1931
  • Baum, Julius, ed., Romanesque Architecture in France , 2d ed., Westermann, 1928
  • Belloc, Hilaire, The Book of the Bayeux Tapestry, Putnam, 1914
  • Clapham, Alfred W., English Romanesque Architecture after the Conquest, Oxford University Press, 1934
  • English Romanesque Architecture before the Conquest, Oxford University Press, 1930
  • Romanesque Architecture in Western Europe, Oxford University Press, 1936
  • Coffey, George, Guide to the Celtic Antiquities of the Christian Period, Royal Irish Academy, ‘ Dublin, igio
  • Coulton, George G., ed. and tr., A Medieval Garner, London, igio
  • Cunynghame, Henry H. S., European Enamels, London, 1906
  • Dawson, Edith B. (Mrs. Nelson), Enamels, McClurg, 1 91 1
  • Focillon, Henri, L’art des sculpteurs romans, Paris, 1931

Hammett, Ralph W., The Romanesque Architec- ture of Western Europe, Architectural Book Publishing Company, 1927 Jackson, Sir Thomas Graham, Byzantine and Romanesque Architecture, 2d ed., 2 vols., University of Chicago Press, 1913. Jameson, Anna B. Murphy, Sacred and Legendary Art, 2 vols., Houghton Mifflin, c. 1911 Lethaby, William R., Mediteval Art, rev. ed,, Scribner, 1913

Maritain, Jacques, Art and Scholasticism, Scribner,

  • 93 °

Markham, Violet R. (Mrs. James Carruthers), Romanesque France, Dutton, 1929 Maskell, Alfred O., Ivories, Putnam, 1905 Millar, Eric G., English Illuminaiea Manuscripts from the Xth to the XHIth Century, Paris, 1 926

English Illuminated Manuscripts of

the XIVth and XV th Centuries, Paris, 1928

— ed., The Lindisfarne Gospels, Oxford

University Pressi 1924



Porter, Arthur K., Medieval Architecture, 2 vols., Yale University Press, 1915 Romanesque Sculpture of the Pil- grimage Roads, 10 vols., Marshall Jones,


Ricci, Gorrado, Romanesque Architecture in Italy, Brentano, 1925

Robinson, Stanford F. H., Celtic Illuminative Art, Dublin, 1908

Saunders, O, Elfrida, A History of English Art in the Middle Ages, Oxford University Press,


Strzygowski, Josef, Early Church Art in Northern



(about a.d. 1150

T HE word "Gothic,” in the sense of "barbarian,” was a term of re- proach applied to medieval buildings by the architects of the Renaissance, who found their ideal in the architec- ture of Greece and Rome. The Gothic cathedral, however, is the highest ex- pression of an age that was vigorous in its civic life, intensely religious, and pro- foundly intellectual. Rising in the midst of the houses that huddled closely about it (Fig. 333 a), not only did it dominate the town, but it stood as a center for the activities of the people — all of whom it was large enough to hold when the whole town gathered for the Christ- mas or Easter celebration, or to see a mystery play. The market place, the shop, and the home were situated lit- erally in the shadow of the great church; and so interwoven were religious and secular activities that life presented a unified whole rather than the segrega- tions of modem times. Let us look at

Europe; with Special Reference to Timber Construction and Decoration, Harper, 1929

Sullivan, Sir Edward, The Book of Kells, Studio, 1914

Swartwout, Robert E., The Monastic Craftsman, Cambridge, Eng., 1932

Warner, Sir George Frederic, Illuminated Manu- scripts in the British Museum, ser. 1-3, Mu- seum, London, 1910

Whitehill, Walter M., Spanish Romanesque Archi- tecture, Oxford University Press, 1941

Zervos, Christian, V Art de la Catalogue, Paris, 1 937 See also the General Bibliography, pp. 791-92.


some of the factors in the civilization which thus manifested itself.

Politically stronger kings, such as Philip Augustus (1180-1223) and Louis IX (Saint Louis; 1226-70) , were holding in check the feudal lords, though here and there such a baron as the Sieur de Coucy, protected by moat, thick walls, and a great donjon, could support his boast — "I am not king, nor prince, nor duke, nor even count; I am the lord of Coucy.” In distinction from the Romanesque period, when life was chiefly rural and monastic, the Gothic age was one of towns, with their merchant guilds, growing in number and power. Revolting from the feudal domination of the baron or the bishop, one by one they became independent communes, robust and vigorous with a growing sense of freedom and expansion resulting from the opening-up of inter- course with neighboring countries and the Near East through the Crusades.



[a] Chartres , the Town and the Cathedral. (JV. D. Photo)

Economically, this intercourse stimu- lated commercial activity and brought wealth.

Religiously, the thirteenth century saw the culmination of enthusiasm that had been developing since the year 1000. Under a strong line of Popes the Church reached a pinnacle of tem- poral as well as of spiritual power. The existing monasteries, having fulfilled their purpose of reforming the Church from within, declined in power, while attention was focused upon the churches of the towns where the bishops lived. Hence we see the rise of the great cathe- drals. The higher clergy had developed the creeds and the ritual until they had become subtle and complex, far above the comprehension of the mass of the

people, whose religion nevertheless was intense, manifesting itself in the mystery and miracle plays and in the venera- tion of relics. Many of the latter were believed to be miracle-working and, carefully protected in reliquaries (Fig. 359A) of gold and silver inlaid with precious stones and enamels, were car- ried through the land, curing the sick and stimulating the contribution of large sums of money for the erection of a church to house the relic. So intense was the enthusiasm that at Chartres, for example , 1 all the people, old and young, prince and peasant, hitched

1 For a full account, see the letter of Haymo, an eyewitness, as translated in A. K. Porter, Medieval Architecture, z vols., Yale University Press, 1912, Vol. II, pp. 151 ff.



themselves to carts and dragged great loads of stone to build the cathedral.

But a new far-reaching element was altering religious ideas — the Francis- can movement. In 1210 Saint Francis of Assisi, in protest against the grow- ing internal degradation of the Church, clad in a rough peasant’s cloak, bare- foot, with no money, began traveling about with his small band of followers, preaching the creed of poverty, chas- tity, and obedience and inspiring the people with his own gentleness and ra- diant love for all life. The birds, the animals, the insects, the trees, and the sun — everything in nature was a part of God’s great universe, a brother, to be loved and respected. Gradually there came about a change in point of view — a change from the medieval ideal of focusing upon the life to come, for which this life was but a preparation, to a realization of the value of this life for itself, for the beauty to be seen all about and for a legitimate joy in na- ture. Such a realization turned men’s eyes toward an observation of nature that revealed itself in the Gothic age, and found its culmination in the indi- vidualism and secularization of the Renaissance.

Another aspect of medieval life re- vealed itself in the cathedral — the in- tellectual. It was a period of great learning. Universities were springing up, and the passion of the age for ency- clopedic knowledge we observe in the work of Vincent of Beauvais, who at- tempted to classify all knowledge under four headings, which he called The Four Mirrors; first, the mirror of nature, which included scenes of creation, vegetable and animal ornament, mon- sters, and grotesques; second, the mir- ror of science or instruction, which included human labor, the handicrafts, and the seven arts; third, the mirror of morals, which revealed the vices and virtues; and, fourth, the mirror of his-

tory, which related the stories of the Old and New Testaments, the tales of the apocryphal books, and the lives of the saints. And the age, not content with gathering this knowledge into a book, carved it all in stone on the por- tals of the cathedral, on the capitals, and high up on the buttresses and towers, and pictured it in vivid colors in the windows . 1

Everyday life in the towns was vig- orous and democratic, each person contributing to the life of the commu- nity. To be sure, the streets were narrow and dark; and there was little sanitation, so that plagues, once started, easily wiped out great masses of man- kind. At the feudal courts life was fes- tive and gay, and from hall to hall the troubadours and the trouveres trav- eled, singing their songs of love and adventure . 2

This thirteenth century was the clas- sic period of Gothic art, as the twelfth had been its archaic period. Though the style continued into the sixteenth century and even longer in some coun- tries, after the thirteenth the trend was toward greater engineering achieve- ment, elegance, and overelaboration.


As has been said, the highest achieve- ment of the age was the cathedral, which is an epitome in stone of medieval life. Unlike Romanesque architecture,

1 For a fuller description and symbolic mean- ing, see fimile Male, Religious Art in France , XIII Century, Dutton, 1913.

2 Vivid pictures of life in this period arfe found in the manuscripts, especially the calen- dars, in which the activity typical of the month is illustrated — the feast and the hawking party; sowing and reaping; and hunting the wild boar for the Christmas feast. Henry Adams, Mont- Saint-Michel and Chartres, Houghton Mifflin, 1930, is especially recommended for its sym- pathetic insight into the spirit of the age.



[a] Cathedral of Notre Dame. Chartres. Chiefly i2th~i 3th cent.

which was diverse and widely scattered, Gothic architecture is distinctly French and in its purest form narrowly re- stricted to the lie de France, though it manifested itself in varying forms in other localities.

To understand the cathedral, let us travel about fifty-five miles southwest of Paris to Chartres and there study in detail, as a typical example, the cathe- dral of Notre Dame de Chartres. 1 As we approach (Fig. 333A), we notice how it

1 The present cathedral dates from the fire .of 1134, which destroyed the old basilica on the site. The west fagade was built by 1 150. To gain space in the nave (Fig. 337A), this fagade, which had been built behind the towers, was moved forward until flush with the west end of the towers, its present position. The south tower was completed between 1180 and 1194, when a great fire destroyed all the church except parts of the western end. Rebuilding proceeded rapidly and the new cathedral, the present one, was dedicated in 1260. The northern and southern portals were added during the thir- teenth century, and the northern spire between 1506 and 15x2.

looms above the compact town, a bulky mass culminating in two spires. An air view (Fig. 3 35 a) shows that this mass consists of two lofty, narrow rectangular volumes, the longer one terminating in a semicircular end, the shorter inter- penetrating the longer at right angles, somewhat nearer the circular end. These volumes organize an interior space, just as the dome and the drum of the Pantheon (Fig. 1 76A.) and the domes, half-domes, and walls of Santa Sophia (Fig. 26 1 a) organize the interior space of these buildings. But the space is of a different character. As we enter Char- tres, it is too dim for us to see at first. Then we become aware of a narrow lofty space, in which the eye is carried upward by swiftly rising verticals into mysterious shadows, and down the deep vista of the nave to a high light near its end. The surfaces of the walls glow with the rich colors of glass, which spreads its radiant luminosity over the gray stone. Proportions, emphasis of line di-



[a] The Value of the Pointed Arch, (i) abed is an oblong bay to be vaulted; bd is the diagonal rib; dc, the transverse; and be, the longitudinal. If circular ribs are erected , their heights will be ef, gh , and ij. The result will be a domical vaulting (2) irregular in shape because of the unequal height of the ribs; and with the longitudinal arch too low to admit of a clerestory. A building so vaulted is low and dark , like San? Ambrogio {Fig. 317 a). The problem , then , is to bring the crowns of all the ribs to the same height as the crown of the di- agonal rib e. This can be done by pointing the lower ribs. The result is a lighter , more flexible system (3), affording ample space for a clerestory.

rection, thematic repetitions, such as the pointed arch and compound pier — these are components of an interior space organization that overwhelms the onlooker with a feeling of mystery and exaltation.

The plan (Fig. 339A4) generated this spatial organization and it, in turn, was determined by utilitarian considera- tions. It is an elaborated basilica, in which liturgical considerations so lengthened the choir that the transept is near the center of the nave, thus transforming the T-shape of the early basilica into a cross shape. The apse has developed into a complicated form called the chevet, 1 which includes not only the apse itself but the surrounding aisles, known as ambulatories, or apsidal aisles, and the chapels opening from them (Fig. 335 a). The constructional principles which enabled the builders to create such a structure are clearly evi- dent on both the exterior and the inte- rior, As we think back to San? Ambrogio

1 Note that the apse is the full height of the nave, but the ambulatories and chapels, though vaulted, are but one story high, and over them spring the flying buttresses. See also Figure 35OA.

(Fig. 31 7a), low, dark, and heavy, and even to St. Etienne (Fig. 324B), where advance over San? Ambrogio came about through the daring of the Nor- mans, we ask ourselves what enabled the Gothic builders to erect their lofty naves. It was three things primarily — ribbed vaulting, the pointed arch, and the flying buttress — • by means of which they produced buildings that were not only uplifting in their emotional appeal, but highly intellectual in their engi- neering.

Let us look at Chartres from the en- gineering angle. In the nave, we recog- nize the ribbed vaulting, but we see that the arches are pointed rather than round. By studying Figure 336A we un- derstand why the pointed arch could give height and light where the round one could not; and that was what these builders were trying to secure — height for expression, and light because of the dull Northern climate.

Given, then, a method of securing these two essentials, how is the vault- ing stably supported in its lofty posi- tion? In Figure 33 7A we see that the great piers at the crossing are of the

[a] Chartres. Nave , looking east. L. 236 ft.; with choir, 367 ft. W. 54 ft.; with aisles, ioj ft. H. 112 ft. ( Clarence Ward)


clustered or compound type such as we saw in San? Ambrogio — ’ each rib of the vaulting, diagonal, transverse, and longitudinal, has its individual support- ing member in the clustered pier. The consistent application of this principle makes a massive pier necessary at the crossing, to support the tower over the crossing that the original plans called for but which was never built. Such a pier also affords an effective accent at this part of the cathedral. Along the nave and transept, however, the build- ers used a single shaft with four engaged columns (Fig. 337 a) — quite adequate to carry the load. Three of these rise one story only to support the arches of the ground-story arcade and the trans-

verse arches of the aisle; the fourth — that facing the nave or the transept — rises from the base to the vaulting, in- terrupted by stringcourses only, and at that point meets the downward thrust of the great transverse ribs of the nave. Smaller shafts, which carry the diag- onal and longitudinal ribs, rise from the capitals of the ground-story arcade. 1 The same deviations from regularity that are found in the buildings of many peoples — in the Ziggurat of Ur; the Parthenon, the arcades of Pisa, to cite a

1 A comparison of the piers of several of the great cathedrals, such as St. Denis, Senlis, Sens, Paris, Amiens, and Reims, will reveal an interest- ing variety of methods of treating the problem of the compound pier.



1 2 3

[a] Steps in the Development of the Gothic Plan, (i) San Clemente , Rome. An early Christian basilica. A timber roof light in weight and with no side thrust , is carried on slender , uncomplicated supports. The development of liturgy has resulted in a low-walled choir occupying about half the nave. (2) Sant* Ambrogio, Milan {Fig. 316 a ) . Italian Roman- esque. While the plan closely follows that of the early Christian basilica {with atrium , de- tached towers, and no transepts ), the stone roof vault necessitates heavier walls and columns for support , and the concentration of buttressing to support the rib vaulting divides the interior into bays. (3) Abbaye-aux-Dames, Caen. French Romanesque. While round-arched rib vault- ing results in a plan of square bays similar to that of Sant' 1 Ambrogio, the larger window openings, obtained by further concentration of buttressing, indicate the requirements of a north- ern climate. The atrium has disappeared; the towers have become part of the building and a

few — appear in Gothic in the un- equally spaced piers, and in the curved stringcourses.

A study of one bay in detail indicates a clearly marked division into three stories; (1) the ground-story arcade that separates the aisle from the nave; (2) the triforium, a low second story pierced with four arched openings separated by

colonnettes; 1 and (3) the clerestory, which consists of tracery filled with glass, reaching to the crown of the vault- ing (Fig. 337A). An obvious character- istic of the system is the relatively small

1 As this story frequently had three openings, it became known as the triforium, meaning three- pierced. Sometimes a gallery is built here over the aisles.



dominating feature of the facade; a transept with exterior projections separates the nave from the choir and gives the plan the shape of a cross, (4) Chartres Cathedral (Figs. 333 a, 335A). French Gothic. Enlargement of the choir leaves the transept in the middle of the church. The once separate towers are integrated. Deep triple doorways front the transepts. Gothic but- tressing makes possible the complexities of the chevet and double aisle and, by removing all weight from the walls, converts them into window areas. Pointed arches permit an oblong bay ( Fig.336A ) and thus widen the nave. (5) Salisbury Cathedral (Fig. 35s a). English Gothic. A long narrow plan, deep, double transepts, single aisles, a square instead of apsidal east end; shallow portals, and a dominating tower over the crossing are characteristic English features.

a. nave; b. aisles; c. apse; d. transept; e. crossing; f. choir; g. chevet; h. ambulatory; j. apsidal chapel; k. tower; m. porch; n. atrium; p. narthex.

amount of wall space in comparison with the openings. The long reaches of uninterrupted surface in the basilica have given way to this light, open ar- rangement, with the clerestory entirely filled with apertures for admitting light. But this suppression of wall also elim- inated any space for such mural deco- ration as the frescoes or mosaic that

enriched the interiors of the early Chris- tian churches. Compensation for this the Gothic builders found in stained glass, which was just reaching a climax in its development. Eagerly seizing upon its possibilities, they substituted great areas of glass for stone, producing a decoration of deep, glowing color, even richer than the Byzantine mosaics.



[a] Steps in the Development of Gothic Vaulting, (x) Sant y Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna (Fig. 255 a). Early Christian. Slender arcades easily support a high clerestory and the light, vertical pressure of a timber roof (2) Sant’ Ambrogio, Milan (Fig. 317 a) . Italian Romanesque. Here rib vaulting concentrates the weight and thrust of the stone roof on piers rather than on the entire wall, but the pier buttressing does not permit the nave vault to rise high above the triforium vaults. Thus a clerestory was impossible, and the nave is low and dark. The use of round arches in the ribs makes the vault of unequal height (Figs . 317 a, 336A2) and by pre- scribing a square bay limits the width of the nave. (3) Abbaye-aux-Hommes, Caen (Fig. 324B ) . French Romanesque. A concealed half barrel vault over the loftier triforium acts as a flying buttress and props the nave vault high enough to permit a small clerestory. (4) Chartres

We now have the explanation of the pointed arch, the ribbed vaulting, and the clustered pier from which the latter springs. The third vital element in- volved, if the vault is to stand, is effi- cient buttressing; otherwise the thin walls will be pushed out by the great weight and the whole structure will col- lapse like a house of cards. We have already learned that buttressing is needed only at the points where the thrust of the vault is concentrated. This thrust, which exerts pressure both downward and outward, is concen- trated partly on the piers and partly at a point about a third of the way up the curve of the rib, a point called the

haunch , so that here the thrust must be met by a counterthrust. This is the function of the flying buttress.

With this in mind, let us study the buttresses (Figs. 335A, 341 A4). From the ground rise massive buttresses, each on the axis of a clustered pier, in line with the transverse arches of both the nave and the aisle (Fig. 339A4). They diminish in thickness as they rise, and from each spring two half-arches — the flying but- tresses — which abut on the nave wall, one at and slightly above the capital of the pier and the other at the crown of the ribs. The lower arch is double, with an open arcade between — - an un- usual feature. Furthermore, the nave

Cathedral {Fig. 337 a). French Gothic. Pointed arches permit a vault of even height and a high clerestory. Flying buttresses, frankly revealed, permit the nave vault to rise high above, the aisle vaults and, by providing support only at the points of greatest stress (where the ribs con* verge), eliminate the necessity for support from a vault over the triforium or from the walls below , thus making it possible to fill the walls with windows and to reduce the triforium to a low, mural gallery. (5) Reims Cathedral {Figs. 343 a, 330 a) . French Gothic. Flying but- tresses here transfer the weight and thrust of the high nave vaulting across two aisles to the pier buttresses. Mote the use of pinnacles at the tops of the piers to provide stabilizing weight to balance the outward thrust of the flying buttresses. In this drawing all the naves are repre- sented as the same width in order to show the effect of construction upon proportion.

wall between is stiffened by engaged col- umns. The buttresses of the Abbaye-aux- Hommes (Fig. 340 A3), hidden beneath the roof with their place of abutment too low, have here come out into the open, frankly revealed and efficiently constructed. Thus the thrusts of the vaults are counterbalanced and the whole structure is dynamically stable.!

1 As in the case of the clustered pier, no two cathedrals show the same treatment of tire flying buttress, though the underlying structural principle is the same. Sant ’ Ambrogio, Abbaye~ aux-Hommes, Abbaye~aux-Dames, St. Germer de Fly, Soissons, Chartres, Amiens, Moire Dame de Paris, Reims, sad Beauvais illustrate the general evolution. The trend is toward lightness without sacrifice of structural stability.

Engineering alone, however, though fundamental, deals with but one aspect of Gothic architectural form. The treat- ment of the surfaces that bound the volumes, and the decorative elements, contribute equally to the unity. Two kinds of ornament were used: stone sculpture and stained glass, the former to enrich the portals and the latter to provide luminous color for the interior. The local gray stone, which was used for both the masonry and the sculpture, integrates the surfaces of the construc- tional walls and the carvings into a compact unity. This is particularly evident in the western fagade, whose dominant note is a quiet strength that



[a] Chartres, Western Portal: Kings and Queens. (. Monuments Piot )

results from large areas of unbroken masonry (evidence of its Romanesque ancestry) , from the thematic repetition of the rounding arch in the fenestration, and, with the exception of the northern tower, from its restrained decoration, which breaks the surface only enough for vivifying contrasts. The facade is divided vertically into three parts. A central division contains the portal, three lancet windows, a rose window, and an arcade; and on either side a flank- ing tower that reaches up into a tall spire. The design, however, is not sym- metrical, the most striking irregularity being in the towers, one of which is sturdy and plain, the other higher, more Slender, and ornate; and the division into stories is not uniform. These ir- regularities, however, which are due to different periods of building, do not

disturb the balance of the composition.

Of the towers, the south, or Old Tower , is much the simpler and sturdier of the two, harmonizing better with the general composition than does the slenderer, more ornate north tower built in the style of three hundred years later. The effect of the Old Tower is marred by the arcading and the rose window, which bring the central part of the facade higher than was originally planned; for the tower was intended to rise freely from the third story and now is “hunched up by half a rose and a row of kings.” 1 But we instinctively feel its sober strength, quiet harmony, and reposeful lines and proportions. It rises from a firm, square base and is decorated with blind arcades, splayed windows, and pilasters. At the point of transition from the square tower to the octagonal spire (the builder’s most difficult problem), the work becomes lighter, with more frequent openings and small pinnacles that lead directly to the towering spire; but so skillfully is this transition made that one is quite unaware how gradually and subtly it has taken place.

On the triple portal (Fig. 343A), which is confined to the central division of the facade, is concentrated the elabo- rate sculpture, carved of the same ma- terial, which enlivens the stone masonry and accents the entrance. The first im- pression is that of perfect architectural unity. In the central tympanum is the figure of Christ surrounded by the four beasts of the Apocalypse, in every re- spect very close to St. Trophime (Fig. 32 1 a) . The linealism of the conventional forms contributes to the decorative value, and the austerity of the central figure, combining benevolence and pity for humanity (expressed by the gesture of benediction) conveys to one entering the church the innermost meaning of that for which the Church stood. In 1 Adams, op. cit.



[a] Chartres . Western, or Royal, Portal. So called because on the central tympanum is represented Christ as King of Kings, c. 1145, ( Houvet )

the rows of kings and queens on either side of the doorway (Fig. 342A) we see elongated figures standing rigidly erect, compact, with arms close to the body, never projecting beyond the contour . 1 The long lines of the drapery are pre- dominantly vertical, reminiscent of flut- ings, so that the whole effect is that of a column. And this is what the artist was striving for — to use the human figure to adorn a column and yet not lose: the feeling of the column. This effect is still further enhanced by the background of rich carvings on the pedestals and the intermediate shafts. As representations of kings and queens,

1 The unequal height of the figures is prob- ably due to the fact that after the fire they were assembled from different parts of the building. The plain shafts indicate repair.

they are richly clad in embroidered robes, befitting royalty; each carries a scepter, a book, or a scroll, and many wear crowns. In the heads are ex- pressed great variety and marked indi- viduality. At the same time these figures are primarily of stone, of the same ma- terial and texture as that of the build- ing itself and carved in a manner that is suitable to a rather coarse stone. The sculptors have consistently carved this stone to serve a definite function and not to produce a realistic representation of kings and queens.

Throughout the portal, then, first, there is a feeling for function, as seen in the restraint and the conventionali- zation of each figure which adapted it to the place that it was to occupy; second, there runs through the figures



a living quality of marked individuality, with a serene emotionalism born of sin- cere religious conviction.

The details of the left and right door- ways deserve notice. On the arches about the left tympanum is carved a calendar. Why should such a subject be represented on a cathedral? Recalling the Four Mirrors of Vincent of Beauvais, we read in the Mirror of Instruction that while man can be saved only through a Redeemer, still he can prepare him- self for redemption by labor and knowl- edge. Hence the sculptor pictures man’s typical occupation for each month, to- gether with the appropriate sign of the zodiac. In all these little pictures there is a mingling of the fanciful and the simple homely scenes of everyday life, very spontaneous, and very close to the heart of the people.

Another glance at the ground plan of Chartres (Fig. 339A4) shows that the transepts terminate in deep porches approached by a broad flight of steps. In Figure 344A we see the north porch, a large open portico, each of its triple divisions vaulted over and capped with a pediment. As on the western portal, rows of figures flank the doorways; the tympani are filled with sculptured re- liefs; all the arches are carved with fig- ures and the intervening spaces are decorated with trefoil ornament. The south porch is similar in general design. Both form effective entrances, rich in detail and harmonious in design with the whole facade.

The subject matter of the sculpture of the north porch is taken from the Old Testament and the life of the Vir- gin, fitting subjects for the portal which



looks to the cold and dark of the North, forming a prelude to the life of Christ that finds its place on the portal which faces the warmth and sunshine of the South. On both porches are found rep- resentations of scenes from the creation, the Vices and Virtues, and the lives of saints and martyrs, thus continuing the illustrations from the Four Mirrors.

As we look at some of the figures from these north and south portals (Fig. 344A), we realize that this is a different art from that of the western portal. The figures are well proportioned; they ap- pear to stand upon their feet and turn their bodies and heads, so that we feel that a bodily structure exists beneath the drapery, which falls in naturalistic



[a] Pinnacle. St. Etienne , Chdlons-sur- Mame. 13th cent. a. pinnacle; b. crockets; c. finial; d. pier buttress; e. flying but- tress; f. gargoyle. Although utilized as an ornament, the pinnacle originated as a con- structional necessity — to provide stabilizing weight at the top of the pier buttress where it receives the thrust of the flying buttress.

folds. So, too, the carvings on the capi- tals and the bases reveal a tendency away from, the conventional to the naturalistic. During the century that intervened between the building of the western and the side portals, the Gothic sculptor had been turning to nature, and in his eagerness to imitate it had sacrificed that complete subordi-

nation to architectural needs which characterized the western portal. He has not lost his sense of design, however. The beautiful long sweeping lines of the drapery give the figures something of an architectural feeling; but they are not so impressive or so essentially a part of the building as are the kings and queens at the western doorway. In the Visitation particularly we notice the sweep of line in the delicate, almost clinging drapery.

Beneath each statue, or underneath the bracket upon which it stands, are small figures which not only are deco- rative but also bear some symbolical or historical relation to the statue above. Beneath the feet of Christ, for example, are the lion and the dragon — “The young lion and the serpent shalt thou trample under foot.” These little fig- ures are added to symbolize Christ’s conquest over evil. Thus we see on these portals not only stories from the Bible and the legends and the illustra- tions from the Four Mirrors, but also, in- terwoven with them all, a whole world of figures and attributes which are sym- bolic . 1

Sculpture, we have seen, was used chiefly on the exterior, to adorn the portals. The second factor in decora- tion, the stained glass, ornamented the interior. As we stand in the nave of Chartres and look up at the three lancets and the rose window of the western fagade, we are aware of a mass of the richest color imaginable, glowing like a cluster of brilliant gems. The Tree of Jesse window (one of the western lan- cets), for example, or La Belle Verriere (“The Beautiful Window”) in the am- bulatory gives us the impression of an area of radiant vibrating blue, stabi- lized by the adjacent opaque stone. Closer inspection shows that other col- ors — deep red and green relieved by

1 For the symbolic interpretation of Gothic sculpture, see Male, op. cit.


lighter tones of the same hue or by a little white — contribute equally to the design. Why then the effect of blue tonality? The art of working in colored glass involves a knowledge of the ac- tion of light upon color. Red areas, for example, tend to present ragged edges, whereas blue spreads out over adjacent differently colored areas. Thus the win- dow at a distance presents an over-all blue tonality . 1

A detail of these twelfth- and thir- teenth-century windows reveals a two- dimensional design, based upon line and color areas and upon the transparency of glass and the opacity of lead and iron, each a foil to the other. There is no land- scape, no feeling of depth, and the figures are quite Byzantine in style. The purpose of the glassmaker was not to produce a naturalistic representation, but to keep his design flat with all parts subordi- nated to color organization.

Let us follow a glassworker as he makes such a window. With the dimen- sions of the window in hand, he draws his design in full size on the whitened bench upon which he is building up his window, indicating with heavy black lines the iron bars that are necessary to hold the window firmly; for a large area of glass and lead is too pliable to withstand the force of storms. These bars must play into the design and not obstruct it; hence they determine the main lines of the composition. Having drawn in the figures, he begins putting in the glass. At hand he has sheets of glass which have been colored, not by being painted, but by having coloring matter, chiefly metal, added while the glass was in a molten state. From these sheets he cuts tiny pieces, often not more than an inch long, to fit his de- signs, a separate piece for each color or shade of color. He pieces them together

1 For an explanation of this action of light upon color see C. J. Connick, Adventures in Light and Color, Random House, 1937.

[a] Grotesques. Notre Dame , Paris.

with strips of lead, because this metal is pliable, and solders the strips where they join. Thus he builds up his de- sign, piece by piece, mindful first, as he works in his reds and blues with whites, yellows, and greens, of color relationships. Hence when his design calls for an illustration of the Prodigal Son feeding the swine, he does not hesi- tate to make one pig green, two blue, and one red, because it is more impor- tant for the final effect to have those colors at certain spots than to follow the color of nature. And again, with the final effect in mind, when he wants a rich purple, instead of making purple glass, he places side by side bits of red and blue, allowing the eye to mix them at a distance, and so obtains a much richer hue than he could get by color-



[a] Notre Dame. Paris. 1163-1235. {Clar- ence Ward)

ing the glass purple. Thus the twelfth- century glassmakers used the same prin- ciple as the French Impressionists of the nineteenth century, who juxtaposed their red and blue pigment cn the can- vas for the eye to mingle into purple from afar. Here and there in the de- signs he needs somewhat larger pieces of glass, on which must be painted a face, a hand, or a bit of drapery. With a brownish enamel, in fine, firm strokes he draws these details and fires the pieces (thus fusing the enamel with the glass) and then leads them into the de- sign. Thus the glassworker is guided by the same principle as the sculptor; namely, decorative value determined by architectural needs. At the same time, a vital content coheres with visual ef- fectiveness. The windows were contrib- uted partly by the royal house and the Church, and partly by the guilds, each

[b] Notre Dame. Amiens. 1220-88. [N. D. Photo )

of which had its patron saint, who, naturally, would figure in the design. In fact, the windows of Chartres furnish a gorgeously illustrated Golden Legend for all the people to read.

While sculpture and stained glass formed the chief decorative elements of the cathedral, polychromy and certain accessories also played an important part. Color and gilding were applied, apparently, to any available wall space, to capitals, to ornamental details, and to statues. Of this, because of time and the destructive Northern climate, nothing but faint traces now remains. The accessories of the service, too — the rich robes of the clergy, the gold and silver jeweled crosses, reliquaries, and chalices, the carved ivory crosiers, and the great tapestries — contribute to the magnificence expressive of the religious exaltation of the times.



[a] Noire Dame. Reims. 1211-go. Restored after extensive damage during World War I.

Many other great Gothic cathedrals were built, particularly in the thirteenth century in France, noteworthy among which were Notre Dame in Paris (Fig, 348 a), Amiens (Fig. 348B), and Reims (Fig. 349 a ). 1 Each was constructed on the same basic principles as Chartres. Only in detail and ornamentation do they differ. All are incomplete, and the im- pression of squatness noted by some observers would have been eliminated had the towers been carried up by spires to the intended height. In facade composition, the tendency is toward elaboration, Notre Dame has sobriety and repose, due to the almost classic balance of line and the quiet unadorned

1 As each of these cathedrals bears the name Notre Dane, it has become the habit to designate them, by the towns in which they are located, with the exception of the Paris cathedral, which has always retained its original name.

[b] Notre Dame. Rouen. From c. 1200; facade, 1507-30. The tower on the right is the Tour de Beurre (. Butter Tower), so called because it was built with funds secured in return for permission to eat butter during Lent , 1485-1507. Badly damaged during World War II. (N. D. Photo)

spaces of wall and buttress; at Amiens there is richness of detail, effective inter- play of line, and richness of light and shade; at Reims decoration has become excessive and the vertical line is stressed. We notice in all of these fagades the decorative effectiveness and the sug- gestion of welcome in the deeply re- cessed portals that extend the width of the fagade. The flying buttress also developed from the simple, robust type of Chartres (Fig. 341A4) into the lighter and more elaborate type of Reims (Fig. 341 A5) , which, with its niches, pinnacles, crockets, and finials (Figs. 346 a, 349A, 350A.), contributes to the soaring quality of the cathedral.


Reims. North side. Reims , as planned , would have carried seven spires , two at each he portals and one , the highest , over the crossing. (N. D. Photo j

[b] An Ogee Arch with Flamboyant Detail

The sculpture of these great thir- | teenth-century cathedrals, while: akin I

to that of the north and south portals of I Chartres, still shows marked differences. J

The Vierge Dork (Amiens), a gracious I virgin, stands holding the child and . ■ j playfully smiling; three angels, two in f rapid movement, hold the shell-adorned nimbus. She stands so that the figure is I built on a great sweeping curve; the drapery, girded high, falls in broad folds. The delicate naturalistic carvings and the fluttering angels enhance the graciousness of this gentle, smiling f

queen. In his tendency toward natural- ism, the sculptor has altered his type, and for the symbolic austerity and dig- nity of the Queen of Heaven of the eleventh and twelfth centuries has sub- stituted elegance and the serene joy of the more human type of mother and child.





[a] Church of Notre Dame. Louviers. South porch, 1404. [b] Smiling Angel . Reims.

A highly characteristic example is the Smiling Angel of Reims (Fig. 351B). The tall, slender figure stands in an attitude of ease and grace; the swing of the body is accentuated by the long sweeping curves of the drapery. The tilt of the head, the movement of the uplifted hand, the sweep of the wings that frame the head — all these lend charm to this angel who is so tender and so joy- ful. While the statue is not as impres- sively architectural as the kings and queens of the western portal of Chartres, it still retains with its naturalism a sense of decorative fi tness; with the exception of the wings, it stands within the space bounded by the two engaged columns, the straight verticality of which, re- peated in the fold of the cloak, acts as

Detail of the Western Portal. 13th cent. Practically destroyed during World War I. Contrast with Fig. 342 a. ( Levasseur )

a foil to the dominant curves of the de- sign.

Although, as has been noted in the preceding chapter in regard to mon- asteries, the subject matter, general treatment, and location of the major sculpture of the cathedrals were dictated by the Church , 1 the imagination of the carvers found free play in the carvings on the capitals, on pedestals, up on the towers — in all the nooks and corners. This decorative carving, as well as the statues of the portals, reveals a return to nature. The capitals of the clustered

1 See MMc, op. cit., for a full exposition of this.



[a] Salisbury Cathedral. 1220-58. ( Aerqfilms Ltd., London )

piers of Reims are covered with foliage in which animals and fantastic figures are intertwined; the leaves, deeply under- cut or standing out in the round, appear to have been just fastened up on the stone. Naturalism has destroyed the sur- face of the stone and has supplanted the organization of stone as stone with an illusion of natural appearance. The grotesques (Fig. 347A) that live high up on the balustrades of the towers, peer- ing out over the city — half man, half beast, crow, elephant, the three-headed Cerberus — were born probably of pure fancy, and show that the fantastic and chimerical forms of the world of imagination also belonged to the mirror of nature, and thus are found tucked away in corners all over the cathedral.

The Gothic cathedral reached its culmination in the thirteenth century, continuing in the fourteenth without great change. The fifteenth-century cathedrals, however, such as Rouen (Fig. 349B), reveal quite a different aspect. The feeling of structural significance has given way to lightness and elegance and an overemphasis upon decoration for its own sake. In the lacelike carving of the portal of Louviers (Fig. 351 a), the restless line finds recurrent expression in the ogee arch (Fig. 350B), which is not structurally an arch but is formed by two moldings with l-eversed curves that unite and terminate in a finial. So too the foliage, departing from the natural- ism of Reims, now twists and turns in wavy, flamelike lines, so that the work



[a] Gloucester Cathedral. Transept, Choir, and Lady Chapel. 1331-37.

of the late Gothic period became known as flamelike or Flamboyant,

Although Gothic architecture was primarily French, its influence spread to England, the Low Countries, Ger- many, Spain, and Italy, with variations according to local conditions. The Eng- lish. Church was long monastic, and thus, in contrast with the French, Was Originally situated apart from the town in the open country (Fig. 352 A) and in- cluded a close and a cloister, forms so ingrained in the English tradition that they were used with the secular cathe- drals as well. The plan(Fig. 339A5) shows a long nave, a square end — probably a Saxon inheritance — and deep, usu- ally double transepts, which provide

opportunity for a complex massing of volumes that culminate in the rectangu- lar tower over the crossing (Fig. 353 a), sometimes, as at Salisbury (Fig. 352A), crowned with a spire. One misses in the English church that characteristic French feature, the flying buttress. For; the English is not so consistent a style as the French, because many of the English churches were rebuilt Norman (Romanesque) structures whose solid walls and pier buttresses were sufficient support for the vaultings. Where the flying buttress was used, it was insig- nificant and often concealed beneath the roof. Thus the English cathedral retains much of the Romanesque sturdy solidity and seldom shares the French



[a] Winchester Cathedral. Nave, looking west from choir. Remodeled {1346-1486) hy encasing the nth cent. Norman walls and columns with a Perpendicular veneer and add- ing a vaulted roof L. 230 ft. W. 40 ft.; with aisles, 88ft. H. 78ft. {Jerry Hennigar ) Compare the large window, the lierne vault- ing, and the unbroken piers here with the smaller windows, the simple rib vaulting , arid the use of stringcourses in Fig. 345A.

restless, emotional, aspiring quality . 1 But the need for light tended to increase the size of the openings and to stimu- late the development of tracery to hold huge areas of glass (Figs. 353A, 354A).

In window tracery and vaulting the English builders went beyond structural requirements in the direction of decora- tive elegance. In the nave of Winchester (Fig. 354A), for example, the compound piers rise in one sheer sweep, without a break by stringcourses — compare Amiens (Fig. 345 a)— to the vaulting where the ribs spread out in great sweeping lines, and with the help of in- termediate ribs weave an elaborate de- sign' — a system known as lierne vaulting. A few of these ribs are structural, but most of them are decorative only. A climax of multiplying nonfunctional ribs, as in the Oxford Divinity School, is reached in the fan vaulting of the Chapel of Henry VII { Fig. 355A).

In the Low Countries, particularly Flanders, although typical Gothic churches were built, the most individual expression was the secular building, es- pecially the town halls and the cloth halls of Flanders . 2

In Germany, Gothic building was generally imitative of the French. In the Romanesque period the builders in the Rhenish cities had developed a par- ticularly virile, original style of church architecture. The Gothic was arbi- trarily accepted rather than naturally

1 Most English cathedrals show various periods of building and rebuilding and thus are seldom homogenous in style. Canterbury and Winchester are excellent examples of all styles, which are: Late Norman or Romanesque (twelfth century), Durham; Early English (thirteenth century), Lincoln nave and chapter house, Canterbury choir, Salisbury; Decorated (fourteenth century), Lincoln Angel Choir; Per- pendicular (fifteenth to sixteenth century), Winchester nave, Gloucester Lady Chapel, Oxford Divinity School, Westminster Abbey Chapel of Hemy VII, Cambridge Chapel of King’s College, Windsor Chapel of St. George.

2 See Chapter 30 and Figures 532A, 533A.



[a] Chapel of Henry VII. Westminster Abbey , London. Detail of the ceiling. 1503-19.

evolved. Hence Cologne Cathedral (1*248- 1880) imitates A miens quite consistently. The most original accomplishment of Gothic Germany was the Hallenkirchen or Hall Churches yin which the vaults of the aisles equaled in height those of the nave, giving the building a simple out- line and mass.

In Spain, the Gothic style — Burgos (founded 1226, spires begun 1442) and Seville (begun 1401) may be taken as typical — shows distinct contrasts with the French, due partly to different cli- matic conditions. The hot, dry climate did not require steeply pitched, pro- tecting roofs; hence the vaults were either left exposed or covered with tiles, giving a flat or low-sloping shape to the roof. Because of the hot, brilliant sunshine, the large number of openings needed in the North was diminished, thus increasing the plain wall space. Frequently the clerestory was omitted or the windows blinded, making the interior gloomy. Decoration, especially in the late period, shows characteristic

Spanish exuberance and love of over- loading, especially about the choir and the altar, and, because of the employ- ment of Moorish craftsmen, frequently combines Moorish and Christian motifs.

In Italy the essentially Northern Gothic was still less at home than in Spain. In the hill towns of Assisi, Or- vieto, and Siena are found character- istic examples which in some respects seem more Romanesque than Gothic. Possibly more successful adaptations of the style were the secular Gothic build- ings, the town halls of Florence and Siena, and the polychrome Venetian palaces. 1


Because of the great reduction of wall space, the Gothic style offered but little opportunity for mural painting. Hence book illustration was the chief function of the painter. The craft of bookmaking no longer centered in the

1 See pages 433-442.


[a] Chapter House . Westminster Abbey, London . Begun 1250. (From an engraving )

monastery. A flourishing school had developed in thirteenth-century Paris, where the university was attracting men of learning. Although such secular books as treatises on medicine, ro- mances, and histories were appearing, the most usual volumes were still li- turgical and theological, such as the psalter, and the book of hours — a varied collection of calendars, lessons, prayers, and psalms for private devo- tional use.

A culmination of bookmaking was reached in France in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In looking at the manuscripts of the time (Fig. 357A), one is impressed with the vivid color (probably influenced by the stained- glass workers), the shimmer of gold over

the page, the fine spacing, and the ex- quisite delicacy and refinement of every part. The ivy was a popular form of border decoration. The foliated sprays were seminaturalistic, spreading out in delicate curves to form a flat pattern. Occasionally a single leaf was covered with gold slightly raised, giving a deli- cate richness to the page. In among the sprays one frequently finds tiny figures of animals, birds, and grotesques that are another evidence of the fancy of the medieval artist that revealed itself in the cathedral grotesque.

The tendency toward naturalism that we saw in sculpture appeared in paint- ing also. The miniature representing December from the Tres Riches Heures (Fig. 358A) gives us a naturalistic and intimate picture of the boar hunt in preparation for the Christmas feast. In the foreground the hunters in gay costumes with their dogs are closing in upon the boar. Behind them is a dense forest with leaves in their autumn color of golden bronze, above which rise, in the distance, the towers of one of the Duke’s chateaux, over against a deep- blue sky. The gold background of the miniatures of earlier centuries has given way to landscape. Naturalism has entered, as in sculpture; but, as in sculpture, it is subordinate to organiza- tion. Clearly defined areas of reds and blues balance each other; vertical lines are repeated in the chateau and in the trees which swing around the tightly integrated central group, where the areas and the lines of the light dogs converge upon the fallen prey — the climax both of the composition and of the content.

Out of the school of the miniaturists, independent painting as a major art be- gan to arise, and soon the miniature school waned as the coming of the print- ing press impinged upon its very life, — the life of one of the most vigorous and beautiful arts of the Middle Ages.



[a] Page from a Book of Hours. With a minia- ture of Saint Eutropius. French. First half 15th cent. C. L. Ricketts Col- lection, Chicago. (. Harold Allen )



Besides the bookmaker, many other craftsmen — ivory-carvers and wood- carvers, metalworkers, enamelers, and weavers — were needed to supply both ecclesiastical and rapidly increasing secular needs. Notwithstanding the re- vival of sculpture and the consequent relegation of the ivory-carver to second- ary importance, his services were still in demand for small shrines and for statuettes of the Virgin. Secular objects also claimed the attention of the carvers, such as ivory covers for the little mirrors

that ladies carried attached to their girdles by gold and silver chains. These covers were decorated with love scenes, popular among which was the storm- ing of the Castle of Love.

The work of the wood-carvers we see in furniture, both secular and ecclesias- tical. Gothic furniture impresses one with its sturdy simplicity and strength. Great oak forests supplied an abun- dance of timber of superior quality and massiveness; one feels to what an extent this medium has determined the general character of the product. There were not many kinds of furniture made. Rooms were rather bare, one piece —



[a] Pol de Limbourg and His Brothers . Decem- ber , from the Tres Riches Heures ( the Very Rich Book of Hours) made for the Due de Beni, c. 14.16. Musce Conde, Chantilly. ( Girau - don)

a great oak chest, for example — • serv- ing not only as a receptacle but also as a seat and a bed. Almost any exam- ple of Gothic furniture possesses a sim- ple massiveness which seems the direct result of the use of heavy timber. For decorative elements, carved panels, derived from Gothic tracery and orna- ment, sufficed.

In ecclesiastical furniture, the choir stalls gave the wood-carver ample op- portunity to exercise his craft. In the misericords and the arm rests particu- larly, the carver gave free rein to his fancy and fashioned the knoblike rests to represent the washerwoman, the baker, or Reynard the Fox.

The ceremonial vessels needed for church rites demanded especially the skill of the metalworker. Chalices we have noted in each period since the

founding of the Christian Church (Figs. 27 ib, 330A). The Chalice of St. Remi (Reims) in comparison with these re- veals a departure from the ruggedness of the earlier examples toward a greater elegance in shape and proportion, a certain regularity and precision of de- tail. In this chalice a larger amount of the surface is decorated than in the earlier ones; the filigree, stones, and cloisonnd enamels cover much of the broad base, the stem, and the cup. The shimmer of the gold,' the light and shade in the filigree bands, deepened by the rich color of the stones and the deep luminous tones of the enamels, make this chalice a superb example of the skill of these goldsmiths.

Cloisonne enameling was still used, but another type, the ckamfilevi , was practiced very successfully. The reli-



[a] Reliquary. Limoges champleve enamel on cop- per. 13th cent. Metropoli- tan Museum of Art, New York City. ( Metropolitan Museum )

quary seen in Figure 359A is made by this process. It is architectural in form, suggesting the steep roofs of the North. In the long panel are the figures of Christ in an aureole and four saints in niches; in the sloping panel above are angels on either side of a circle contain- ing a lamb and the cross. The figures are in dark-blue, light-blue, green, and red enamel on a delicately chased metal base.

A metal used with highly artistic re- sults was iron, which when hammered partakes of the pliability of softer metals and is free from the feeling of rigidity which results from casting in a mold. A fine example is found in the iron hinges of Notre Dame. Here the elaborate, elegant design, like that of the Chalice of St. Remi, has retained just enough re- serve to save it from the weakness of overdecoration. The fine, strong scrolls, uniting firmly with the main stem, sug- gest the strength that should charac- terize a hinge. Within and about these scrolls, but subordinate to them, are minor details of naturalistic decora- tion, such as birds and serpents, which reveal the fancy of their designers.

Of great importance were large tapes- tries, which added color to the interior of the cathedral when, on festal occa- sions, they were hung from the tri- forium, and which decorated the great stone halls of the chateaux and with their firm texture helped retain what- ever warmth was afforded by the fire- place. They were often made in sets, as in The Lady and the Unicom series. Fig- ures and animals stand out as clearly defined areas against a ground of trees and flowering plants of infinite variety; and though ail are drawn with the greatest freedom and naturalism, each functions as one element in a harmoni- ous massing of color — a frankly deco- rative design which could well be relied on, with its contrasting color and tex- ture, to enrich a stone wall.


The cathedral is the summation of the Gothic age. All the enthusiasm of a vigorous town life, in which civic pride and religious fervor were fused, poured itself into the erection of the cathedral. It became the symbol of the social soli-



darity of the age, in which individuals, great personalities though they often were, were submerged. As a construc- tion, the cathedral consisted of a stone framework of rib vaulting supported by piers and flying buttresses, with walls largely of tracery and glass, which cre- ated an interior space of lofty propor- tions eminently expressive of the exalted feelings of the age. Contributing to produce this effect, in addition 10 the proportions, were: the predominantly vertical lines and repeated pointed arches, restless and upreaching; the ever increasing height of the nave lost in mysterious purple shadows ; the radiant beauty of the glass with its own note of exaltation; the sculpture, architectur- ally satisfying and profoundly signifi- cant; all the multitude of accessories, “the adornment of the material house of God 55 ; and the liturgy, with its plain- song and already developing polyphonic music. Though the involved theology of the Church lay beyond the intellec- tual grasp of the people, they were of- fered a visible evidence of its meaning that enabled them to share the feelings of the Abbe Suger when he said as he entered St. .Denis , his own cathedral, upon whose construction and decora- tion he had labored earnestly: “When the house of God, many-colored as the radiance of precious stones, called me from the cares of the world ... I seemed to find myself, as it were, in some strange part of the universe, which was neither wholly of the baseness of the earth, nor wholly of the serenity of heaven; but by the grace of God, I seem lifted in a mystic manner from this lower, toward that upper sphere.”

The Gothic style evolved from its early ruggedness to lightness in con- struction, and from archaic, architec- turally fitting sculpture to flamboyant elaboration and naturalism — a trend equally discernible in glass, ivories, metalwork, tapestries, and manuscripts.


Ackerman, Phyllis, Tapestry , the Mirror of Civiliza- tion, Oxford University Press, 1 933 Adams, Henry, Mant-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Houghton Mifflin, 1913

Arnold, Hugh, Stained Glass of the Middle Ages in England and France, Macmillan, 1940 Bond, Francis, The Cathedrals of England and Wales, Scribner, 1912

An Introduction to English Church

Architecture, 2 vols., Oxford University Press, igr3

Bushnell, Arthur J. de H., Storied Windows, Macmillan, 1914

Gonnick, Charles, Adventures in Light and Color, Random House, 1937

Coulton, George G., Art and the Reformation, Knopf, 1928

ed. and tr., 2d ed., 4 vols. in x,

Life in the Middle Ages, Macmillan, 1930 Cram, Ralph Adams, The Substance of Gothic, 2d ed., Marshall Jones, 1925 Cunynghame, Henry H. S., European Enamels , London, 1906

Davis, William S., Life on a Mediaeval Barony , Harper, 1933

Day, Lewis F., Stained Glass, London, 1913 Delaporte, Yves , Les vitraux de la cathidrale de Chartres, 3 vols., Chartres, 1926 Ffoulkes, Charles J., Decorative Ironwork from the Xlth to the XVIIIth Century, London, 19x3 Francis of Assisi, The Little Flowers of St. Francis, Dutton (Everyman’s Library), 1908 Gardner, Arthur, French Sculpture of the Thirteenth Century, Medici Society, 1915 — — — Mediaeval Sculpture in France, Mac- millan, 1931

Hahnloser, Hans R., Villard de Honnecourt, Vienna, 1935

Herbert, John A., Illuminated Manuscripts, Put- nam, 1911

Houvet, Etienne, Cathedrale de Chartres, 7 vols., Chelles, 1921

Jackson, Sir Thomas Graham, Gothic Architec- ture in France, England, and Italy, 2 vols., University of Chicago Press, 1915 Jameson, Anna B, Murphy, Sacred and Legend- ary Art, 2 vols., Houghton Mifflin, c. 191 1 Karlinger, Hans, Die Kunst der Gotik, Berlin, 1927 Lethaby, William R., Medieval Art, rev. ed., Scribner, 1913

Macquoid, Percy, A History of English Furniture, 4 vols., Putnam, 1904-08

Male, fimile, Art et artistes du moyen age, Paris, 1927

— — ~ - Hart religieux du XIF sikle en

France, Paxis, 1922

r— ------ — - Religious Art in France, XIII Cen- tury, Dutton, 1913


Marriage, Margaret S. and Ernest, The Sculp- tures of Chartres Cathedral, Putnam, 1909 Martin, Henry M. R,, Les peintres de manuscrits et la miniature en France , Paris, c. 1909 Masked, Alfred O., Ivories, Putnam, 1905

__ Wood Sculpture, Putnam, 19x2

Moore, Charles PL, Development and Character of Gothic Architecture, 2d ed., Macmillan, 1899 Muratoff, Paul, La sculpture gothique, Paris, 1931 Parkhurst, Helen Huss, Cathedral: A Gothic Pil- grimage, Houghton Mifflin, 1936 Pollen, John H., Ancient and Modem Furniture and Woodwork, rev. by T. A. Lehfeldt, Vol. I, London, 1908

Prentice, Sartell, The Heritage of the Cathedral, Morrow, 1936

Read, Herbert E,, English Stained Glass, Putnam, 1926

Salzman, Louis F., English Life in the Middle Ages, Oxford University Press, 1926 Saunders, O. Elfrida, A History of English Art in the Middle Ages, Oxford University Press, 1932 Sherrill, Charles H., Stained Glass Tours in England, Lane, 1909


Sherrill, Charles H., Stained Glass Tours in Prance. Lane, 1908

Smith, H. G., Catalogue of English Furniture & Woodwork, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 4 vols., 1923-31: Vol. I, Gothic and Early Tudor

Street, George E., Some Account of Gothic Archi- tecture in Spain, 2 vols., Dutton, rgi4 Taylor, Henry O., The Mediaeval Mind, 4th ed., 2 vols., Macmillan, 1925 Thomson, William G., A History of Tapestry, 2d ed., rev., London, 1930 Victoria and Albert Museum, A Picture Book of English Mediaeval Wall-Paintings, Museum, London, 1932

Vitraux des cathedrales de France, AT/ 8 et AT// 8 , siecles, pref. by Paul Claudel, introd. by Marcel Aubert, Paris, 1937 West, George H., Gothic Architecture in England and France, Macmillan, 191 1 Worringer, Wilhelm, Form in Gothic, ed. by Herbert Read, London, 1927 See also the General Bibliography, pp. 79 1 — 92 .



T HROUGH the Gupta 1 age, India gave more than it received. Buddhism, already being decentralized by the missionary zeal of its followers, had begun to move eastward to moti- vate peoples in the East Indies, China, and Japan. With this decentralization came a renascence of the cults of Vishnu and Shiva and a florescence of Brah- manical art. Meanwhile Tatar invaders penetrated the northern plains and took over the power there under the name of Rajputs; and the Muhammadans, pushing eastward about a.d. iooo, over- ran large sections of the country and by 1526 had established the Mughal, or Mogul, Empire, which was the ruling power over large areas until the coming of the English and the French in the eighteenth century. India has never been totally united. Thus in the Middle Ages we find flourishing side by side different styles resulting from different faiths and different traditions, yet not entirely unrelated. For Muhammadan- ism brought a dynamic force and, as was its wont, assimilated local forms. Thus with its coming arose what one may call a Muhammadan-Hindu art. 1 See note x, page 198.


Builder and carver worked in close unity in meeting the demand for tem- ples of Vishnu and Shiva, for abundant carvings, and for cult statues. The Brahmanical temples were not intended for congregational worship, as were the Buddhist assembly halls. The essen- tial part was the shrine, with a passage around it for circumambulation - — a rite found in all Hindu worship. Only the priest entered the sanctuary, the dwelling-place of the god. As the people lived chiefly out of doors, so they wor- shiped, singing, dancing, offering flow- ers, doing reverence outside, not inside, the sanctuary. For this reason also the decoration, which was intended for an illiterate people and was didactic as well as ornamental, was placed on the exterior of the shrine and on the ex- terior and interior of the mandapam, or assembly hall, which was attached to the shrine. For the Hindu temple usu- ally served a much wider purpose than that of a shrine. Here the king gave audience, the village assembly met, and religious and philosophical dis-


[a] Temple at Halebid , near Mysore. Detail of the carving. Between nxy and 1268. (W. E. Clark )

cussions took place, as well as recita- tions of the great epics, songs, and dances. Hence many temples had one or more mandapams, roofed over but open on the sides.

Of these Brahmanical temples there are three important classes: those ded- icated to Vishnu, found chiefly in the north, where this sect was strongest; those dedicated to Shiva, found chiefly in the south; and a group in the Deccan, sometimes called the Chalukyan, 1 that combines features of the other two, im- plying use by more than one sect.

Atypical temple of Vishnu (Fig. 366A) shows that the essential parts are the shrine and the mandapam, which takes the place of the simple portico of the temple consisting of a shrine only. The walls and roofs are thick and massive, and sometimes contain a hollow cham- ber as insulation against the heat; the

1 So called because they are found in the district once ruled by the Ghalukya dynasty.

cornices are deep and hollow for the same reason, and awnings frequently are added to shield the interior from glare and dust. The shrine is square and is covered by a high tower, the shikara 2 with curving ribs. It is crowned by a flat round member (derived in shape from the fruit of the blue lotus) 3 surmounted by a vase; the lower courses of the tower are richly carved with statues of gods and goddesses. In front

2 The origin of the shikara seems to have been the bamboo framework of a primitive shrine translated into stone.

3 The lotus was the favorite flower of India and was used symbolically. It was “the flower of Vishnu.” Growing up out of the mud tmdefiled, it blossoms in the pure light of the sun. Just so the human spirit growing out of the material conditions of life finds liberation in Nirvana. The open lotus with down-turned petals, fre- quently found in domes, capitals, and the pedestals of the statues of Buddha, suggested the vault of heaven. The section of the fruit, which is the shape of a wheel, symbolized the universality of Buddha’s law.


of the shrine stands the mandapam, the roof of which is built up into a trun- cated pyramid in order to cover the elaborate ceiling, which symbolizes the dome of the world. On the mandapams the Hindu builders lavished their deco- rative skill. Some were made of white marble, with every inch of the surface of the ceiling and the supporting col- umns carved in all kinds of ornament — figure work as well as floral and geo- metric design — so that the effect was one of lavish richness.

An elaborate temple of this type is found at Khajuraho (Fig. 364A) . It stands on a platform, which, with the rather plain base, unifies all the parts of the building. The roofs, rich and complex.

culminate in the lofty tower over the shrine. The tower itself has become complex by the addition of smaller towerlike members which encircle the base, fill the angles, and with their varying height carry the eye upward rhythmically.

In the second class of Hindu temple, the southern, the shrine is enclosed in an immense walled quadrangle (Fig. 366c) and surrounded by minor temples, halls, and evidences of a hot climate — bathing-pools and shaded porticoes. The great towering gateways, gopuras, bear a load of ornament — gods, mon- sters, animals, floral and geometric motifs — from base to summit, yet con- trol it with simplicity of mass and plane

! 1 1 1 1 m n


[a] Gopuras. Madura, iyth cent.

and with a fine sweep of contour (Fig.


The third class of Hindu temple is like the northern in plan except that it has become star-shaped (Fig. 366B), thereby presenting a varied and pic- turesque outline from whatever point it is viewed. Like the southern temple, however, it is built horizontally and roofed with low towers. The decoration is very profuse, as at Halebid (Fig. 363 a), where the horizontal zones are deeply undercut and carved with elephants, grotesques, mounted horsemen, gods, human figures, and floral motifs. Here one realizes how Hindu temple sculp- ture, as prolific as nature itself in the jungle, pours forth with intense vitality and ceaseless rhythm, and includes in its conceptions all animate life. “It is

to symbolize this universal fellowship of man, the unity of all creation, that the Indian loves to crowd into his picture all forms of teeming life uses every constructive feature to sym- bolize the universal law of the One in many.” 1

The Hindu predilection for cave temples, due to the heat of summer and the torrential rain of the monsoons, we have seen in the Buddhist assembly halls and in the Ajanta Caves. A cul- mination of this type is found in the Kailasa Temple at Elura (Ellora), dedi- cated to Shiva, 2 which was carved out of a hillside as a complete unit,

1 E. B. Havell, The Ideals of Indian Art, London, tgu, p. 1 1 2.

  • Mt. Kailasa is the mountain throne of



with gopura, court, mandapam, and shrines; and, withal, lavishly decorated. The carvings are more dramatic than those of the Gupta age, more humanly emotional, suave and elegant. In the Ravana under Mount Kailasa, Shiva and his consort Parvati are seated upon their mountain throne surrounded by attendants. The thousand-armed giant Ravana, who sought, unsuccessfully, to dethrone Shiva, is represented below, in a niche cut back so deeply that the giant stands out forcefully against the dark while the lesser contrasts and suaver lines of the group above indicate the ease with which the god overcomes his foe.

This same dramatic use of light and dark appears in the caves at Elephanta where, however, the Trimurti 1 (Fig. 367A) retains more of the large monumental- ity of the earlier age. Its three heads rise from a single blocklike base and nearly fill the niche, where cavernous darkness brings the massive stone into bold re- lief. The two figures which flank the niche enhance its colossal scale and with their swaying rhythms accentuate its perfect symmetry and imperturbable monumentality. The faces are carved with the austere simplicity of a mask, and the elaborate headdresses and necklaces supply the needed movement and contrasting texture.

The Trimurti might be brought into comparison with the Bodhisattva of Ajanta, both superlative examples in different mediums of the Hindu theory of art as the expression of an inner dominating passion.

Cult statues of Shiva in bronze repre- sent a popular aspect of the god as the Lord of the Dance, or Shiva as Nataraja (Fig. 368A) . Shiva is poised with one foot upon a dwarf. He has four arms. In one hand is a drum, in another is fire.

1 Formerly thought to represent Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, but also interpreted as a trinity of Shiva alone.


[a] The Trimurti {Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva). Colossal size. 8th cent. Cave temple at Elephanta , near Bombay.

A ring of fire rising from the lotus ped- estal surrounds the figure, touching it at the hands with the drum and the fire. The meaning is that when Shiva dances with the drum and the fire, he awakens the powers of nature to the dance; that is, to life. But in turn he destroys these powers with fire and they return to rest. The movement of the dance symbolizes the rhythmic energy of the cosmos, whose purpose is perpetual creation and then destruction, but a destruction that is change, not annihilation, and results in the release or salvation of the soul. In the movement of this dance, we see that an orderly rhythm controls every part of the figure. The body, an S-curve* is poised firmly upon one foot. The other limbs move freely and form an asymmetrical design, composed of cy- lindrical and jagged shapes (the flames, the hands, the headdress), which is an objectification of the ceaseless move-

3 68


[a] Shiva as Nataraja , Lord of the Dance. Bronze. H. 46 in. 14th- 16th cent. Cleveland Mu- seum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio. ( Cleveland Museum of Art)

ment of this vital rhythm . 1 Particularly noticeable is the use of bronze for a subject that is in no way adaptable to stone.

A utilization of stone in its native site is illustrated at Mamallapuram, in the monolithic temples and particu- larly in the gigantic relief carved on a great cliff and representing The Descent of Ganga, or The Birth of the Ganges River (Fig. 369A). 2 Birds, deer, elephants, men and gods, the hermit in his shrine — all are present and all are moving toward the cleft in the cliff where Ganga is descending to bring water to the dying earth. The slender figures above, arranged in irregular zones, create a light rapid rhythm in contrast to the

1 For a detailed description of the statue and of its symbolism, see Coomaraswamy, The Dance of Siva, new ed., Sunwise Turn, 1925.

2 For the story see Frederika Macdonald, The Iliad of the East, Lane, 1908, Chap. HI.

slow ponderosity of the elephants below, where the stone is cut back deeply, as at Elura and Ajanta, to create a deep shadow. The profound love and under- standing of animal life is expressed here in a tempered naturalism which attains an unusual balance between the mate- rial and the content.

A great Hindu expression beyond the confines of India is the work of the Khmers, who, apparently of Indo- Chinese origin, had settled in Cambodia (Fig. 207A), whither came Hindu colo- nists who became the ruling class and developed a high type of civilization from the ninth century to the thirteenth, when they seem to have been annihi- lated by some other race. In the tropical jungles they built their capital city, Angkor, with magnificent temples and palaces of a fine native limestone, cut and laid precisely and carved lavishly (Fig. 370A).


[a] Birth of the Ganges River. Detail of the cliff carving at Mamallapuram. 8 th cent.

The great temple, the Angkor Wat (Fig. 37 1 a), is laid out on a vast scale. It stands as the focal point of a rec- tangular area divided into smaller rec- tangular areas all related to the long axis. The various parts — low build- ings, courts, avenues, and stairways — form a logical progression from the moat-protected outer walls and the outer court to a higher inner court sur- rounded by porticoes and accented by corner towers, and thence to the high- est court. Here the shrine, resting on a lofty platform, lifts its five pagodalike pointed towers to dominate the sur- rounding jungle. The lavish carvings, which in their style seem to show an influence from Java, are subordinate to the architecture and at the same time highly enriching. Low reliefs cover the walls inside the porticoes, animating their surfaces but remaining an in- separable part of the stone masonry.

Figure 370A is a detail representing a battle scene from the Mahabharata. The army is marching through the jungle, whose lacelike foliage carved in

a pattern of very low relief forms a con- trasting background for the vigorous figures in higher relief. The unchanging rhythm of the marching troops is bro- ken by the spirited movement of the horsemen and the elephant; and the delicate carving of the foliage is op- posed by the strong accents of the um- brellas and the animals. The effect of such opposition and interweaving is analogous to that of a musical com- position in which the cellos weave a deep-toned melody through the more delicate tones of the wind instruments. The highly decorative quality results partly from the conventional, linear character of the forms, partly from the shallowness and clear definition of the planes that indicate depth, and partly from the manner in which these planes reflect the light in a pattern of con- trasting broken and unbroken areas.

When the Muhammadans had es- tablished their empire in India, their wealthy rulers, the great Mughals, or Moguls, erected magnificent tombs and mosques, palaces and audience

[a] Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Detail of the carving showing a scene from the Mahabharata. 1 2 th cent. ( Giraudon )


halls, according to certain traditions from the West — a dome over a tomb, the pointed arch, the minaret, the ab- sence of sculpture — fused, as was the wont of the Muslim, with local features.

The highest embodiment of Mughal architecture is the Taj Mahall 1 (Fig. 37 1 b) , a cubical structure surmounted by one large and four small domes, standing upon a high platform with four minarets, and set in the midst of a rich tropical garden. The impres- sion of lightness, delicacy, and grace results from at least four elements: the material, the control of light and dark, the open design, and the setting in a

1 Meaning “Crown of Palaces,” the tomb built by Shah Jehan, one of the great Moguls, for his beautiful and gifted young wife, Mum- taz-i-Mahall, a name that means “Exalted of the Palace,” from which the name of the build- ing is derived. .

larger design of contrasting elements. The material is white marble inlaid with delicate floral designs worked out in precious stones, with inscriptions about the arches, and delicately carved panelings and low relief of floral motifs, all of which produces a subtle modula- tion of surface. Everything tends to a diffused light, with no strong contrasts such as are found when strongly salient cornices and moldings are used. The deep recessing of the portal and the windows provides just enough shadow to set forth clearly the dominant motif of the pointed arch that leads to the pointed lotus dome contracted at the base (contrast Figs. 177A, 259A), which springs from a row of conventionalized lotus petals and terminates in an in- verted lotus. A lightness in design is secured through the large open spaces, subtly proportioned, between the solid




[a] Carved Marble Window. Ahmadabad. 15th cent.

central mass and the minarets, which are tied together by the platform. Though the tomb is itself a complete unit of design, it attains its entire effect only when seen in its setting of tropical foliage and gardens with flanking mosques and gateways of red sand- stone. By means of such contrasts a floating, almost evanescent quality is given the focal point of the entire de- sign — the tomb itself — with the re- sult that its total impression becomes a symbol of the grace and beauty of the queen for whom it was built. It was symbolical rather than representative, since Shah Jehan and the other Mu- ghal rulers, while they were not strict Muhammadans and had adopted much of the Hindu thought and point of view, still had deeply ingrained in their tra- dition the Islamic aversion to repre- senting the human figure, especially in

connection with a tomb or a mosque. Furthermore, to Muslim and Hindu alike the highest kind of expression em- ployed the symbol, with its emphasis upon inner significance, rather than that representation which aims to copy outward appearance.

In the interior of the Taj, which is of the same materials and workmanship as the exterior, a mellow light filters through carved marble windows upon the cenotaphs of Mumtaz-i-Mahall and Shah Jehan , 1 which stand beneath the dome surrounded by a screen of marble carved into a lacelike design and bor- dered with floral inlays.

The marble window, which played an important part in Hindu build-

1 Shah Jehan’s plan for his own tomb to be built on the other side of the river and connected with the Taj by a bridge was never carried out because of disasters in the latter part of his reign.


[a] Krishna Quelling the Serpent Kaliya. Rajput. 18th cent . Coomaraswamy Collection , Boston. ( A . K. Coomaraswamy)

ing, was made by carving a slab of Muhammadans had conquered large marble until it was perforated by parts of the country and established the tracery, sometimes with geometric and Mughal Empire, bringing with them sometimes with naturalistic motifs (Fig. strong influences of the art of the West. 372 a) of infinite variety. The paintings fall into two classes:

Rajput and Mughal.

r , The Rajput, so called because it was

PAJ.JN 1 !JNu practiced chiefly in the Rajput domain,

After the time of the Ajanta Frescoes , particularly in the Himalaya valleys

Buddhist in theme, a great gap occurs beyond the reach of the Muhammadan

in the history of painting in India, ex- power, was a purely indigenous art and

cept for traces of the tradition in Tur- seems to continue the traditions of the

kestan and Tibet, where the art was Ajanta Frescoes, though in it we find a

practiced as it spread along the great wider expression: themes from secular

highways toward China in the early life, often romantic, stories from the

centuries of the Christian era. It is not heroic days of the Mahabharata and

until about 1550 that we again find Ramayana, and illustrations from the

examples of Indian painting. In the lives of the gods, particularly Vishnu,

meantime important events had taken Another difference between these paint-

place. Buddhism had been absorbed by ings and those at Ajanta is that they

Brahmanism and the cults of Vishnu are small, though their largeness of de-

and Shiva had been developing. The sign may well suggest lineal descent



[a] Necklace Pendant. Polished stones set in gold, (A. K. Coomaraswamy )

from the great Buddhist frescoes. Krishna Quelling Kaliya, a poisonous serpent (Fig. 3.73A), is a typical example. Krishna, one of the numerous incarna- tions of Vishnu, stands holding the body of the serpent easily, through his godlike power, pressing upon it with his foot. On each side are grouped the wives of the serpent, half human, half reptile, tenderly grieving for him and pleading with Krishna to spare him; on the bank Krishna’s family and the cowherds are frantically rushing to the edge of the pool; in the background herds are peacefully grazing. The color is clear and intense; the color areas meet sharply, and thus accentuate the linear character of the design, which consists of two asymmetrically balanced groups. In the Krishna group the god himself, framed by the serpent, forms the center of interest, with the wives arranged symmetrically on either side, each expressing by pose and gesture her tender love or earnest pleading. At the same time each figure, especially the long sweeping curve of the reptilian form, plays its part in a composition of repeated lines and shapes set over against the conventionalized waves of

the pool. By repetition of color areas and shapes, unity is established be- tween the two groups and the two areas, sharply divided though they are by a great curving edge . 1

The second group, the Mughal or Mogul, is less Indian than the other. When the Mughals came to India, they brought with them painters who had been trained in the Persian school, and their art, combining with the native Hindu elements, formed the foundation of Mughal painting. But while Rajput painting was lyrical and religious, hav- ing its roots deep in the soil of native traditions, Mughal painting was secu- lar. It was a miniature art chiefly. Its interest lay primarily in the picturesque aspect of human life, chiefly that of the palace; for it flourished under the patronage of the Mughal rulers and nobles, and aimed to give a vivid pic- ture of court scenes and persons, hunts and night scenes, animals and flowers.


The Hindu craftsman was an im- portant member of Indian society and was provided for economically by the system of that society. The monastery had its guilds of painters, sculptors, and metalworkers to decorate its buildings, and perhaps sent them on to another monastery when its own work was done. The noble had, as part of his household,

1 Reproduced in color in the Burlington Maga- zine, Vol, XX (19x1-12), p. 315. For the story see Sister Nivedita (M. E. Noble) and A. K. Coomaraswamy, Myths op the Hindus and Bud- dhists, p. 226. An interesting aspect of Rajput painting is its relation to music. Many examples display a deep feeling of tenderness, and are of a lyrical mood that evokes the same emotion as music. Thus they are known as ragas, or raginis, that is, a melody or a musical theme. On this see A. K. Coomaraswamy, Rajput Painting, 2 vols., Oxford University Press, 1916, or his The Arts & Crafts of India & Ceylon, Lon- don, 1913.


[a] Ceremonial Dipper. Silver and ivory. L. 18 in. Victoria and Albert Museum, London. [Victoria and Albert Museum)

his goldsmith to make the jewelry and plate for his family. The boy inherited his father’s calling and belonged to the guild, which was under the protection of the king. 1

Among the metalworkers the gold- smith was of great importance, for jewelry played a considerable part in Indian costume, both for men and for women. 2 It was used not only for per- sonal adornment but for the trappings of state elephants and for palace hang- ings. Girdle chains originated in the old Hindu custom of decking the body with garlands of flowers and seeds. In order to keep the chain light in weight, the beads were made hollow and in filigree. Like the Greek, the Indian recognized the value of gold and silver as a medium for expression in itself without the addition of jewels. When he used gems, he did not facet them but only smoothed them off, thus obtaining a deep and glowing rather than a flashing effect. A special use of gems was made by inlay. Tiny pieces of ruby, sapphire, emerald, or topaz were em- bedded in a thin gold plate, producing

1 On this situation see A. K. Coomaraswamy, The Indian Craftsman, London, 1909, and Medieval Sinhalese Art, Broad Campden, 1908.

2 See Coomaraswamy, The Arts and Crafts of India and Ceylon p. 1 51, for a description of the costume of the maids of honor of an Indian

the effect of enamel. In this the In- dian revealed his skill in massing color harmonies, and out of almost valueless bits created an unsurpassed piece of rich decoration. The pendant to the chain in Figure 3 74 a is an example of this. The general shape is suggested by a bird with outspread wings. There is no thought of giving a realistic repre- sentation of the bird form; the aim is to use only the essential elements to ob- tain decorative beauty. “To wear a real bird . . . would be barbarous; to imitate a real bird very closely . . . would be idle; but all that is beautiful in the general idea of a bird, colour, form, and poise, can be suggested.” 3

Further evidence of the Indian love of ornament we see in the wood and ivory carvings. The sacrificial dipper (Fig. 375A), for example, is an elaborate design of curves. One great sweeping curve forms the structural line of the handle; but it is varied and emphasized by minor curves, swirling now this way and now that but entirely subordinated to the main line of direction. The bowl of the dipper shows the skill of the silver- smith, for the rich design is superbly executed. The union of the two parts, however, is not successfully accom- plished by the curious, elaborately be-

3 Coomaraswamy, Medieval Sinhalese Art ,

37 6


[a] Embroidered Muslin. Collection of Leslie de Saram , Colombo . {A. K. Coomara- swamy)

jeweled little figure that distracts and weakens the construction at that point.

One of the most important crafts of India has always been weaving, and the chief material, cotton. The muslins from Dacca are so sheer that they have received poetic names such as “running water” or “evening dew,” the latter because the fabric is so delicate that if laid on wet grass it is scarcely visible. When these delicate muslins are em- broidered they have the effect of ex- quisite lace (Fig. 376 a ). Cotton textiles served not only for garments and tur- bans but also for hangings, bedspreads, and other furnishings. From their na- tive names are derived many of our own words for cotton fabrics, such as chintz and bandanna , For decorating these cottons, several processes were employed, chiefly printing and paint- ing. In one, cotton was first sized with buffalo milk to keep the color from run- ning. The design was drawn on paper and punched on the prepared cloth.

Some of the colors were painted in by hand; others, especially the blue, were dyed so that the color would be more permanent. To do this, all the parts except those to be colored blue were covered with wax, and the entire piece put into the dye pot. After the material was taken from the pot, the wax was re- moved with boiling water, and succes- sive colors were added with paint or dye. In a repeat pattern, wood-block stamps were sometimes used. The colors of the old Indian cottons are very lasting, and their soft tones of rose, blue, and blue-green have been acquired through time and frequent washing.

Many of the woven fabrics were made of silk interwoven or brocaded with gold. The beauty of their designs arises from the same attitude toward natural appearance as that seen in the jewelry: the ability to see in the bird or the ani- mal form a pattern suitable for the weaving technique.

One other kind of textile needs men- tion, the Cashmere. The weavers of Cashmere, well up in the Himalayas in northern India, used goat’s wool for their shawls, weaving them on small looms in long strips, which they sewed together so skillfully that the seaming is scarcely perceptible. The charac- teristic motif is the pine pattern, prob- ably originating in the cypress tree of Persian art, while the ground or bor- der is filled with small floral designs. The beauty of color and design in these shawls is equaled by the supreme skill shown in the weaving.


Hindu art from the earliest times to the recent decadence of India has been chiefly a religious art, strictly obedient to accepted canons of technique and representation. An exception was the stronger secular element brought by the Muslim. Thus it does not surprise


one to find the same ideology and atti- tudes toward form in Hindu art in both ancient and medieval times. Though Buddhism was submerged in a renas- cence of Brahmanism, temple-building continued on a great scale: towering stone temples, as well as cave temples of Vishnu and Shiva, lavishly decorated both inside and outside with sculptural ornament which was an integral part of the structure both as ornament and as subject matter: scenes from the lives of Vishnu and Shiva and from the Maha- bharata and the Ramayana.

Painting also, in the tradition of the Ajanta Frescoes , but small in scale (illus- trated by Rajput painting), represented both Brahmanical and secular themes, in a form constructed chiefly of line and brightly colored areas. The coming of the Muslim brought Islamic elements which, mingling with Hindu, culmi- nated in the Taj Mahall in architecture and in the paintings of court life which are definitely influenced by Persian painting. Through all Hindu and Mu- hammadan-Hindu art runs the thread of skilled craftsmanship — in the metal- work seen in sumptuous jewelry; in fine weavings in silk, cotton, and brocaded fabrics for garments and furnishings; in wood-carvings and ivory-carvings for ritual as well as household use.


Baker, George, Calico Painting and Printing in the East Indies in the XVIIth and XVIIIth Cen- turies, London, 1921

Bezemer, Tammo, J., Indonesian Arts and Crafts , The Hague, 1931

Bhagavad-gita, tr. by A. W. Ryder, University of Chicago Press, 1929

Bhagavad-gita, tr. by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, Marcell Rodd Company, 1944

Binyon, Laurence, The Court Painters of the Grand Moguls, Oxford University Press, 1921

Birdwood, Sir George Christopher Molesworth, The Industrial Arts of India, 2 vols., London, 1880

Brown, Percy, Indian Painting, 2d ed., Oxford University Press, 1929

— ■ — — — — Indian Painting under the Mughals, A.D. r 55 o to A.D. ijgo, Oxford University Press, 1924

Burlingame, Eugene W., tr., Buddhist Parables, Yale University Press, 1922 Cohn, William, Indische Plastik, Berlin, 1923 Coomaraswamy, Ananda Kentish, The Arts & Crafts of India & Ceylon, London, 1913

— — — Buddha and the Gospel of Buddhism,

Putnam, 1916

— The Dance of Siva, with preface by

Romain Rolland, Sunwise Turn, 1925

— History of Indian and Indonesian Art,

Weyhe, 1927

— : The Indian Craftsman, London,


— 7 — Medieval Sinhalese Art » Broad

Campden, England, 1 908

— — — Rajput Painting, 2 vols., Oxford

University Press, 1916

• The Transformation of Nature in

Art, Harvard University Press, 1934 Gumming, Sir John Chest, ed., Revealing India's Past, London, 1939

Fischer, Otto, Die Kunst Indiens, Chinas und Japans, Berlin, 1928

Frazer, Robert W., Indian Thought Past and Present, Stokes, 1916

Giles, Herbert A., tr., The Travels of Fa-hsien {399-414 A.D.); or, Record of the Buddhistic Kingdoms, Cambridge University Press,


Grousset, Rene, The Civilizations of the East, tr. by C. A. Phillips, 4 vols., Knopf, 1931-34: Vols. I-II

Grunwedel, Albert, Buddhist Art in India, tr. by A. G. Gibson, London, 1901 Havell, Ernest B., The Ancient and Medieval Architecture of India, Scribner, 1915

— — — — - A Handbook of Indian Art, Dutton,


— — — The Ideals of Indian Art, new ed.,

Dutton, 1921

— — — — — — - Indian Sculpture and Painting, 2d

ed. rev., London, 1928

India Society, Ajanta Frescoes, Oxford Uni- versity Press, 1915

Jataka Tales, ed. by H. T. Francis and E. J. Thomas, Putnam, 1916

Ktlidasa, Translations of Shakunlala, and Other Works, by A. W. Ryder, Dutton (Every- man’s library), 1913

Kramrisch, Stella, Indian Sculpture, Oxford Uni- ■ versity Press, 1933

Lin Yutang, The Wisdom of China and India, Random House, 1942

Macdonald, Frederika Richardson, The Iliad of the East, new ed., Lane, 1908



Mackay, Ernest J. H., Further Excavations at Mohenjo-daro, 2 vols., London, 1938

— — The Indus Civilization, London,


Marshall, Sir John Hubert and others, Bagh Caves, London, 1927

Mohenjo-daro and the Indus Civiliza- tion, London, 1931

— — and Foucher, Alfred, The Monu-

ments of Sancki, 3 vols., London, 1940

Monier-Williams, Sir Monier, Indian Wisdom , 4th ed. enl,, London, 1893

Mukul Chandra Dey, My Pilgrimages to Ajanta and Bagh, Doran, 1925

Mulk Raj Anand, The Hindu View of Art, Lon- don, 1933

Nivedita, Sister (M. E. Noble), and Coomara- swamy, A. K., Myths of the Hindus & Bud- dhists, Holt, 1914

Oman, John C., The Great Indian Epics: The Stories of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, London, 1899

Rowland, Benjamin, and Coomaraswamy, A. K., The Wall-Paintings of India, Central Asia & Ceylon, Merrymount Press, 1938 Smith, Vincent A., A History of Fine Art in India and Ceylon, 2d ed. rev. by K. de B. Codring- ton, Oxford University Press, 1930

  • The Oxford History of India, 2d. ed.

rev. and enl. by S. M, Edwardes, Oxford University Press, 1928 With, Karl, Java, Hagen, Germany, 1920 Yazdani, Ghulam, Ajanta, 2 vols. in 4 pts., Pts. 1-2 Oxford University Press, 1930-93 Zimmer, Heinrich, Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization, (Bollingen Series VI) Pantheon Books, 1 946

See also General Bibliography, pages 791-92.



(A.D. 960 TO DATE)

T HE plateau of Iran formed a bridge between the West and the Far East, over which, in early times, the technique of metalwork and later of tiles and enamels passed eastward to China, while Chinese silks and various decorative motifs moved westward and on into Europe, especially with the spread of the Mongol conquests.

To medieval Europe, still chaotic and generally poor, there were coming, by sea as well as by land, the products of the East, together with tales of fabu- lous wealth and luxuries, enough to stimulate a few intrepid travelers to attempt to reach these fabulous lands. The most famous of these was Marco Polo, the Venetian, who eventually made his way to China, where he visited the palace of the Khan in Cathay

(Peking), and the city of Hangchow. Though Jenghiz Khan overthrew the Sung dynasty, his son Kublai Khan fostered the continuity of its culture. This civilization, called the second Golden Age of China, was an age of peace and introspective contemplation; of pursuing the arts of peace; of refusing to realize the growing menace of the Tatar hordes in the north. When these Mongols began their conquests, the Sung moved south, established their capital at Hangchow, and continued their peaceful course until the dynasty was overthrown by Jenghiz Kahn in 1280.

The three-hundred-year span of the Sung dynasty produced an age of great refinement, one of exquisite painting, poetry, and porcelain. Its capital at


Hangchow was one of the most civilized cities in the world in the twelfth cen- tury. This age, in one aspect, is analo- gous to the Renaissance in Europe in that both ages produced great states- men, philosophers, poets, art critics, painters. Like the Renaissance, the Sung dynasty found its ideal in earlier periods, as we see in the deep study that the commentators made of the canoni- cal books of Confucius, and in the Chou motifs that we find on the slender, typi- cally Sung-shaped bronzes. In this pe- riod, philosophy, poetry, and painting together produced the finest of the Chi- nese landscape paintings.

An important source of inspiration of this art was Zen Buddhism. Zen, mean- ing “meditation in supreme repose,” was brought to China by an Indian prince in the sixth century, and since many of its ideas were close in spirit to those of the Taoists, took deep root, especially in South China. “Their [Zen Buddhists’] training was centered on the methods of that self-control which is the essence of true freedom. Deluded human minds groped in dark- ness, because they mistook the attribute for the substance. Even religious teach- ings were misleading, in so far as they set up semblances for realities. This thought was often illustrated by the simile of monkeys attempting to seize the reflection of the moon in water; for each effort to snatch at the silvery image could but ruffle the mirroring surface, and end in destroying not only the phantom moon but also themselves. ...Freedom, once attained, left all men to revel and glory in the beauties of the whole universe. They were then one with nature, whose pulse they felt beating simultaneously within them- selves, whose breath they felt themselves inhaling and exhaling in union with the great world-spirit.” 1

1 Kakuzo Okakura, Ideals of the East , Dutton, 1921, p, 162, by permission of the publishers.

“The fundamental principle of . . . Zen Buddhism may be summed up in the expression that the Universe is the scripture of Zen. . , . Actual scripture is worthless in the letter, and only valu- able for that to which it leads; and to that goal there are other guides than the written page or spoken word. It is related, for example, of the sage Huen Sha that he was one day prepared to deliver a sermon to an assembled con- gregation, and was on the point of be- ginning, when a bird was heard to sing very sweetly close by; Huen Sha de- scended from his pulpit with the remark that the sermon had been preached. . . .

“It is the very heart of ‘culture’ and religion to recognize the eternal, not as obscured but as revealed by the tran- sient, to see infinity in the grain of sand, the same unborn in every birth, and the same undying in every death. These thoughts find constant expression in the poetry and art inspired by Zen thought. The Morning Glory, for example, fad- ing in an hour, is a favorite theme of the Japanese poet and painter. What are we to understand by the poem of Mat- sunaga Teitoku?

“ ‘The morning glory blooms but an hour, and yet it differs not at heart

From the giant pine that lives for a thousand years.’

“It is the same with the pine as with the morning glory, but as the life of the latter is shorter, it illustrates the prin- ciple in a more striking way. The giant pine does not ponder on its thousand years, nor the morning glory on its life of a single day. Each does simply what it must. Certainly the fate of the morn- ing glory is other than that of the pine, yet their destiny is alike in this, that they fulfil the will of Providence, and are content.” 2

2 Coomaraswamy, Buddha and the Gospel of Buddhism, Putnam, 1916, pp. 254 ff., by per- mission of G. P. Putnam’s Sons.



[ a ] Tung Tuan. Landscape. Sung Dynasty , late 10th


In content and in spirit, Sung paint- ing is largely an expression of Zen Buddhism. The painters were motivated by their great love of nature, by their belief in the universal brotherhood of all forms of life, in which man is not the apogee but merely one of countless equally important animate beings. “Wherein lies the reason that good men so much love landscape?” asks Kuo Hsi, born about 1020 a . d . “It is be- cause amid orchards and hills a man has ever room to cultivate his natural bent; because streams and rocks never fail to charm the rambler who goes whistling on his way. It is because fish- ing and wood-gathering are the natural vocations of the hermit or recluse, hard by where the flying birds and chatter- ing apes have made their home. Noise and dust, bridles and chains — these are what man’s nature is ever weary of. Haze and mist, saints and fairies -- for these man’s nature pines eternally, and pines in vain. ” 1 Thus the Chinese

1 Quoted in Arthur Waley, An Introduction to the Study of Chinese Painting, 1923, p. 189, used by permission of Charles Scribner’s Sons.

reached the concept of landscape as suitable subject matter for painting hundreds of years before the Euro- peans, with their strongly humanistic attitude, began to realize its value for its own sake. The Chinese word for “landscape” means “mountains and rivers.” This is not surprising to anyone who has looked over a considerable number of Chinese paintings. Upon close inspection, however, he realizes that the forms of the mountains and the waters are highly conventional. For the Chinese had evolved certain formu- las based upon intimate knowledge and keenly realistic observation of nature, distilled until the result is an abstract convention.

For example, there were sixteen ways of drawing mountains, differing accord- ing to the geological formation, the flora, and the season — the sixteen “mountain wrinkles,” the Chinese called them. The names of a few of them — “wrinkled like hemp fibers,” “wrinkled like tangled hemp fibers,” “wrinkled like confused brushwood,” “wrinkled like a thunderhead,” “wrin- kled like eddying water, ” £ ‘wrinkled like horses’ teeth” — reveal a keen observa-



cent. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. ( Boston Museum)

tion of nature and also a direct, sug- gestive method of expressing the idea. Likewise there were laws governing the painting of water. “In regard to painting moving waters, whether deep or shallow, in rivers or brooks, bays or oceans, Chinanpin [a Chinese teacher] declared it was impossible for the eye to seize their exact forms because they are ever changing and have no fixed definite shape, therefore they can not be sketched satisfactorily; yet, as mov- ing water must be represented in paint- ing, it should be long and minutely contemplated by the artist, and its general character — whether leaping in the brook, flowing in the river, roaring in the cataract, surging in the ocean or lapping the shore — observed and re- flected upon, and after the eye and memory are both sufficiently trained and the very soul of the artist is satu- rated, as it were, with this one subject and he feels his whole being calm and Composed, he should retire to the pri- vacy of his studio and with the early morning sun to gladden his spirit there attempt to reproduce the movement of the flow; not by copying what he has seen . . . but by symbolizing according

to certain laws what he feels and re- members .” 1

This discussion is valuable not only because it gives one an insight into the conventions that governed the painters, but also because it explains something of Chinese methods of working. Funda- mentally, the method consisted of long contemplation — that is, mental and visual preparation — • followed by rapid execution as a result of highly trained technical skill and the indelible nature of ink painting. The great Wu Tao-tzu, a well-known story says, was ordered by the emperor to paint for him one of his favorite scenes of river and moun- tain landscape. Thither the painter went. When he returned and was asked for his sketches, he replied, “I have it all in my heart,” and then, in a single day, he threw off a hundred miles of landscape.

Technical training required com- plete control of brush strokes, which are the elemental and visual means of

1 H. P, Bowie, On the Laws of Japanese Paint- ing , Elder, 1911, p. 61, by permission of the publishers. For Illustrations of these conventions see Benjamin March, Some Technical Terms of Chinese Painting, Waverly Press, 1935.



[a] Ma Yuan. Bare Willows and, Distant Mountains. Sung Dy- nasty , 13th cent. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (. Boston Museum )

expression. Each stroke has its character and vitality, and each is an embodi- ment of that which the creative mind and spirit are trying to objectify. “Brush strokes . . . indicate the move- ment of the mind, its direction, its speed, its duration, its strength. . . . Expression in a picture, as in writing, is the result of the action of the mind travelling through the brush. . . . Per- fect control of the brush coupled with fine thought makes a picture worthy.” 1

A scroll (Fig. 38 oA)will illustrate these matters. Here is a typical landscape of mountains, rivers, and illimitable dis- tance. As you slowly unroll the painting, there is spread out before you a pano- rama of great spaciousness, strongly characteristic of the bold mountainous country of China: a foreground of sparsely wooded country traversed by streams, with a pavilion and a few fisher-

1 Kojiro Tomita, “Brush Strokes in Far Eastern Painting,” Eastern Art. Vol. Ill (1931), pp. 29 ff. ,

men casting their lines where the land juts out into the sea. Behind, rise majestic mountains, rocky, partly wooded, with intermittent valleys filled with mist, and in the highest, a pagoda, in the distance, another range of mountains. What per- haps impresses us first is the bold rhythm in the upward thrust of the massive mountains, which slows down as the land tapers off into the quiet water and then is repeated by the dis- tant range. Notice how these rhythms are interwoven like the contrasting themes in music, each evoking in the spectator a changing mood. This com- parison between Chinese landscape painting and music Dr. Laufer ex- pressed when he said: “We shall better appreciate Chinese painting, if we try to conceive it as having no analogy with our painting, but as being akin to our music. Indeed, the psychological difference of Chinese painting from our own mainly rests on the basis that the Chinese handle painting, not as we


handle painting, but as we handle music, for the purpose of lending color to and evoking the whole range of sen- timents and emotions of humanity. In depth of thought and feeling, the great Tang masters, in their symphonic com- positions, vie with Beethoven, and in line and color almost reach Mozart’s eternal grace and beauty.” 1 Looking at the scroll in detail, we see that the rocks and the various kinds of trees are all painted according to the Chi- nese pictorial language of brush strokes, and that distance is suggested by gra- dations in tone.

Highly expressive of the quintessence of mood, and also of skill in the use of space and asymmetrical balance, are the album leaves and the small paint- ings of birds and flowers, which are ex- quisite as expressions of nature and as compositional masterpieces. In Figure 382A, against open space and mountains soaring above the mist rise two willow trees, whose branches sweep over a foot bridge that leads across a quiet water to buildings in a wood at the foot of the mountain; at the extreme right, a trav- eler approaches the bridge. “The im- portant thing about willows is that their branches hang down, for if they did not hang down, they would not be willows. It is important that the branches be long, for otherwise they cannot sway gracefully in the wind. What then would be the use of their hanging down? This tree is a place where the cicadas love to rest, as well as the birds. It is to the credit of this tree that we often hear music in the air and do not feel lonely in summer.” 2

Here again the rhythm of nature and the meaning of nature are distilled into a quintessence and objectified picto-

1 Berthold Laufer, “A Landscape of Wang Wei,’’ Ostasiatische Zeitschnft, 1912, p. 54.

2 Lin Yutang, My Country and My People. John Day, 1939, p. 326, quoting a Chinese writer of the seventeenth century.

[a] Ting Porcelain Bowl. D. in. Sung Dynasty. Art Institute of Chicago: ( Art In- stitute) The carved decoration shows two ducks swimming in a lotus pond.

rially by brush strokes which, deli- cate in the willow, sweep downward in graceful curves toward the more force- ful angular strokes in the lower branches and the gnarled trunk, and suggest the living quality in all parts of the tree. In the mountains, the strokes and broad washes suggest their massive solidity. Thus two dominant contrasting rhythms interweave, and as they inter- weave they incorporate minor rhythm, as in the trees and shrubs. Composi- tionally, the painting is a design of light and dark and line — predomi- nantly curved lines, stabilized by verti- cals in the willows and horizontals in the bridge and the low-lying part of the landscape. The mass of mountains is balanced by space, and both are skillfully tied together by the willow. Such a masterly use of space as an ele- ment of design is one of the contribu- tions of the Chinese painters. Though we may see the painting as flat pattern, it actually suggests great depth. By means of line, but primarily by grada- tion of tone, the eye is carried from the foreground willow diagonally in to the



buildings and the nearer woods; then to the farther woods and, after an up- ward leap to the crest of the nearer mountains, to the far-distant peaks.

Such paintings are as evocative of mood as Chinese poems:

“On Lady’s Table Mountain-top spring snows melt;

By the roadside apricot-flowers bud on tender twigs.

My heart is ready; I long to go. Yet when shall the day be?

Sadly I watch the homeward coach roll over the field-bridge.”

— Yang E-Shih {about 800 , writ- ten when detained in the city)

“From the thick bamboos the last rain- drops drip;

On the high hill-top lingers the eve- ning light.”

— Hsia-Hou Shen {8th century, 2nd half ) 1

This purpose on the part of the Chi- nese painters to emphasize the vital essence of things rather than their ex- ternal appearance is particularly true of the paintings of flowers and birds. Probably no other people have felt so deeply and so sympathetically as the Buddhists the unity and harmony of all animate life. The Zen Buddhists in particular arrived at an expression of this significance that is amazing in its intimate knowledge of form, its sim- plicity and subtlety. It is interesting to note that these lovers of nature did not personify its forms. The mountain, the bird, or the flower is an entity with its own attributes as individual, as ma- jestic, or as delicately graceful as human life, and as important a member of the universe as man. Hence it was not necessary to visualize it in terms of man. Technically, these paintings of the Zen Buddhists are astonishing. Color

1 Waley, op. tit., pp. 193-94, by permission of Charles Scribner’s Sons.

was usually abandoned and ink only used, applied with a few quick but amazingly vital strokes. Rarely has the world seen an expression so ephemeral, and at the same time so quivering with life, accomplished with such a minimum of means.


Sung porcelain reflects the same spirit as Sung painting — an exquisite- ness, a quiet elegance, reflecting a highly refined taste. True porcelain was made in the T'ang dynasty, when we hear of cups used as musical instru- ments because of their resonancy. Famous wares were made for the royal and princely families, with experiments in glazing at the requirement of the emperor to the end that the fabric be as “blue as the sky, as clear as a mirror, as thin as paper, and as resonant as a musical stone of jade.” Judging from the extraordinary praise with which Chinese writers describe this ware, this imperial order must have been well met. No example of it is extant so far as we know. It evidently served as a challenge to the Sung potters, as we discern some of these qualities in the wares of that period.

In the Sung dynasty porcelain reached a climax. Though some of the fabrics were functional — bowls, flower- pots, teapots, and tea bowls — many were fashioned to be enjoyed simply for their intrinsic beauty of form. Every Chinese gentleman owned a few pieces which, together with his paintings and bronzes, constituted the family heir- looms. According to Sung taste, these fabrics were of a subtly simple shape with a monochrome glaze. Many were small in size. Attention focused on pro- portions and relationship of parts; on turning to a meticulous finish and often to an eggshell thinness; and on the se- lection of just the right color of glaze to



set off the shape. One of the most deli- cate wares was the Ting (Fig. 383 a). Ting bowls are thin, often translucent, covered with white glaze of subtly vari- ous tints, such as cream or the palest blue; and sometimes decorated with an almost imperceptibly incised or relief pattern. Very different is the stout Chun ware (Fig. 385 a), a porcellaneous stone- ware with thick walls and covered with a thick glaze richly colored in purplish hues varying from deep-red to pale- blue. Much of the Chun ware consisted of flowerpots frequently used in the gar- den — hence the need of a stout fabric. One of the wares best known in the West was the celadon, 1 glazed in a soft green color that the Chinese likens to young onion sprouts. In the color, and in the smooth texture of the glaze, the celadons are not unlike jade and may have orig- inated in an attempt to reproduce the more valuable stone in a less expensive medium. If a person wanted to compli- ment a potter highly upon his vase, he would tell him that it looked like jade. In a typical Celadon (Art Institute of Chi- cago) there is quiet elegance and re- fined taste. It has a sturdy strength because of the careful proportioning of the parts, especially of the finely curved lip and the slightly spreading base. From this rise conventionalized lance- olate leaf forms, the severity of which emphasizes the easy grace of the peony scroll on the body; on the neck a taper- ing peony pattern meets a broad band of concentrated ridges. This decoration is all in low relief and everywhere plays into the structural lines of the vase. It is covered by a soft green glaze, which, though uniform in hue, is lighter on

1 Celadon, meaning “sea-green,” was origi- nally the name of a shepherd in a seventeenth- century French novel. In the plays of that period the shepherds usually wore sea-green costumes, and the name was applied to the color and then to the Chinese ceramics of this color, which were then coming to the notice of Europeans. The term is European, not Chinese.

[a] Chun Flower Pot. H. 8 in. Grey green to purplish blue. Sung Dynasty. Art Institute of Chicago. ( Art Institute)

the parts in relief and darker where it has collected in the hollows, producing a quietly vibrating harmony.

After the Mongol conquest, a return to a native dynasty, the Ming, stimu- lated a revival of the arts, with par- ticular emphasis on color. Hence in pottery, while the Sung monochromes continued to be made in a white ware, the trend was toward polychrome fabrics made at the imperial kilns, where the potters reached a zenith of technical skill in the difficult problem of keeping the areas of color cleanly separated. Large jars of sturdy proportions were popular, and the colors were kept from running into each other either by in- cising the design so that any superfluous glaze would be held in the furrows, or by running a tiny ridge of clay around the color areas to form a cell (as in cioisonnd enamels) to hold the glaze.


The Golden Age of the T c ang dy- nasty, with its dignity and dynamic energy, bequeathed to the Sung dy- nasty conventions and techniques which the Sung artists carried to great refine-



merit. In this dynasty China again reached a Golden Age, and was one of the loftiest civilizations in the world in the twelfth century. Sung China was the Cathay visited by Marco Polo, whose accounts of his travels acceler- ated contacts between a still chaotic, rugged Europe and the refined, lux- urious, cultured East. In the allied fields of calligraphy, poetry, and paint- ing, and in that of ceramics, Sung art attained its climax. Mountain and wa- ter landscapes, sympathetic interpreta- tions of nature, painted according to the old conventions with the utmost skill in Chinese ink on silk and paper; exquisite bird and flower paintings executed with a few highly skilled strokes of the brush — these perhaps represent the climax, though figure work and portraits are not lacking. Porcelain reached its pinnacle both technically and esthetically in the subtly simple Sung fabrics, which re- lied for their effects on shape, propor- tion, and one-color glaze alone. In the following Ming dynasty these mono- chrome porcelains gave way to poly- chrome wares, which, despite their display of technical skill, fell short of the exquisite refinement of the Sung porcelain.


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Kummell, Otto, Die Kunst Ostasiens, 2d ed., Berlin, 1922

Kuo Hsi, An Essay on Landscape Painting, tr. by Shio Sakanishi, Dutton, 1936 Laufer, Berthold, Jade, Chicago Natural His- tory Museum, 1912

Lin Yutang, ed., The Wisdom of China and India, Random House, 1942

March, Benjamin, Some Technical Terms of Chinese Painting, Waverly Press, 1935 Metropolitan Museum of Art, The China Trade and Its Influences (pamphlet), Museum, New York City, 1941

Museum Of Fine Arts, Boston, Portfolio of Chinese Paintings in the Museum, text by Kqjiro Tomita, Harvard University Press, 1933 Okakura, Kakuzo, The Ideals of the East, Dutton, 1921

Petrucci, Raphael, Chinese Painters, tr. by Frances Seaver, Brentano, 1920

Silcock, Arnold, Introduction to Chinese Art, Oxford University Press, 1935

Sir&i, Osvald, The Chinese on the Art of Painting, Peiping, 1936

— - — — Chinese Paintings in American Collec- tions, Paris and Brussels, 1928

— • — ; — Chinese Sculpture from the Fifth to tht

Fourteenth Century , 4 vols., Scribner, 1925


Siren, Osvald, A History of Early Chinese Art , 4 vols., London, 1929-30

- — A History of Early Chinese Painting,

2 vols., London, 1933

Taki, Sei-ichi, Three Essays on Oriental Painting, London, 1910

Waley, Arthur, An Introduction to the Study of Chinese Painting, Scribner, 1923


tr., A Hundred and Seventy Chinest Poems, Knopf, 1919

— Zen Buddhism, London, 1922

Warner, Langdon, Buddhist Wall Paintings, Har- vard University Press, 1938 Yetts, Walter P., Symbolism in Chinese Art, Ley- den, 1912

See also General Bibliography, pages 791-92.




T HE influences from Korea, China, and even from India and Iran, had been assimilated when the Fuji- wara family rose to power as the head of an aristocratic Oligarchy centralized at Kyoto. 1 In the Tale of Genji by Mu- rasaki, a gifted writer of the period, one reads of an exquisitely refined society, of a sophisticated etiquette, of con- versing in improvised poetry; of music and festivals and buildings, gardens, paintings, and costumes — * all in a style consistent with the ideals of the period.

With the Kamakura and Ashikaga eras two new elements entered to re- shape this art, one militaristic and one religious. The barons had been usurp- ing the political power of the emperor, and were setting up a military feudal- ism, when early in the thirteenth cen- tury they vanquished the Mongol hordes of Kublai Khan by the help, legend says, of their sun goddess, The shoguns, their commanders in chief, be- came military regents and established a complex feudal system, which under the

1 The periods of later Japanese art are: Fuji* wara, 900-1 190; Kamakura, 1190-1383; Ashi- kaga, 1383-1603; Tokugawa, 1603-1868.

Tokugawas became a tyrannical autoc- racy. The astute statesman Iyeyasu, founder of the line, and his followers strengthened their own power by cre- ating a new nobility of daimios (landed barons) and samurai (military barons), who were loyal because they were under obligation to the shogun for their ex- istence. The Tokugawas also consoli- dated and increased the power of the people, and granted religious toleration. Partly through an appeal to patriotism and partly because of the Mongol and the Muslim power in China, the Toku- gawas cut off relationship with the rest of the world and established that policy of isolation which continued until the downfall of the shogunate in 1868. The religious element which caused a change in art expression con- sisted of another wave of influence from China, in the form of Zen Buddhism, with its revolt from ritual and its em- phasis upon contemplation, through which one attained insight into the essence of the universe and recognized in transient effects and in every seem- ingly insignificant manifestation of nature the underlying ultimate reality.




Characteristic buildings were pal- aces for the nobility and Buddhist mon- asteries. The Howodo, or Phoenix Hall — which is the kondo of Byodo-in , one of the few Fujiwara monasteries extant — represents both, as it was originally a residence and was later converted into a monastery. As a residence, it faced south and overlooked a garden pond. Even a humble Japanese home with- out a garden is unthinkable. One is immediately struck by the beauty of the site of the Howodo, and by the feel- ing of unity between the building and its environment. The heaviness and the somber massiveness of the Chinese model have given way to lightness and delicacy; the roofs have become lower and less dominating; there is a quiet grace throughout and an exquisite curve of line. The structure consists of a central hall, the highest part, and two projecting pavilions connected with the hall by open corridors; another corri- dor runs back of the hall at right angles to it. This plan suggests a phoenix with outstretched wings, symbolic of the paradise of Amida Buddha. Hence the name.

Though the building is long and low, it conveys no suggestion of monotony. On the contrary, it is filled with a deli- cate rhythmic movement. The verticals of the slender columns, together with the predominant horizontals of plat- form, steps, and entablature, serve as a support both structurally and estheti- cally for the roofs, which form a rhyth- mic interplay of low-swung curves. The vermilion color of the structure, with ac- cents of gilded metalwork, is reflected in the pool and enhanced by the in- terplaying green of the trees. The in- terior, like that of Horyuji, is gorgeous in its splendor. Carvings and black lacquer inlaid with ivory, mother-of- pearl, and silver cover the coffered

ceiling, from which a canopy of wood, carved to a lacy delicacy, is suspended above the great gold-bronze Trinity group. On the walls are paintings of multitudes of Bodhisattvas worshiping Amida. The whole effect in the softened light is one of rich, somber glow, com- parable to that of Byzantine mosaics.

With the ascendancy of the feudal lords, far more attention was concen- trated on domestic architecture. Feudal palaces, built on lofty stone walls sur- rounded by moats for the purpose of defense, consisted of a group of stately residences connected by galleries and facing an inner court, with towers for lookouts. The Japanese house, palace or modest home, followed a general plan which is peculiarly Japanese. Love of nature impelled the Japanese to bring nature into his everyday life by means of gardens, with which he so combined the house as to attain an ex- traordinary unity within a variety of forms and textures, even when working on a small scale. In plan, the house had one room slightly higher than the others, with an alcove (the tokonama) for the display of some treasure. The other rooms were separated from it by sliding screens, frequently decorated with paintings. The ceiling, as in the temples, was resplendent with rich color, gold, and lacquer. The floor, on the other hand, was most unobtrusive, for it was covered with simple straw mats. Equally unpretentious were the furnishings. To the eye of the Westerner, a Japanese house looks unfurnished (Fig. 389A). But he is compelled to admit that it has a satisfying serenity. The Japanese seemed to need but little in order to live comfortably. Cushions and a low table (for chairs were non- existent) , a pad for a bed, put away in the daytime — such simple arrange- ments sufficed. Another fact bears wit- ness to this ideal of simplicity: in the tokonama only one or two treasures at

[a] A Japanese Domestic Interior.


a time were displayed — a kakemono, or a fine vase with one rare flower or one carefully selected branch of a blos- soming fruit tree.

The tranquility of Japanese interiors 1 is due partly to this simplicity in fur- nishings and partly to the unerring Japanese recognition of the intrinsic qualities in materials. Great craftsmen in wood, far from hiding its quality with paint, they used eveiy resource to bring out its color, texture, and grain- ing. Likewise with every material. Tile, stucco, and paper were used with a sureness of command over the poten- tialities of the materials, and also with an astonishing ability to integrate them into a form rarely equaled in the field

1 For Japanese domestic interiors see R. A. Cram, Impressions of Japanese Architecture, Baker and Taylor, igos, and Kakuzo Okakura, The Book of Tea , Duffield, 1906.

of domestic architecture. The rooms of the house opened on a long veranda equipped with sliding screens of trans- lucent paper, for the admission of light when closed and for a view of the gar- den When open. For the unity of the house and the garden was the heart of the structure. Japanese gardens Were laid out according to traditional for- mulas. We must not compare them with the flower gardens of the West, but think of them as arrangements of trees, shrubs, stones, water, sand, bridges, lanterns, all skillfully related to one another and to the house, both as to material and as to line, texture, color, and shape, so that together they form an inseparable unity.

Another kind of building also now began to receive the attention of the architects — the mausoleum, of which the tombs at Nikko are perhaps the



[a] Bishamon, the Guardian King of the North. Kuramadera Temple, Kyoto. Wood. Early Fugiwara period. ( J apanese Temples and Their Treasures)

outstanding example. Here magnificent old cryptomeria trees on a hillside serve as a setting into which the buildings with their gorgeous decorations are fitted. Gateways, shrines, and treasure houses are so loaded with polychrome carvings and black-and-gold lacquers, that despite our admiration for the mag- nificence in itself and for the technical skill shown, we yearn for the greater simplicity of Suiko and Fujiwara build- ings. For here at Nikko we witness the floridity of a style that is entering a deca- dence.


Zen Buddhism by its very nature would not incline toward sculpture for expression, but toward the more ephem- eral art of painting. Hence with the decline of the need for Buddhistic statues — though the Kamakura age produced the impressive Daibutsu ( Great Buddha ) of Kamakura — we see the emergence of two kinds of sculpture. One kind consisted of portraits — again an influence of the individualistic strain of Zen — which were realistic in detail, but which subordinated this detail to a vivid, forceful characteriza- tion. The other kind consisted of mil- itaristic subjects. A martial, national- istic spirit, exemplified in statues of the god of war, had already appeared even as early as the Nara period. These statues were as vital an epitome of forceful power as the Suiko Kwannons were of calm beneficence. In Figure 390A, what impresses us first is an intense energy. As in the portraits, details of modeling are amazingly realistic. Yet this realism is subject to the dominating swing of the firmly planted figure and the dynamic sweep of the drapery.

This sculpture (the portraits and the militaristic statues) constitutes a thoroughly nationalized expression, probably the most characteristically Japanese expression in the sculptural art. From this time on sculpture waned with the rise of the popular schools of painting.


With the ebbing of the tide of Bud- dhist impulse from T‘ang China, Bud- dhist themes changed in character, especially in the Fujiwara age, when, as we would expect from the delicate and almost feminine quality in Fujiwara culture, the more lofty, austere Bodhi- sattvas of Suiko and Nara art became


[a] Heiji Monogatari. The Burning of the Sanjo Palace. Detail . 13th cent. Museum of Fine Arts , Boston. (. Boston Museum)

humanized, even individualized. Their tranquillity and otherworldliness gave way to movement, a delicate movement with gentle rhythms. And now ap- peared the more characteristically Jap- anese painting known as Yamato-e (the painting of Yamato) . Though at times it dealt with religious themes, it was largely a secular art: portraits and illustrations of contemporary life and literature. It thus took for its theme the social, ceremonial, and military life of the aristocracy, as in the scrolls which contain the text and illustrations of the Tale of Genji. Here are scenes from the life of the palace drawn with firm lines which define areas of bright color and gold; and vivacious battle scenes filled with movement (Fig. 391 a).

Parallel to Yamato-e was another school, closely allied to Chinese Sung painting and, like the Chinese, in- spired by Zen Buddhism. This school produced exquisite and refined land- scape and genre paintings. The sim- plicity and directness of Zen thought led these painters to use ink rather than the sumptuous color and gilding char-

acteristic of Yamato painting. Impor- tant among these painters was a Zen priest, Sesshu (about 1420-1506), who painted landscape scrolls that were clearly inspired by Chinese Sung land- scape painting. Sesshu and other paint- ers were particularly successful in their paintings of animals (Fig, 393 a), flowers, and birds, in which the artist, by a few strokes of the brush applied with con- summate mastery of the ink technique, implies and suggests rather than specifi- cally states the content of what he is painting.

A great demand for paintings of both the Yamato and the Sung styles came from the feudal lords, who wanted to decorate the walls and the sliding and folding screens of their palaces. Land- scapes, tree, flower, and bird subjects were popular — now rich in color and gold, even with entire gold grounds, now austerely simple in uncolored ink. The folding screen, by its very make-up of several sections hinged together and used in various positions, posed a com- positional problem, one so successfully solved by the Japanese painters that





[a] Monkeys. Ashikaga period {1383-1603).

these screens constituted a peculiarly J apanese contribution. For the paint- ing required unity not only in the en- tire composition but in each section as well, very much as in the makimono. In the Waves at Matsushima (Fig. 392A) of Korin (died 1716), for example, each of the six sections is a unit of design, largely asymmetrical yet as a whole united into a vigorous pattern that is quite consistent with the theme. The traditional conventions for rocks, water, clouds, and trees express the solidity of the rocks, the tumultuous movement of the surging waves, the gentler motion of the clouds, and the quiet security of the pines on their lofty sites. The effect of the rapid repetition of the restive Wave and crest motifs in juxtaposition to the quiet unbroken areas of the rock motif illustrates Korin’s implicit fol- lowing of the Oriental tradition of painting moving water, 1 and also makes 1 See page 381.

Ryusen Collection , Kyoto. (. Kokka )

the screen both in parts and as a whole superbly decorative.

While Yamato-e depended for its content upon historical scenes and genre, it was the life of the aristocracy that it depicted, not that of the people. In the late Ashikaga age there rose de- mands for an art whose content was based upon the life of the middle and lower classes. In the early part of the Tokugawa period, when these classes were coming into position and wealth, this led to the Ukiyo-e, “pictures of this fleeting world,” illustrations of the everyday life of the people in the streets, trade houses, theaters, and countryside, and in a form within the purchasing ability of the masses. Thus arose in the seventeenth century the Japanese print, made from wood blocks, which was sometimes an illustration in a book and sometimes an individual print. At first the impressions were made in black- and-white only, and if color was used



[a] Toshusai Sharaku. The Actor Segawa Kikunojo III as O-Shizu. 1794. Art In- stitute of Chicago. {Art Institute)

it was added by hand. Then came the invention of printing in two colors and then, in the eighteenth century, the full polychrome process. The output was prolific, the subject matter and the style were varied. There are the strong single figures of actors and beau- ties by Moronobu (1625-1694), the first of Japanese painters to enter the field of designing for the wood block, and by Kiyonobu ( 1664-1 729), large figures which fill the space, and which show in their firm accomplished draw- ing a sound training in the use of Chi- nese ink. There is an easy grace of line and a charm of pattern in the feminine subjects of Harunobu ( 1 725-1770) (Fig. 395A), who is thought to have invented the process of polychrome printing. Notable is the successful design of his pillar prints and of those of Koryusai

(active 1760-1780), very high narrow prints proportioned to fit the pillar of the chief room in the house. There are the powerful dramatic portraits of ac- tors by ShunshS (1726-1793) and Sha- raku (active 1 794-1 795 ) (Fig. 394A) and of popular beauties by Utamaro (1753- 1806). With Kiyonaga (1752-1815), the designs became more complex, and though the figures are on a smaller scale and less monumental, their grouping and elaborate costumes offer material for complicated patterns, and landscape takes the place of the flat ground. With Hokusai (1760-1849) and Hiroshige (1797-1858), landscape became a dom- inant note. While these prints are not considered fine art by the Japanese, they nevertheless show the fundamental principles of the fine art of painting. In their sensitive feeling for space rela- tions; in their skillful maintenance of asymmetrical balance of flat patterns, often very complicated and with marked linear quality; in their accom- plished draftsmanship with a supreme command over line, usually calligraphic but at times so modulated as to express the mass of the figure; in their strangely beautiful color combinations and un- usual point of view, especially in land- scape — in all these excellences they reveal a democratic art of very high attainment.



The bronze-workers of Japan have always been skillful to an unusual de- gree. The craft was inherited, and the most famous families of craftsmen traced their ancestry back to mythical times. The casting was done by the cire-perdue process, and the finishing by a considerable use of the chisel. Evi- dences of this skill we have already seen in the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas that compose the Trinity groups, and in the



screens, lanterns, and decorative figures of the shrines. Important among these metalworkers were the armorers, for the powerful samurai created a de- mand for the finest sword blades and sword furniture. A thorough knowledge of the properties of metals and alloys enabled the swordsmith to obtain vari- ous colors and textures,* for decorations he employed a variety of metal proc- esses in casting, chasing, stamping, and damascening. The blade was made of many layers, each forged and tempered with all the expert skill of generations . 1 This multiplicity of layers causes the watered effect seen in fine blades.

1 For a detailed account of this forging of a sword see Stewart Dick, Arts and Crafts of Old Japan, McClurg, 1905, p. 85.

Lacquer of a distinctive type, black and gold chiefly, sometimes with inlays of mother-of-pearl, played an important role in Japanese interiors. The art of lacquering, like the other arts of Japan, was derived from China, but in the hands of the Japanese attained a qual- ity, both technical and esthetic, ex- ceeding that of any other people in the Far East. Various useful objects — trays and boxes of all kinds, for example — contributed to the elegance of the sparse furnishings of the homes of the nobles. On a larger scale lacquer was used, as we have already noted, as a decorative element in palaces and temples, whose coffered ceilings pro- vided one of the richest decorations possible. Lacquer is a natural varnish



[a] “ Three Lay Moon ” Tea Bowl . By Jfinsei, a famous iyth cent, potter. Blue , green, and brown glaze on white slip. H. in. (Tojiki Hyakusen)

of exceptional hardness derived from the lac tree. The Japanese usually made the object to be lacquered of thin white pine; covered it with paper or thin hempen cloth; and rubbed and polished it with a whetstone to provide a firm surface for the lacquer, a process remi- niscent of the preparation of a panel for tempera painting. The lacquer was then applied, layer after layer, with much rubbing and polishing. The de- sign was worked Out in gold dust in a variety of ways to produce a variety of effects. It was then covered with a layer of translucent lacquer and again polished (as in the case of cloisonnd enamels). The finished object, by its translucence and polish, appealed both to the eye and to the tactile sense.

Designs of Japanese lacquer range from the simplest patterns to complex pictorial compositions, which are some- times worked out in relief (a technique unique with the Japanese). But, skill- ful though lacquer relief may be tech- nically, its suitability as a decoration for a flat surface is questionable.

Japanese textiles are sumptuous, par- ticularly when metal threads and em- broidery are used to attain such rich effects of color and texture as one finds

in the costumes of the upper classes and especially in the kimonos used in the No plays, in which the patterns are de- signed to harmonize with the rhythms of the dancers. The No drama was a highly formal, dignified performance, appealing to the aristocracy chiefly, in which there was a complete lack of stage setting except perhaps for a gold screen decorated with a pine tree which brought into sharp focus the actors’ elegant robes.

The ceramic art developed late in Japan. For many centuries importations from Korea and China satisfied the de- mands of the aristocracy. But with the introduction of Zen Buddhism and the development of the tea ceremony, the Japanese potters made great ad- vances, especially under the influence of the Sung ceramists of China'. Their tea bowls were of an almost ostenta- tious simplicity, to harmonize with the austerity of the ceremony, and often were made by amateurs in an attempt to avoid sophisticated forms. Their sensitive feeling for coarse pottery shapes, variety of textures, and sim- plicity of decoration is without parallel elsewhere. The tea bowl of Figure 3 96 a has a simple, functionally efficient shape, which provides an effective foil for the decoration — the crescent moon over waves — painted with con- cise but freely flowing lines, a design of deceiving simplicity. This drastic use of stylized forms is typical of the Japanese potters’ work. Polychrome porcelains achieved a distinctively Japanese style, although they were never so popular with the Japanese as were simple pottery forms.


Though Buddhist architecture con- tinued, emphasis shifted to secular building — the Japanese home, both palatial and modest. Here appears the


Japanese gift for a sensitive use of ma- terials; for an appealing simplicity in furnishings; and for a highly satisfying joining of the building with a garden or natural environment — unity of exterior and interior space, prophetic perhaps of Western twentieth-century domestic building . 1

With the coming of Zen Buddhism sculpture turned in the direction of por- traiture, and with the rise of the sam- urai, to representations of warlike gods.

Painting held a high place in the art of medieval Japan, and was of two chief kinds. The first was secular in theme, representing the life of the aristocracy, and was rich in color and gold. The second, derived from Sung China un- der the influence of Zen Buddhism, followed its Chinese prototype in the ink technique as well as in its sub- ject matter — landscapes, and animal, flower, and bird paintings. Both were arts of the aristocracy.

Other arts contributed to the en- semble: the metalworker provided, among other objects, the fine swords and sword furniture for the samurai; the lacquerer, exquisite objects and deco- rations in black and gold; the weaver, sumptuous costumes for the theater; the potter, under the influence of Sung China, utensils of subtle simplicity for both ceremonial and daily use. With the rise of the middle and lower classes, however, there arose an art of the peo- ple which dealt with their everyday life and in a form economically pos- sible for them — the Japanese print, an art which made use of the same sensi- tive linear and textural pattern and subtle color relations that constantly recur in Japanese art.

1 It may be illuminating to recall that Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the pioneers in the unifica- tion of exterior and interior space in modem domestic architecture, lived for several years in Japan.


Anesaki, Masaharu, Art, Life, and Nature in Japan, Marshall Jones, 1933 — — — Buddhist Art in Its Relation to Bud-

dhist Ideals, Houghton Mifflin, 1915 Binyon, Laurence, Painting in the Far East, 4th ed. rev., Longmans, Green, 1934 Cram, Ralph Adams, Impressions of Japanese Architecture and the Allied Arts , Baker and Taylor, 1905

Dawson, Edith (Mrs. Nelson Dawson), Enamels, McClurg, 1911

Dillon, Edward, The Arts of Japan, McClurg,


Ficke, Arthur D., Chats on Japanese Prints, Stokes, 1915

Fischer, Otto, Die Kunst Indiens, Chinas und Japans, Berlin, 1928

Fujii, Koji, The Japanese Dwelling-House, Tokyo, T 93°

Gunsaulus, Helen G., Japanese Textiles, Japan Society of New York, 1941 Harada, Jiro, The Lesson of Japanese Architec- ture, Studio, 1936

“Juraku,” Graphic Collection of Ancient Architec- ture and Gardens of the Orient, 4 vols., Tokyo, 1928-33

Kishida, Hideto, Japanese Architecture, Tokyo, 1935

Kummell, Otto, Die Kunst Ostasiens, ad ed., Berlin, 1922

Minamoto, Hoshu, An Illustrated History of Japanese Art , tr. by G. Henderson, Kyoto, 1935

Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji, tr. by Arthur Waley, 2 vols., Houghton Mifflin, 1935

Okakura, Kakuzo, The Book of Tea , Duffield, 1906

The Ideals of the East, Dutton, 1921

Priestley, Anna F., How to Know Japanese Colour Prints, Doubleday, Page, 1927 Sadler, Arthur L., A Short History of Japanese Architecture, Sydney, 1941 Seidlitz, Woldemar von, A History of Japanese Colour-Prints, Lippincott, 1910 Taki, Sei-ichi, Japanese Fine Art, Stechert, 1931

— — Three Essays on Oriental Painting,

London, 1910

Tamura, Tsuyoshi, Art of Landscape Gardens in Japan, Dodd, Mead, 1936 Tanaka, Yusaku, No Costumes of Japan, 1573- 1829, Tokyo, c. 1920

Tatsui, Matsunosuke, Japanese Gardens , Bruce Humphries, 1936

Toda, Kenji, Japanese Scroll Painting, University of Chicago Press, 1935

Tsuda, Noritake, Handbook of Japanese Art, Dodd, Mead, 1936



Victoria and Albert Museum, Japanese Colour Prints , 6th ed., London, 1931 Waley, Arthur, The N 5 Plays of Japan, Knopf,


— The Craft of the Japanese Sculptor.

Japan Society of New York, 1936

Japanese Sculpture of the Suiko

Period, Yale University Press, 1923

With, Karl, Buddhistische Plastik in Japan, Vienna,


Yanagi, Soetsu, F oik- Crafts in Japan, tr. by Shigeyoshi Sakabe, Tokyo, 1936 Yoshida, Hiroshi, Japanese Wood-block Printing, Stechert, 1939

See also General Bibliography, pages 791- 92 -

G^rvocut and Oc




I N our survey of the Middle Ages we have seen an art arise in the Near East under the stimulation of a new faith, Christianity. Coincident with the decline of the Greco-Roman civiliza- tion, the rise and spread of Christianity across Europe stimulated communica- tion between the East and the West and at the same time provided the mo- tive for vigorous new expressions. Al- most parallel, though slightly later, another energizing religion, more mili- tant, spread with amazing rapidity both east and west from its center in Arabia — - Muhammadanism. As it ex- panded, we saw it meet and assimilate influences from China and in turn con- tribute to the art of India in the East, and to the Mediterranean cultures in the West. In this lively intercourse be- tween the Far and Near East and Europe, we see the world shrinking and can already speak of an Eurasia.

Three large areas of the world, how- ever, we saw lay isolated, evolving in- digenous cultures which were to meet, some centuries later, the Eurasian civili- zations, influence them profoundly, and in turn be influenced by them. These areas were Africa (except for Egypt and the coastal fringe of the Mediter- ranean), Oceania, and the Americas.

African Negro Art

I N west-central Africa (Fig. 400A) — on the coast, in the river basins of the Niger and the Congo, in the south- ern reaches of the Sudan —- live a great number of primitive Negro tribes whose origin and history are largely unknown. Some are nomadic or seminomadic herdsmen on the grasslands fringing the forests; some are settled agricul- turalists in clearings of the heavily for- ested regions of the river valleys; all are hunters and fighters. With an ani- mistic religion they people all forms of nature with spirits for whose placation or supplication fetishes are in great de- mand. Dancing and chanting, to the accompaniment of a boldly rhythmic music, and elaborate and awe-inspiring costumes, in which masks feature prom- inently, are important in their ritual,


The exigencies of their life, in which a primitive hut serves for a dwelling, and the materials at hand have given rise to a remarkable art of wood- carving: the making and embellishing of objects of everyday and ceremonial



[a] Africa , Showing the Regions ( inclosed by a dotted line) Where Negro Sculpture Is Produced .

use out of the abundant native timber during the abundant leisure time that this way of life affords. Occasionally the carvers have used stone, and more fre- quently ivory or bronze, the technique of whose working the Benin people learned from the Europeans.

As these African tribes vary in lan- guage, customs, religion, and social or- ganization, so the styles of their carving vary, a fact that precludes generaliza- tions that are applicable to all, except that similar habits of visualization, and hence a similar basic style, are observ- able in their carvings. Practically none of the carving has a copy of nature as its objective. On the contrary, the African dissected and distorted the parts of the human or animal figure, and reassembled them not according to nature but according to an esthetic pattern related to the material he was using, the space to be filled, the func- tion of the object, and its symbolic sig-

nificance. The carving has nothing to do with a verisimilitude of natural ap- pearances, though occasionally it may tend thither; but it presents a type of visualization long established by tra- dition and thoroughly intelligible to both the artist and his public.

“Every part in a typical, fully real- ized Negro statue functions as an ele- ment in plastic design: an embodiment, a repetition in rhythmic, varied se- quence, of some theme in mass, line or surface. To be transformed into a de- sign, the human figure must be re- garded in a way quite different from that of ordinary life and of most sculp- ture. It must not be seen as an inviolable whole, treated as one unit and merely posed in this attitude or that. The fig- ure must be dissociated into its parts, regarded as an aggregate of distinct units: the head, limbs, breasts, trunk and so on, each by itself. So distin- guished and usually marked off by a



surrounding groove or hollow, each part can be moulded into a variation of some chosen theme — a sharp, slen- der projection, or perhaps a smooth, bulbous swelling — never exactly the same as its neighbors, for that would be monotonous; never too far from nature, or completely abstract, for that would destroy its interest as representation, its relevancy to the world of human ex- perience. In the same figure an artist may introduce two or more radically different shapes, perhaps repeating and slightly varying each one. Such con- trast gives, as in musician arresting and interesting shock to the observer. It carries with it a possible loss of unity; the whole piece may seem to fall apart, to be confusingly unrelated. Then the genius of the artist consists in finding means to weld the contrasting themes together by some note common to both.

“Constructed like a building of solid blocks, a typical Negro statue is itself a solid, a full, substantial block, set with convincing, massive reality in its own space .” 1

Take for example a table with a fig- ure support (Fig. 40 1 a ). The cylindrical piece of wood, from which just enough has been cut away to allow the figure to emerge, is clearly felt as a deter- minant of the basic design; its section is retained in the top and the base and its diameter is maintained in the hori- zontal reach of the arms; its shape is repeated in torso, neck, and arms. The figure, compressed into a kneeling posi- tion, emerges from, yet remains rooted in, the semiovoid base through the flattening and distorting of the feet, thus bringing unity and stability to the table as a whole. It then rises through a series 1 Paul Guillaume and Thomas Munro, Primitive Negro Sculpture , Harcourt, Brace, 1926, p. 35, by permission of the publishers. This book presents a lucid exposition of the artistic qualities of Negro sculpture, with detailed analyses of in- dividual pieces. See also Roger Eliot Fry, Vision and Design, “Negro Sculpture,”

[a] Figure Supporting a Table, Wood. Congo, 17th cent. Barnes Collection, Merion, Pa. (Morgan Photo) Note the play on contrasts of circular and angular motifs united by the repetition of cone-shaped volumes.

of outward- and inward-moving masses conoidal in shape and thus with a zig- zag contour, to support the top firmly by the head and the uplifted arms, and by this action secures a vertical as well as a horizontal balance. This play upon masses — ovoids, conoids, cylinders *— is repeated in the surface treatment, in which highly polished surfaces contrast with carved ones. Thus the table as a whole is basically a three-dimensional abstraction in which the parts are as closely related, structurally and esthet- ically, as in any building.

This three-dimensional organization so markedly characteristic of Negro



[a] Ivory Coast Mask. Wood . [b] Portrait of a Benin King. Bronze. Originally sur-

14th cent. Barnes Collection , mounted by a large carved tusk. University Museum,

Merion, Pa. {Morgan Photo) Philadelphia. {University Museum)

sculpture is based upon a generally cylindrical mass — - at times starkly geo- metric, as in the Gabun figures; at times with richly carved surfaces. In contemplating these compositions upon the theme of the cylinder, one ponders on the influence of a naturally cylin- drical material upon the carver and on his daily life among the trees, which furnish him with a material that is soft and easily carved in comparison with stone, and whose continuous rounding surfaces suggest movement in depth to both his visual and his tactile percep- tion. How different will be the work of a carver confronted with a four-sided block of hard, weighty stone that re-

sists every stroke of the chisel and ham- mer! Most of the African carvings are relatively small, and though extraor- dinarily firm and stable, have none of the mighty solidity of stone sculpture.

After the perplexity or even aversion felt by a non-African upon first seeing these carvings has given way to a de- sire for insight and at least a partial understanding, he becomes aware of their intense vitality. Likewise he recog- nizes a superb craftsmanship, and a design which may be entirely abstract to the foreigner but is so obviously filled with intense meaning to the African that it is bound to impress the unpreju- diced observer, however little he may



[a] Bushman Paint- ings. (Obermaier and Kuhn , Bushman Art, Oxford University Press)

grasp its full import. The masks are an excellent illustration. Masks serve the same function, or rather contribute to the same objective, as the ceremonial chant and dance. They are one of the visual parts of a ritual whose purpose is to inspire awe or fear, and thus must present to the eye of the observer a form that will function to that end. Since the masks are actually worn, they are life- sized or larger, and are highly simpli- fied arrangements of the parts of the face, combined perhaps with a head- dress; and, though in relief only, they show the same attitude toward natural forms as the carvings in the round. In Figure 402 a, for example, there is an interplay of the oval — in the face and its details repeated on a small scale in the headdress — and of the sharply angular zigzag on a large scale above and a small scale below. Likewise, the strong vertical accent balances a rhyth- mic repetition of horizontals.

Metal was used to a limited extent and in primitive ways by the Africans, but in Benin the metalworkers, having learned from the Portuguese the more

advanced process of cire-perdue, created as fetishes bronze heads (Fig. 402B), which probably were ancestor portraits. They were surmounted by elephant tusks elaborately carved with represen- tations of the king and his attendants. Since ancestor worship was an essential part of religious belief and rites, these heads with tusks stood on the altar and symbolized the spirits of the ancestors who were potent in bringing good or evil into the lives of their descendants, and to whom therefore sacrifices were made for the welfare of these descend- ants. In these heads we discern not only a great vitality, but a sensitivity to material in the rounding forms with flowing surfaces, the interplay of smooth and broken surfaces and rounding and angular motifs.


Among the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert south of the Congo, who were very primitive nomad hunters living in a naturally poor land, paintings on rocks have been found of a character



quite different in point of view from the African art of which we have been speaking, and strangely like that of the Paleolithic cave painters of France. A visual perception of their world re- duced to essentials and expressed with directness and economy seems to have been their objective (Fig. 403A) . These are not generalized men and animals and movements, but individualized men and animals in an infinite variety of naturalistic poses, even those in- volving foreshortening, such as front and three-quarters views, which indi- cates an extraordinarily keen vision and memory . 1

Oceanian Art

r j ^HE peoples of Oceania are a mixed JL race compounded of the aborig- inal inhabitants of the islands and Asiatics who migrated there. While Paleolithic and Neolithic remains in Java, Sumatra, and Celebes carry hu- man habitation far back into prehistoric times, migrations from the continents appear to be relatively recent, some possibly as late as a few centuries b.c. So vast is the ocean area covered by these islands, and so varied the race and life patterns and art forms, that few generalizations can be made even in one of the main divisions into which they are grouped: Polynesia, Mela- nesia, and Micronesia.

The Polynesians are a finely built brown people organized socially into the family and the clan, with the chiefs, of attributed divine birth, as rulers. Their religion consists of spirit and ancestor worship, infused through and through, as is their social system (for the social and the religious are hardly

1 See Fry, op. dL s “The Art of the Bushmen,” for a discussion of perceptual and conceptual


separable) with a highly developed sys- tem of taboo ( tapu ), which means “pro- hibited” for sacred or other reasons. “The true inwardness of the word tapu is that it infers the setting apart of cer- tain persons or things on account of their having become possessed or in- fected by the presence of supermaterial beings .” 2 Magic, too, plays a consider- able part in the ceremonial, often highly elaborate, which attends many of their everyday activities, their fishing for ex- ample. Economically, fishing ranks first; agriculture is important where possible; and warfare employs a con- siderable part of their time.

The art forms of such a people are dependent upon the materials at hand and the tools they have evolved; and they are inextricably knit into the whole pattern of everyday life. The chief material is wood from the rich growth of timber, which supplies mate- rial for houses and canoes and for fur- nishings of all kinds, and pulp and fibers for bark cloth and mats; the feathers of colorful tropical birds for feather ceremonial robes; bone for carv- ings; and abalone and other shells for inlays. They have no metal and no pottery. Their tools are very primitive: an adz with a blade of jade or shell; knives of flaked obsidian or set with a row of shark’s teeth; drills with points of stone, shell, or shark’s teeth.

Their buildings of wood and thatch, adapted to the climate of the South Pacific and unusually craftsmanlike in details of construction, reach a climax in the Maori Council Houses , particularly because of their carvings. The chief Polynesian art expression, however, consists in the making and decorating of articles for everyday or ceremonial use — mats, baskets, bark cloth for

2 Ethnology of Polynesia and Micronesia , Chi- cago Natural History Museum, p. 147. Con- tinue this quotation for a detailed account of tapu.


[a] Tapa. From Samoa. Rubbed and painted design [b] Ancestral Shield. Painted in yellow, black, and reddish brown on white. Chauvet wood. Melanesian. Chauvet Col- Collection, Paris. lection, Paris.


garments and hangings; paddles, clubs, spears, and other implements of war- fare; all kinds of woodenware for house- furnishing — and in decorating their own bodies by tattoo and scarification. On the whole it is a richly decorative art, at times symbolic with a magic pur- pose. Most of the designs, as in aborig- inal American art, have specific names which relate them closely to the milieu of their makers.



Mats are an important article of fur- nishing because they serve for floor and wall coverings as well as for beds and sails. Mat-making is done by the women, who obtain their material from

sedge and from the leaves of the pan- danus tree; and by a change in the plaiting or in the width of the fiber or by the introduction of colored fibers they create an infinite variety of pat- terns. Bark cloth, or tapa, which is used for clothing and hangings, is not a tex- tile, for it is made by beating together strips of the inner bark of the paper mulberry tree until they form a sheet of fabric, sometimes thirty feet long by fifteen feet wide. The sheet is then painted in bold geometric designs in black, yellow, or red-brown. The sim- ple geometric pattern of Figure 405 a is filled with unexpected variations, as if the creative activity were too vital and prolific to repeat itself, though it ad- heres sternly to the basic pattern.

The boldly free and varied brush



[a] Carved Prow of a Canoe, Polynesian. British Museum , London. ( British Museum)

work in the tapa-painting shows the same understanding of materials and techniques, as does the wood-carving, which is probably the highest expres- sion of the Polynesian people. Boxes and food dishes, paddles and staves, both ceremonial and utilitarian, killing clubs and weapons of warfare — all these objects of daily and ceremonial life are carved lavishly. Frequently the entire surface is covered with an intri- cate pattern of curving motifs inlaid with abalone shell. It reveals a great virtuosity in carving, especially when one recalls the primitive tools with which the work is done. In Figure 406 a, the carving covers the surface almost too exuberantly with a continuous movement in spiraling motifs like the unending rhythm of a tom-tom. In the orator’s staff of Figure 407B (extem- pore oratory about gods and legends accompanied by the wielding of this ceremonial object is a privileged art expression among the Maori nobles), the carving is confined to the upper part, is adjusted in scale to the part that it decorates, and serves to enhance rather than to obliterate the form and its sur- faces.

In contrast to the suavely elegant, accomplished carvings of the Poly- nesians are the starkly decorative carv- ings and paintings of the Melanesians, a Negroid race of lower civilization, a cannibalistic people, but one of an ex- traordinary esthetic sensibility. It is a boldly decorative art, at times purely ornamental, at times with totemic sig- nificance, that is lavished upon wooden shields and commemorative tablets, carved coconut-shell cups, bamboo boxes, bark belts, wooden spatulas, paddles, spears, dancing shields and dancing sticks, ceremonial masks — all objects of everyday and ceremonial use. In the great ravi, or men’s house (for the women and children live in small family houses), hang many of the shields and tablets (Fig. 405B), elliptical in shape and painted or carved in de- signs which commemorate some event or have a totemic meaning. Ample tim- ber provides suitable material, which is felled and roughly shaped by stone axes, adzes, and chisels and finally carved by stone, shell, teeth, or boar’s tusk. The boldness of the ornament re- sults partly from the designs themselves and partly from the use of contrasting



[a] Carved Cocoamt Shell. Melanesian. Chicago Natural History Museum. ( Chicago Natural History Museum) On the opposite side the shell is cut away to form a hemispherical cup with a handle left spanning the middle.

[b] Head of an Orator's Staff. Maori. University Museum , Philadelphia. ( University Museum) Besides carving and in- lays of abalone shell many staves were decorated with sleeves of bright-colored feathers and tassels of hair. They were carried by chiefs as insignia of rank.

color. For after the wood is carved it is painted red or black and the incisions are filled with lime. The masks are made from the bright feathers of tropi- cal birds; or from bark cloth (the tapa of the Polynesians) stretched over a light frame and painted in black, white, red, and yellow — colors which are ob- tained from; the native soil and from shells and charcoal. These masks play a prominent part in initiation cere- monies and at religious festivals, where they represent ancestors or bear a to- temic significance. Rising loftily above the mass of shredded palm leaves or grasses that covers the figure of the

wearer, they produce a startling ef- fect in the tropical surroundings. The decorative motifs used by the Melane- sians show an almost constant use of spiraling motifs opposed to sharp den- tils and chevrons; of the human or ani- mal face highly conventionalized ; and of an infinite variety of geometric shapes and variations thereof adapted most skillfully to the space to be filled, with a sensitive regard for scale. In a Cocoa- nut Shell (Fig. 407A) contrasts, both of light and dark and of circular and an- gular motifs, together with the free, ex- uberant quality of the carving, produce a highly dramatic effect.




The forms of “primitive art” often appear to the outsider to be merely conventional or highly abstract. On the contrary, these works of art are objects used in daily living, in ritual, and for magical purposes, and their designs are symbols of the spirit world. Hence they must be understood against a back- ground of purpose and symbolism, and with some knowledge of a culture in which social, economic, religious, and esthetic factors are too tightly inter- woven to warrant separation. Form and decorative motifs were determined, within broad limits, by tradition and available material, which in both Africa and Oceania was chiefly wood. In Africa, wood-carving attained a re- markable three-dimensional quality; in Polynesia it was a surface art, richly decorative, suavely elegant, with infi- nitely varied carvings covering the sur- faces. This creative ability appears also in the varied play upon geometric mo- tifs found in Polynesian tapa. Melane- sian art, by contrast, though primarily decorative and totemic, is bolder and more colorful.


Bell, Clive, Since Cezanne, Harcourt, Brace, 1922 Burkitt, Miles G., South Africa’s Past in Stone and Paint, Macmillan, 1928

Clcmzot, Henri, and Level, Andre, L'art nigre et Vart ocianien, Paris, 1919 Cossio, Manuel Bartholome, and Pijo&n, Jose,

Summa Artis , Vols. I-X Madrid, 1931-46: Vol. I

Govarrubias, Miguel, Pageant of the Pacific, Pacific House, San Francisco, 1939 Einstein, Carl, Afrikanische Plastik, Berlin, 1921 Firth, Raymond W., Art and Life in New Guinea, Studio, 1936

Fry, Roger Eliot, Vision and Design, Brentano’s, 1924, “The Art of the Bushmen” and “Negro Sculpture”

Golden Gate International Exposition, 1939, The Pacific Cultures, Exposition, San Fran- cisco, 1939

Guillaume, Paul, and Munro, Thomas, Primi- tive Negro Sculpture, Harcourt, Brace, 1 926 Haddon, Alfred G., The Decorative Art of British New Guinea, Dublin, 1894 Holmes, John H., In Primitive New Guinea, Put- nam, 1924

Lewis, AJbert B., Carved and Painted Designs from New Guinea, Chicago Natural History Museum, 1931

— Decorative Art of New Guinea

cised Designs, Chicago Natural History Museum, 1925

Linton, Ralph, Wingert, Paul S., and d’Harnon- court, Rene, Arts of the South Seas, Museum of Modern Art, 1946

Obermaier, Hugo, and Kuhn, Herbert, Bush- man Art, Oxford University Press, 1930 Portier, Andre, and Poncetton, Frangois, Les arts sauvages, 2 vols., Paris, c. 1930 Reichard, Gladys A,, Melanesian Design: A Study of Style in Wood and Tortoiseshell Carving, 2 vols., Columbia University Press, 1933 Sadler, Sir Michael Ernest, Arts of West Africa, Oxford University Press, 1935 Sweeney, James J., ed., African Negro Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York City, 1935

Sydow, Eckart von, Die Kunst der Naturvolker und der Vorzeit, Berlin, 1 923

- — Handbuch der afrikanischen Plastik,

Vol. I, Berlin, 1930

Tongue, M. Helen, Bushman Paintings, Oxford University Press, 1 909

See also General Bibliography, pages 791-92.


I N the Americas, we have already seen the rise of ancient cultures on both continents. In Middle America, the Maya and the Toltecs reached the highest level. For some reason as yet not satisfactorily explained, the First (Old) Empire of the Maya declined and the tribe moved from the tropical low- lands of Guatemala and Honduras northeast into the high rocky peninsula of Yucatan, where they built new cities and spread their influence over neigh- boring tribes. From the north, however, the Toltecs, hard-pressed by northern tribes, in particular the Aztecs, began, about the eleventh century, to infiltrate and then to predominate.

Mayan Art:

The Second Empire


I N Yucatan great new cities arose — Ghichen Itza, Uxmal, Labna — which, like those of the First Empire, were great ecclesiastical centers care- fully laid out on a grandiose scale. At Chichen Itza, the pyramid temple of El

Castillo 1 (Fig. 41 1 a) rose above the nearby jungle to dominate the group. Four stairways, carefully oriented to the four cardinal points, lead up the nine terraces to the temple of Kukulcan, the Toltec Quetzalcoatl, god of the wind and rain, who became the patron god of the Maya as the influence of the Tol- tecs increased. These stairways spread out over the ground several feet beyond the lowest terrace, giving the structure an effect of unity with the earth.

Near El Castillo stands the Temple of the Warriors { Fig. 41 ib), a temple of Ku- kulcan but so named because of the figures of warriors carved on its piers. The approach to the temple is across a plaza and through a great open hall, the roof of which was supported by rec- tangular piers decorated with life-sized figures of priests and warriors in cere- monial costume, carved in low relief and painted in vivid color. The temple it- self rests on a base of four terraces, each with a carved frieze, and is approached by a broad stairway with carved stone balustrades. At the entrance ai'e feath- ered-serpent columns, and immedi- ately before the doorway is a chacmool

1 The castle or fort, a name given the temple by the Spanish explorers, who did not under- stand the function of the structure.


[a] Nunnery, East Building. Uxmal. {Middle American Research Institute, Tulane Uni- versity, New Orleans)

figure . 1 On the facade are masks, with feathers spreading out in relief from the serpent heads in the round. All this carving was brilliantly painted, and, with the frescoes on the interior depict- ing domestic, military, and religious scenes, constituted an elaborate and brilliant decorative entity. When we see such structures as El Castillo and the Temple of the Warriors as a whole, in the midst of a luxuriant tropical setting, as places for the performance of elaborate rites and ceremonies by priests in still more elaborate costumes, when we see the surfaces of these geometrically sim- ple sculptural masses lightly broken by a decoration whose teeming richness is organized, unified, and given emphasis by its linear quality and particularly by the use of color — when we see all this, we realize the entire unity and consist- ency of the whole.

At Chichen Itza, and especially at Uxmal, is a secular type of building, the so-called palace. The Nunnery at Uxmal, for example, consists of four separate buildings (Fig. 410A) set about

1 A half-reclining figure with a flat disk which may have been used for sacrifices. Such figures are relatively common in Middle American art.

a court, all on a broad platform. Each building is a long rectangular volume, whose walls are broken by doorways only (windows are very rarely found). Each is divided into a lower band broken by several doorways and faced with stone finely cut and laid, and an upper band of uninterrupted stonework. The de- sign consists of an inverted triangular shape made up of bars set over against a uniform diaper pattern, with a series of masks over the main doorway, and at the corners hieroglyphs and masks with projecting hooked noses which round off the corners and thus break their angularity. This same type of decoration is even more intricate in the Governor's Palace , in which particularly fine unbroken stonework below effec- tively sets off the rich band above, whose chief motif is a bold fret pattern. These borders, except for the door and the end ornaments, are made of stone mosaic; that is, of small pieces of stone, each individual piece cut and fitted to its own place in the design, and set in mortar — a process involving an enor- mous amount of labor, both in the cut- ting, since stone tools only were avail- able, and in the laying.


[a] El Castillo , Pyramid Temple of Kukulcan. Chicken Itzd. H. 105 ft.; the base covers one acre. 13th or 14th cent. {Carnegie Institution of Washington)

the reliefs were colored. On. the inside of the temples, however, the walls were smoothed and given a coat of line plas- ter for true painting. Here the painter first outlined his figures in red, then filled in the areas with flat colors, and


The work of the Mayan painter, like that of the sculptor, was closely co- ordinated with building. His work could hardly be separate, for most of

[b] Temple of the Warriors. Chicken Itzd. ( Carnegie Institution of Washington)



[a] A Seacoast Mayan Village. Reconstructed fresco in the Temple of the Warriors. L. ( Carnegie Institution of Washington)

finally outlined the figure again in black — a process (reminiscent of the Ajanta Frescoes) which makes line em- phatic and tends to make the design two-dimensional. Figure 412A repro- duces one of the wall paintings that is as informative in subject matter as it is decorative as a mural. Here is a Seacoast Mayan Village , with village folk going about their everyday life in their boats on the sea and around their huts on the land. Figures and objects are strongly outlined areas of contrasting color, placed one above the other, covering the surface without crowding and keeping it unified in one plane. Thus results an extraordinarily deco- rative pattern, informal in compo- sition, made up of the conventions for water, boats, fish, trees, roofs, people, clearly differentiated because of the contrasting color yet definitely united because closely keyed in tone. The con- vention for trees lends itself particularly

to repetition with variety, for it consists of a trunk dividing into two branches which support two circular areas of foliage, different in detail to indicate different kinds of leaves . 1

Another function of the painter was the making of codices, which, like the stele, recorded both religious and his- torical events. A codex was a long sheet of deer hide or maguey paper, about six inches wide, which folded up ac- cordion-wise and was protected by wooden covers. Unfortunately only three Maya codices are in existence, owing to the overzealous Spanish friars who, in an effort to destroy “pagan- ism,” burned them, as the T c sin of China had burned the Chinese classics.

1 For a color reproduction see E. H. Morris, Jean Chariot, and A. A. Morris, The Temple of the Warriors at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, 2 vols., Carnegie Institution, 1931. An abbreviated ac- count, with two color plates, is given in the News Service Bulletin (School edition) of the Carnegie Institution, Vol. II, Nos. 17-21.


In one other field the work of the painter is evident. On a number of pieces of pottery scenes are pictured (we are reminded of Greek practice) in which can be seen not only the general style of painting but the draftsmanship of the Maya, the firm quality of his line as line, his skill in foreshortening, and his ability to express with line alone the mass of the figure.

Ceremony and ceremonial costume would naturally create a demand for objects of many materials and fine craftsmanship. A cursory glance at Mayan sculpture and painting would indicate a need for weavers, feather- workers, makers of jewelry and jade ornaments. Most of their work has dis- appeared, thanks again to the Spanish looting. Although the use of the wheel was unknown in all aboriginal America, Mayan ceramists constructed — by hand-shaping, coiling, and the use of molds — a great variety of pottery: figurines, effigy vases, and vessels of many shapes, the decoration on which might be painted, engraved, or in relief.

Zapotec and Mixtec Art


W EST of the Yucatan peninsula, in the province of Oaxaca in Mex- ico and close enough to Yucatan for mutual influences, lived the Zapotecs and the Mixtecs. Their culture, as old if not older than the Mayan, centered at Monte Alban (The White Moun- tain ) 1 and at Mitla near by. For cen-

1 Knowledge of this culture is recent and con- clusions about it tentative, because the great discoveries at Monte Alban began only in 1931. Dr. Alfonso Caso, the discoverer and the director of excavation, is the Chief authority in this field. Much of the area remains to be excavated.


turies these two tribes were at war with each other. The Zapotecs seem to have been the dominating element until toward the end of their life span, when the Mixtecs were in the ascendancy.

Though some influences of the Maya are evident, the Zapotecs were still highly original in their architecture. They built upon hills, for example, rather than on the plains — which pre- sented the difficult problem of building on more than one level — and they grouped their buildings about a court from which broad stairways led to structures which seem to have func- tioned in religious ceremonies. At Mitla, in the so-called Palace II, a building whose function is uncertain, one can judge of the Zapotec style: a simple, long rectangular mass with walls un- broken by windows, like those of the Maya, but with an entirely different kind of ornament. Here are no mytho- logical or naturalistic subjects. Sculp- ture is entirely eliminated. The long walls are broken into ribbonlike panels filled with a stone mosaic of purely geometric motifs which have the ap- pearance of textile design. The tough yet easily worked stone of this vicinity lent itself well to this technique. The small pieces of stone, at most a few inches in size, were carefully cut and finished on the face, which projected only about one and one-half inches, with the back left rough and deeply triangular so as to adhere more firmly to the mortar bedding. There is great variety in the mosaic, and each panel is framed by finely cut stone bands, molded so as to produce an unbroken line of shadow, which holds the move- ment within the panel. This decorative scheme is carried out on the interior as well. As the building spreads at the base, like El Castillo, it gives the im- pression of being rooted firmly in the ground.

One aspect of life differentiates Za-

4 r 4


[a] Zcipotec Effigy XJrns. H. and 7f in. University Museum., Philadelphia. {Uni-

versity Museum)

potecs and Mixtecs from the other tribes of Middle America — their attitude toward a future life, which manifests itself in innumerable tomb buildings and elaborate burial rites. The finest examples of Mixtec jewelry and carv- ings have been found in the tombs. At Monte Alban, the tomb was a small stone chamber, with painted walls and over the doorway a niche in which rested a funerary urn. The function of these urns is unknown, according to Dr. Caso, as nothing has been found in them. They may have contained offerings to the dead, such as liquids or substances that would have entirely disintegrated. A common design is made of a reddish clay in the form of an ornately garbed seated figure with crossed legs whose body is a cylindrical jar (Fig. 41 4A). Sometimes the face is naturalistic enough to suggest a portrait; again, it may be covered with a mask with long hooked nose and eyes of gleaming obsidian. The plumed head- dress balances the broad base, and the whole figure is an inseparable part of the cylindrical jar. Here we see a virtuosity

in the use of clay as a plastic medium and in the interplay of cylindrical shapes.


The fabulous Tomb 7, discovered ac- cidentally by Dr. Caso in 1 932, plays the same role in the knowledge of Zapotec and Mixtec art that the tomb of Tut- ankhamun plays in Egyptian art. For here was found a great treasure which not only illustrates the elaborateness of the burial equipment but indicates an exquisite refinement in the culture that produced it. Here were gold and silver armlets and necklaces enriched with pearls and turquoise; gold pectorals; onyx and rock crystal vessels carved to unbelievable thinness; carvings in ob- sidian, jade, jet, and amber; and bone carved intricately with historical and mythological scenes. The origin of the goldworker’s craft in the Americas is believed to have been in the north- western comer of South America, for we note a diminishing number of ex- amples as we move northward from


Central America, while from nearer areas in Central America, such as Panama, magnificent examples have come. The Mixtecs seem to have had great command over the use of gold, both technically and esthetically. A Pectoral (Fig. 41 5 a) gives one the im- pression of filagree work, but is actually all made by the cire-perdue process. The total design is contained within a rectangular shape with rounding cor- ners, and consists of an interplay of rectangular and circular motifs, straight and curving lines. The point of empha- sis is the head, in high relief, which probably represents the death god; the rest of the pectoral is in low relief. The god wears a mask, a tiger or serpent helmet, a lofty headdress of quetzal feathers, and other ornaments.

Toltec and Aztec Art

T HE Toltecs, at Teotihuacan, hard- pressed by wild hunters from the north, after a period of chaos were finally overwhelmed by a small but fiercely warlike tribe, the Aztecs, who arrived in the valley of Mexico about 1325, set up their capital at Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City), and became the domi- nant tribe of the region. They were as fierce in their religious as in their mili- tary practices, and carried to extremes human sacrifice, a practice generally followed by the Middle American peo- ples. As has already been noted, their religion demanded it. For, as the gods had sacrificed themselves to create man, man was under an obligation to re- quite the gods in like manner. And as the Aztecs were the chosen children of the sun god, they had laid upon them the peculiar obligation of supply- ing the god with nourishment — human blood. This ritual was carried out with gorgeous ceremonial, which required

[a] Gold Pectoral . From Tomb 7, Monte Alban. H. 4% in. Museo Nacional, Mexico, (Museo Nacional)

not only a fitting temple setting but equally magnificent costumes and ac- cessories. In this, as in much of their culture, they appropriated from the Toltecs, as the Romans did from the Greeks. 1


Pyramid temples continued to be built, such as that at Tenayuca, many times rebuilt from Toltec to Aztec times, a double temple, dedicated to the sun god and some other god and hence with a double stairway leading up the pyramid to the temples. Fring- ing the base on a narrow platform is a row of massive stone serpents.

1 For this reason it is difficult, at present, to separate the art of the Toltecs and the Aztecs. What we know of the Aztecs comes chiefly from the chronicles of the Spanish conquistadors. See W. H. Prescott, History of the Conquest of Mexico , Modern Library, 1936.



[a] Coatlicue ( Lady of the Skirt of Ser- pents ), Goddess of Earth and Death. Ande- site. H. c. 8% ft. Aztec, i/jth cent. Museo Kacional, Mexico.

It was in massive stonework that the Aztecs excelled, as well as in carving jade and other hard stones, and in mosaic inlay of turquoise, coral, and obsidian. Quite in contrast to the Mayan sculptors, who apparently were interested in surface richness, the Aztecs had a feeling for mass that was monu- mental and filled with savagely intense power. The Aztec’s intensely religious nature, combined with his theocratic political organization, impelled him in this direction. An example is found in statues of Coatlicue ( Lady of the Skirt of Serpents ), mother of the gods and earth

goddess in the double role of creator and destroyer. Possibly the most force- ful and savage is Figure 41 6a, a ponder- ous mass of stone shaped into the most elemental rectangular masses, upon which have been carved in both low and high relief the entwined serpents of the skirt, the necklace of hands and hearts with a skull pendant, the claw feet and hands, and the tusked mask — all of which are highly symbolic. This Mother of the Gods combines both sav- agery and tenderness, for out of de- struction arises new life — an ideology analogous to that found in the Hindu dancing Shiva (Fig. 368A). Equally powerful masses of stone with conven- tional details and a strong tactile feeling are salient factors of Aztec animal sculp- ture.

That the Aztecs had a gift for surface enrichment as found in relief is seen in the Calendar Stone, a huge circular disk that stood before the Temple of the Sun in the central plaza of Tenochtitlan (now the civic center of Mexico City). It was placed in a horizontal position, probably for sacrificial use connected with the cult of the sun god. We feel a distinct orderliness in the rich carv- ing. In the center is the face of the sun, from which radiate four squares which illustrate four former suns, or epochs, which were destroyed by tigers, wind, rain of fire, and flood. On either side of the sun god are claws clutching human hearts, symbolic of the fact that the sun god lives on human blood. Around this central group are concentric bands, which contain the days of the calendar, solar rays, ornaments, and the serpents who carry the sun across the sky and whose heads, at the base, hold human faces in their jaws. Every detail ap- pears to have meaning, and it is all expressed with clarity and in a conven- tional form that enhances the stone’s decorative quality.



American Sources of Modern Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York City, 1933 Blom, Frans F., The Conquest of Yucatan, Hough- ton Mifflin, 1936

Brown, Frederick M., Americas Yesterday, Lip- pincott, 1937

Caso, Alfonso, The Religion of the Aztecs, Mexico City, 1937

Thirteen Masterpieces of Mexican

Archaeology, tr. by Edith Mackie and Jorge R. Acosta, Mexico City, 1938 Davis, E. C., Ancient Americans, Holt, 1931 Gann, T. W. F., Ancient Cities and Modern Tribes, Scribner, 1926

— — and Thompson, John E., The

History of the Maya from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, Scribner, 1931 Holmes, W. H., Archaeological Studies among the Ancient Cities of Mexico, Field Columbian Museum, 1895-97; issued in parts Joyce, Thomas A., Central American and West Indian Archeology, Putnam, 1916 Keleman, Pal, Medieval American Art, 2 vols., Macmillan, 1943

Lothrop, Samuel K., Pottery of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, 2 vols.. Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, New York City,


MacCurdy, G. G., A Study of Chiriquian Antiquities, Yale University Press, 191 1 Mason, Gregory, Columbus Came Late, Century, I93i

Silver Cities of Yucatan, Putnam,


Mason, John A., The Ancient Civilizations of Middle America, Bulletin of the University Museum, University of Pennsylvania, June 1943

The Maya and Their Neighbors, Appleton-Century, 1940

Medioni, Gilbert, and Pinto, Marie-Thdrtee, Art in Ancient Mexico j Oxford University Press, 1941


Middle American Archaeology, Tozzer, Alfred M., “The Greater Cultures,” Lothrop, Sam- uel K., “The Lesser Cultures,” Bulletin of the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Vol. XXIX, Nos. 1 and 2, 1941

Morris, Earl H., The Temple of the Warriors, Scribner, 1931

Saville, Marshall H., The Goldsmiths Art in Ancient Mexico, Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, New York City, 1920

Turquois Mosaic Art in Ancient

Mexico, Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, New York City, 1922

Spinden, Herbert J., Ancient Civilizations of Mexico and Central America, 3d ed. rev., Amer- ican Museum of Natural History, New York City, 1943

A Study of Maya Art, Peabody

Museum, Cambridge, Mass., 1913

Thompson, John E., The Civilization of the Mayas, Chicago Natural History Museum, 1942

Mexico before Cortez, Scribner,


Toscano, Salvador, Arte precolombino de Mixico y de la America Central, Mexico City, 1944

Totten, G. O., Maya Architecture, Maya Press, 1926

Tribes and Temples , 2 vols., Tulane University, 1926-27

Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York City, 1940

Vaillant, George C., Artists and Craftsmen in Ancient Central America, guide leaflet 88, American Museum of Natural History, New York City, 1935

The Aztecs of Mexico, Doubleday,

Doran, 1941

Wiener, Leo, Mayan and Mexican Origins, Cam- bridge, privately printed, 1926

Willard, T. A., Bride of the Rain God, Burrows, 1930

City of the Sacred Well, Century,




[a] Poncho . From an island in Lake Titicaca. Cotton and vicuna wool. H. jJ9 in. Red, green, black, buff, and violet with silver tinsel yam in the border figures. Inca. American Museum of Natural History, New York City. ( American Museum of Natural His- tory)



TATITH the decline of the Tiahuana- V V can Empire, the coastal Chimu and Nazca became independent, built great cities, such as Pachacamac and Chan Chan, and revived in particular their arts of weaving, pottery, and met- alwork.

In the highlands a remarkable growth took place through the efforts of the Incas, a small highland tribe who set up their rule in the valley of Cuzco, with the city of Cuzco as their

capital, and gradually extended their power until, in the early fifteenth cen- tury, it reached beyond the boundaries of the old Tiahuanacan Empire. It was a tolerant, benevolent rule, with religious practices free from the human sacrifices which characterize those of the Middle American peoples. Their religion centered about the worship of the powers of nature, primarily the sun, whose temple in Cuzco, the Coricancha (Place of Gold), was the most



[a] Machu Picchu . Inca . ( National Geographic Society — Tale University Peruvian Ex- pedition. Copyright National Geographic Society)

resplendent building in the Inca Em- pire. In their stark valley they wrung food from the barren soil by terracing the mountainsides, as the Peruvians do today. 1


The Incas, even more than their Tia- huanacan predecessors, were supreme masters of cutting and fitting hard stone, a material that was plentiful in this high mountainous region. As a militant, conquering people, they se- lected sites fortified by nature, and strengthened them further by various structures for defense; as a religious people, they built temples, especially to the sun god, whose cult constituted the state religion; for their kings they

1 As the Incas never invented a system of writing, our knowledge of them is derived from their works of art and artifacts and from the Spanish chroniclers. For the latter see P. A. Means, Ancient Civilization of the Andes, Scribner, 1931; Pre-Columbian Art and Culture in the Andean Area , Bulletin of the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, December, 1 940; and W. H. Prescott, History of the Conquest of Peru, Modem Library, 1936.

erected palaces befitting their status. Illustrative of their uncanny ability to select a naturally defended site and adapt it to function as a community, as well as of their amazing skill in masonry, is the city of Machu Picchu ' 1 (Fig. 41 9 a), which is perched on a ridge between two jagged peaks high above the canyon of the Urubamba River in the heart of the Andes, some fifty miles north of Cuzco. Here in this isolated, wildly majestic environment the Incas built a city so ingeniously adapted to the site that it seems a part of the moun- tains themselves. At Sacsahuaman and Cuzco also are still to be seen the som- ber dark walls of the Inca temples and palaces, powerful walls made of pre- cisely cut stone held firm — even in the curving Walls of cylindrical struc- tures — not by mortar but by cramps, a system of great advantage structurally in a land subject to earthquakes. From the esthetic viewpoint, they are highly

2 Discovered and excavated by Hiram Bing- ham in x 91 1 . See Hiram Bingham, Machu Picchu, a Citadel of the.Jncas, Yale University Press, 1930; and the National Geographic Magazine , April, 1913, and February, 1915.



[a] Alpaca. Of sheet silver modeled in re- pousse. H. 9 in. Inca. American Museum of Natural History , New York City. ( American Museum of Natural History)

impressive for their feeling of solidity, for their texture, and for their finely cut angles and meticulously precise joinings. 1 Instead of embellishing their temples and palaces with paintings and colored carvings such as we found in Middle America, the Incas relied upon the decorative element of a material so abundant and so characteristically their own — gold. Dark granite and gold — it was a combination befitting these highland people. Gold was also sym- bolic of the sun god. His temple, ac- cording to the Spanish chronicles, was covered on the interior with sheets of gold beaten thin and encrusted with emeralds — a decoration lavish beyond imagination. And temples throughout the Inca Empire gleamed similarly, though not to the same degree.

1 When the Spaniards captured Cuzco, razed the city, and on its ruins built their own, they did not level all tire thick stout Inca walls com- pletely, but utilized them in the construction of their houses and churches — fortunately for our knowledge of Inca building.


Like the palaces and the temples, the garments of the people and their cere- monial costumes were designed starkly, usually with geometric motifs, occa- sionally representational. Figure 41 8a reproduces a poncho worked off into squares, each filled with a geometric motif which, by variations in color value and a stress upon diagonal line, vivi- fies an otherwise monotonous checker- board design. The same simplicity, bordering on geometry, permeates the goldwork and silverwork that was pro- duced, according to the chroniclers, in unbelievable quantities — ornaments and utensils of all kinds and sizes, as well as representational objects such as the Alpaca of Figure 420A. The smooth surfaces of the head and feet throw into contrast the vertical ridges of the metal (made by the repousse process) , which so effectively suggest the heavy wool of the animal and at the same time accent the characteristically long neck.


American Sources of Modem Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York City, 1933

Bennett, Wendell C., Chavin Stone Carving, Yale Anthropological Studies, Yale University Press, 1 942, Vol. 3

Bingham, Hiram, Machu Picchu, a Citadel of the Incas, Yale University Press, 1930

Brown, Frederick M., America's Yesterday, Lip- pincott, 1937

Joyce, Thomas A., South American Archeology, Putnam, 1912

Lehmann, Walter, and Doering, Heinrich, The Art of Old Peru, London, 1 924

Lothrop, Samuel K., Inca Treasure as Depicted by Spanish Historians, Southwest Museum, Los Angeles, 1938

Markham, Sir Clements R., The Incas of Peru, 3d ed., Dutton, 1912

Mead, Charles W., Old Civilizations of Inca Land, 2d ed., American Museum of Natural History, New York City, 1 935

Means, Philip A., Ancient Civilizations of the Andes, Scribner, 1931


Means, Philip A., Pre-Columbian Art and Culture in the Andean Area, Bulletin of the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Vol. XXVIII, No. 3, Dec. 1940

. A Survey of Ancient Peruvian Art,

Yale University Press, 1917 __ — — — A Study of Peruvian Textiles , Mu-

seum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1932

. — — Peruvian Textiles, Metropolitan

Museum of Art, New York City,: 1930 Posnansky, Arthur, Tihuanacu, the Cradle of American Man, tr. by James F. Shearer, 3 vols., Augustin, 1945


— — Tihuanacu y la civilizacion pre-

historica en el altiplano andino. La Paz, 1911 Radin, Paul, Indians of South America, Double- day, Doran, 1942

Rowe, John H., An Introduction to the Archaeology of Cuzco, Peabody Museum, 1944 Stafford, Cora E., Paracas Embroideries, Augus- tin, 1941

Thompson, John E., Archaeology of South America, Chicago Natural History Museum, 1936 Wassermann-San Bias, B. J., Ceramicas del antiguo Peru de la Coleccion Wassermann-San Bias, Buenos Aires, 1938



Pueblo Art

O F the many tribes inhabiting the great area north of the Rio Grande, the Pueblo (village) people reached the highest cultural level. They lived in the region about the Four Cor- ners — where Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona meet. This semi- arid plateau is cut by canyons and buttes, an austere land of brilliant color and tremendous spaces. As far back as we can trace the tribe, they were nomadic hunters and seed-gatherers, known as the Basket Makers because of their skill in this craft. The introduc- tion of maize, probably from Middle America, and later of beans and squash (possibly about a.d. 500) led them to a more settled life devoted to agriculture, to the building of permanent houses, to the making of pottery and textiles. The Pueblo culture reached its apogee in the Great Pueblo age (about 950-1300). Each village lived a self-contained com-

munal life — nonindividualistic, pro- foundly religious, but not theocratic like the Mayan, the Aztec, and the Incan. They worshiped the powers of nature, especially those concerned with rain and fertility — winds, clouds, and rainbow — which they supplicated with elaborate ceremonial. All the daily activities of life — religious, social, industrial, creative — combined into an extraordinary unity. The planting of corn, for example, was a ritual; and prayers for rain were expressed not only in the chants and dances, but also in the costumes of the dancers and in tex- tiles and ceramics.


In contrast to the Middle and South American peoples, the Pueblos built no great religious centers and no temples, despite their deeply religious character. Except for the parts of the cere- mony which took place in an under-



[a] Wall Painting from a Kiva. Awatovi , Arizona. Detail from a continuous decorative band. Replica. {Museum of Modern Art)

ground room, the kiva, their ritual was performed in the open, with elaborate costuming, chanting, and dancing. So their architecture was confined to building houses, and to protecting these from the marauding nomads, even to the point of providing entrance by ladder only. Their materials were the local sandstone, adobe, and timber. The stonework was remarkable, con- sidering that they possessed stone tools only and no draft animals. In the canyons, reaching up into the mesas, they found well-protected natural cav- erns large enough to house an entire community. Such are the hundreds of

cliff villages of the Mesa Verde (Green Tableland), so named because of its unusually thick covering of pinon). Cliff Palace {a. name given by its dis- coverers), for example, occupies a cavern high above the valley floor. It consists of about two hundred round or rectangular rooms built of stone that was laid with great skill, or of adobe and timber, many of them several stories high. These constitute a com- munal domicile. Along the outer edge of the cavern floor are about twenty circular kivas. Not all Pueblo houses were built in caverns. On the contrary, villages rose in the river valleys, as in

[b] Hopi Jar. Sikyatki ware. Red and black on yellow. D. 13 in. H. 7 in. 16th cent. National Mu- seum , Washington. ( Bu- reau of Ethnology , Smith- sonian Institution)


the Chaco Canyon with its eighteen or more major and innumerable minor villages. Along the river bottom the villagers farmed by irrigation, and in the kivas and the courts they carried out elaborate ceremonials to supplicate the gods for rain and abundant har- vests. Pueblo Bonito (Beautiful Village), one of the largest and wealthiest, con- sisted of nearly a thousand rooms built on a semicircular plan about a court, and terraced back from one story in front to five at the back, which abutted the canyon wall. In the court were large kivas, which, together with those of Chetro Ketl (Rain Village), illustrate in their walls a climax of stonework. For the highest skill was expended on the construction of the kiva, a sacrosanct structure in which were performed the most sacred parts of the ritual on which not only the welfare but the very exist- ence of the people were believed to depend.

Sometimes the walls were made of large smooth blocks of the local sand- stone, smoothed on the face and laid in courses rather far apart, the inter- stices being filled with small thin chips — all laid in adobe mud; or of squarely cut blocks rather uniform in size and evenly laid. In some of the kivas, the curving wall demanded ex- pert cutting, especially when we recall that only stone tools were known. In addition, when corners of large stones alternate with those of smaller ones, the decorative and textural effects, com- bined with precise laying, result in an unusually beautiful wall surface. Some- times the walls of the kiva were painted, as recent excavations have shown, in a highly conventional though at times a naturalistic style. Figure 42 2 a is a part of a continuous band running around the walls of a kiva, and seems to repre- sent some ceremony. In fact, some of the details of the costumes are almost identical with those worn by these peo-

[a] Mimbres Bowl. Black on white. D. c. 9 in. 13th cent. Peabody Museum , Harvard University. ( Peabody Museum )

pie in ceremonies today. It is an art of line, and light and dark color, on a fiat surface, predominantly angular, as though influenced by textile designs, with no background and no accessories to detract from the directness of the presentation. It is thus extraordinarily decorative. But it was in costuming and personal adornment that the love of color and embellishment found expres- sion in a contrasting setting furnished by the simple, almost barren architec- ture.


Early in their culture the Pueblos were expert in making finely coiled bas- kets for household and burial use and in inventing designs in red and black with zigzag, terrace, and other geo- metric motifs. The early black and white pottery, with an angular textile- . like design not always suitable for curv- ing surfaces, or with the constructional coils left unsmoothed, suggests an ori- gin in basketry. Ceramics was a major art in all the Southwest, and an art



whose practice, like that of basketry, was strictly confined to the women. It was a utilitarian art, whose function was to provide the water jars, and the storage and serving vessels necessary to every- day life. All pottery was made by the coiling method, for the wheel was un- known. Different pueblos developed individual styles, of which the Sikyatki ware is noteworthy (Fig. 422B). It con- sisted chiefly of large bowls with a broad flattened shoulder, and shallow bowls made of a yellow or orange clay decorated with geometric designs or highly conventional birds and animals in red or brown. Here again is seen a predilection for angularity in design, though the Sikyatki ware combines the curved and the angular with pecul- iar felicity in the designs within the shallow bowl. A unique ceramic ex- pression one finds in Mimbres pottery. The black-and-white food bowls of this ware are decorated with figures of birds, insects, fish, and even human fig- ures, drawn with a vivacious natural- ism but with a conventionalization suf- ficient for filling the space (Fig. 423A).

Hopewell Art

O F the other cultures found north of the Rio Grande, we should at least mention one of the Eastern wood- land groups, the Hopewell, which cen- tered in Ohio, but was widespread in the eastern United States . 1 We know relatively little of these people in com- parison with our knowledge of the Pueblos. Among the Pueblos, the most imposing art expression was the com- munal village, together with the ob- jects essential for communal living;

1 This culture derives its name from the owner of a site in Ohio where the remains of it were first discovered and where some of its finest prod- ucts have been found.

among the Hopewells, great mounds and earthworks and the ceremonial ol> jects placed in them . 2 Some of the mounds served for burial, and in these the finest works of art have been found; some were foundations for temples or domiciles; and some, perhaps the most spectacular, were effigies, such as the Great Serpent Mound. All the mounds probably had some social or religious function or, as in the case of the earth- works, a defensive role. Of the objects found in the mounds, the copper orna- ments and stone sculpture are note- worthy. Copper, secured from the Lake Superior region, was hammered, cut, engraved, or embossed by the repousse method into various ornaments with geometric and conventionalized human, bird, and animal motifs handled with rare ability in two-dimensional design- ing. At the same time the Hopewell people, unlike the pictorial-minded Pueblos, were sculptors. Stone pipes, carved with flint tools into the shape of birds and human and animal figures (Fig. 425A), show great vitality in forms generally naturalistic but tempered by material, size, and adaptation to func- tion. Their carved shell gorgets and stone disks reveal in their designs a contact with Middle America.


While the Eurasian civilizations of antiquity were evolving into the medi- eval cultures, and in the process were making more intimate contacts one with another, the American continents remained isolated and unknown to Europe, and their cultures evolved with merely regional contacts through trade, infiltration, and conquest. The

2 The theory that the “Mound Builders” were one coherent people who preceded the Indian is no longer held. Mound-building was characteristic of many aboriginal groups in the Eastern half of the United States.



[a] Tobacco Pipe in the Form of a Wolf Soapstone. L. 10 £ in. Hopewell. Ohio State Museum , Columbus, ( Ohio State Museum)

Maya, after abandoning their cities in Guatemala and Honduras, moved into Yucatan, where they built great eccle- siastical centers with pyramid temples and secular buildings having lavish decorations, colorful and suavely curvi- linear. They made pottery, richly warm in color, which was influential, prob- ably through trade, among their neigh- bors. The Zapotecs and the Mixtecs were builders of stone “palaces” and tombs with a highly individual type of decoration, stone mosaic; they were masters of clay sculpture; and they pro- duced jewelry and other objects of gold, turquoise, and jade intricately carved, all of great elegance and re- finement and of high technical skill. In the Valley of Mexico, the Toltecs, the most gifted people in this area, were overwhelmed by the militant Aztecs, who appropriated much of the Toltec culture. Both built massive pyramid temples and were master stonecutters. The Aztecs in particular produced mas- sive stone sculpture with an almost savage forcefulness. In South America, the highest level was reached by the Incas, who were masters in stonework, in erecting fortifications, and temples

and palaces with magnificently cut masonry and ablaze, on the interior, with gold and jewels. They were also expert in fashioning objects of gold and silver and in weaving. All of these cul- tures succumbed in the sixteenth cen- tury to the invading Spaniards.

North of the Rio Grande were two outstanding cultures; the Pueblo and the Hopewell. The Pueblos, instead of erecting temples, built great communal domestic structures, developed a high level of pottery and weaving, and found expression religiously in costume and in ceremonials performed largely out of doors. The Hopewell peoples built im- posing mounds for social, religious, and defense purposes. They were skilled de- signers of copper ornaments, and carved stone pipes based on bird, human, and animal figures, which tended in the direction of naturalism but were con- ventionalized enough for their function.


Brown, Frederick M. , America's Yesterday , Lip-' pincott, 1937

Chapman, Kenneth M., Pueblo Indian Pottery, 2 vols., Nice, France, 1933 and 1936



Clarke, Eleanor P., Designs on the Prehistoric Pottery of Arizona , Social Science Bulletin No. 9, May 15, 1935, University of Arizona Douglas, Frederic H., ed., The Indian Leaflet Series, Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colo.,


and d’Harnoncourt, Rene,

Indian Art of the United States, Museum of Modern Art, New York City, 1941 Hewett, Edgar L., Ancient Life in the American Southwest, Bobbs-Merrill, 1930

— The Chaco Canyon and its Monu-

ments , University of New Mexico Press,


Jenness, Diamond, The Indians of Canada, Ot- tawa, 1932

Kidder, Alfred V., An Introduction to the Study of Southwestern Archaeology, Yale University Press, 1924

— and others, The Pottery of Pecos ,

Vol. I, 1931, Vol. II, 1936, Yale University Press

Krieger, Herbert W., Aspects of Aboriginal Deco- rative Art in America , Annual Report, 1930,

Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., I93 1

Mason, Otis T., Aboriginal American Basketry, Annual Report, 1902, Smithsonian Institu- tion, Washington, D.C., 1904

The Maya and Their Neighbors, Appleton- Gentury, 1 940

Morris, Ann A., Digging in the Southwest, Double- day, Doran, 1933

Morris, Earl H., Archaeological Studies in the La Plata District, Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1939

Roberts, Frank H. H., Jr., A Survey of South- western Archeology, Amual Report, 1935, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 1936

Shetrone, Henry C., The Mound-Builders, Apple- ton, 1930

Vaillant, George C., Indian Arts in North America, Harper, 1939

Wissler, Clark, Indians of the United States, Doubleday, Doran, 1940

— The American Indian , 3d ed..

Oxford University Press, 1938

[a] Botticelli. Birth of Venus, c. 1485. Uffizi, Florence. ( Alinari )



T HE five-hundred-year period from about 1400 to 1900 witnessed the rise of the Renaissance movement in Italy, its spread to all the coun- tries of Europe, including Russia, and its decentralization to the Americas and other parts of the world. In these movements, the partitions of cultural areas began to break and the world to shrink strikingly in the direction of closer unity. Revival and expansion of scientific knowledge stimu- lated travel and exploration to search for new routes to secure the luxuries of the East. With the accidental discovery of America, expeditions set forth from many of the European nations with various motivations, but all with a desire to secure a share of the wealth — - not now of the East, but of the New World, though a passage to the East was still a desirable objective. Europe and America now became united, in that the European nations expanded into colonial empires to which European civilizations were transplanted. The colonists went to varying environments. In the Americas they encountered indigenous cultures which were dissimilar in ideology and form from their own. Where the Indians were not exterminated or pushed back into the in- terior, the impact of the one group on the other produced the American- European art of the Colonial age.

Exploration and colonization were not confined, however, to the Americas. To Africa and the Ear East the trading companies set forth. In China, after a renascence in the Ming dynasty, flamboyancy and decay were accelerated until, with the end of the Ch’ien Lung period, 1796, no art was produced that could be called noteworthy. India also experienced the decline of the Mogul Empire and generally decadent, unsettled conditions. Japan went into isola- tion in 1638, but within its own confines continued creative activity. In- filtration of Europeans into the Far East began with the trading companies, who established themselves at ports for economic advantage only, without any attempt either to transplant European culture, as did the colonists in the Americas, or to understand the cultures with which they made contact. To be sure, traders brought home various products which led to the vogue of chinoiserie in France and England; to the manufacture of true porcelain in Germany and France; to the appearance of Chinese motifs in Mexican pottery; to the use of lacquer in furniture and of Chinese wallpaper. With the arrival of the Jesuits in China in the seventeenth century, however, a sincere beginning was made to understand something of the nature of the Oriental civilization. But it was only a beginning, and whatever contacts resulted were superficial, a mere opening of the door to the great arts of the East, which were to be known only in the late nineteenth and the twentieth centuries.

emuAMuice \JJit in

R enaissance (literally, “Re-

- birth”) is the accepted though too restricted name given the complex movement that began stirring Italy in the thirteenth and fourteenth cen- turies, reached a climax there in the fifteenth and sixteenth, 1 and spread with different manifestations oyer Eu- rope. Out of its complexity at least two general aspects emerge which affect its art expression: the discovery and enjoy- ment of the individual and his world, and the revival of classical culture. The trend in the Gothic age from the tran- scendent to the empirical, manifested in an increasing naturalism and given great impetus in Italy by Saint Fran- cis and the Franciscan movement, eventually turned the tide of thought from the medieval point of view, which focused upon a future life, to a realiza- tion of the value of man in his actual present and to a vision of the delights and beauties of this life. This human- istic and individualistic point of view found a great source of stimulation in the Humanistic classical literature, philosophy, and art, whose study was one of the intense passions of the day.

The Renaissance, then, meant essen- tially a new attitude toward life, which led to a development of the individual, a greater freedom of thought, and a consequent curiosity about man and his

1 The evolution of the Renaissance falls roughly into divisions marked by the centuries in their Italian names: Dugento (thirteenth). Trecento (fourteenth), Quattrofcento (fifteenth), Cinquecento (sixteenth) .

world. Hence we find ourselves in an age of scientific research and invention. The introduction of gunpowder, prob- ably early in the fourteenth century, changed methods of warfare; the in- vention of the printing press, about the middle of the fifteenth century, meant the gradual substitution of printed books for manuscripts. Interest in man’s surroundings naturally led to voyages of travel and discovery, such as those of Columbus (1492-1504), which had been prompted by the earlier journeys of Marco Polo in China (1260-1295) and by the tales that he brought back of the fabulous riches of the East. The result of such voyages was a wider knowledge of geography; colonization; and the development of commerce, with the wealth that followed. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), with insatiable curiosity about man, animals, plants, and mechanical devices, attacked great engineering problems, even discovering some of the principles of flying machines and submarines. Copernicus, the Polish astronomer (1473-1543), rediscovered the revolution of the Earth and the planets about the Sun, a concept that had been lost since the Greeks; and Galileo ( 1 564-1642) , watching a sway- ing lamp in the cathedral of Pisa, de- duced from its movement the law of the pendulum.

This freedom of thought was often opposed by the Church, which saw in it the undermining of its authority. The early Renaissance, largely medieval, still shared the fervor of the preceding



centuries, under the stimulation of the two great monastic orders founded in the thirteenth century — the Francis- can and the Dominican; and the re- ligious and the secular were inseparably interwoven. But with the new freedom, secularization and revolt against au- thority, especially in the face of the pomp and circumstance and at times intrigue and profligacy of the papal court, brought about on the one hand reform within the Church and on the other skepticism; a break in the social solidarity of the Middle Ages; and a growing emphasis upon secular life.

Socially, democratic tendencies led towai'd an equalization Of classes and with the advent of cheap printed books, toward more nearly equal opportunities for education. The social ideal was the many-sided gentleman, and toward its attainment were produced such re- markable individuals as Leon Battista Alberti 1 and Leonardo da Vinci.

Politically, it was an age of turmoil. For the communes found it necessary to ally themselves with one or the other ruling power, the Papacy or the Em- pire; they fought each other fiercely for commercial advantage, and within their own walls kept up local warfare over the lordship of the commune. These lords — tyrants, as they were known — • were frequently enlightened paternal rulers; frequently they were not. In either case, many of them were remarkable personalities with equal ca- pacity for war, business, and culture.

Notwithstanding the enthusiasm and the prolific accomplishments of the Renaissance, its contributions to sci- ence, its great outburst of expression in literature, music, all the arts, and in the amenities of outward life, there is the

1 For a brief statement, see J. G. Burckhardt,

The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, Harper,

1929, pp. 149 ff. For a contemporary discussion of this ideal, see Baldassare Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier , Scribner, 1903.

contrasting picture of its brutality and violence, profligacy, treason, poison- ings, and assassinations.

The heart of the Renaissance was Florence (Fig. 431 a): “Fair and gay Florentine city, the fount of valor and joy, flower of cities, Fiorenza . . . [yet in appearance] proud and dark and threatening . . . her hundred and fifty great towers and her battlemented walls surrounded by a moat, against a som- ber background of hills not yet bright- ened by houses and olive gardens but covered with cypresses, oak, ash, and fir trees.” 2 This walled, compact city with narrow streets and tall threatening towers was a thriving commercial cen- ter, and its bankers and cloth-finishers were known all over Europe for their shrewdness as well as for their products. Florence prospered amazingly though it fought continuously, if not with Pisa and Siena for commercial supremacy, at home over local politics, for it had no gift for managing its civic affairs. Whatever stability it had was due largely to its highly organized guilds, 3 whose power extended far beyond the limits of industry. The noble families, each keen for power, kept the city in a turmoil with their feuds, not at all de- terred by the sight of the bodies of the vanquished hanging in the public square or, hardly less gruesome, painted on the walls of the palace of the chief magistrate. This last became the custom, so that one artist commissioned to paint these effigies after one of the periodic uprisings won for himself the name “Andrea of the Hanged.”

In spite of these frequent upheavals, the various activities of life continued uninterrupted and with amazing vi- tality. The people were industrious and

2 Guido Biagi, Men and Manners of Old Flor- ence, McGlurg, 1909, p. 16.

3 SeeJ, E. Staley, Guilds of Florence, McGlurg, 1906, for a full description of the guilds as well as interesting illustrations.


43 1

ambitious; intellects were keen and quick; anything mediocre failed to sat- isfy . 1 For this reason the sculptor Dona- tello refused to remain in Padua after he had completed his commissions there with great success, because, he said, he was too much praised by Paduans and felt the need of the con- tinual censure of the Florentines as an incentive to greater excellence.

Thus the city flourished materially and flowered culturally. Outwardly, life was festive . 2 The great palaces of the nobles (Fig. 438A), though massive and fortresslike for defense, contained many comforts and luxuries. Festivals and pageants of various kinds were fre- quent . 3 Now we hear of an Adoration of the Magi or an Annunciation; now of an Age of Gold or the Car of Death. Jousts and weddings not only furnished entertainment for the people, but to- gether with the pageants kept the artists busy decorating banners, fash- ioning jewelry , 4 painting the marriage chests, designing scenery, costumes, and cars for the festivals — - all of which in turn quickened the fancy.

The artist, with the Church, the nobles, and the wealthy merchants thus in constant need of his wares, had a place as well defined and as natural as that of the silk merchant, the butcher, or the baker. Supply and demand pre- sented no problem. An artist was a versatile craftsman, and specialization was the exception, not the rule. His

1 Read the introductory paragraph to Va- sari’s life of Perugino.

2 George Eliot’s Romola furnishes a fairly ac- curate picture of Florentine life in the fifteenth century. For contemporary illustrations of every- day life, see Paul Kristeller, Early Florentine Wood- cuts, London, 1897; Burckhardt, op. cit.; Julia Cartwright, Isabella d’Este, Dutton, 1903, 2 vols.; and J. A. D.-G. Ross, Florentine Palaces and Their Stories, Dutton, 1905.

3 See G. B. Brown, The Fine Arts, Scribner, 1927, Pt. I, Chap. Ill, for a description.

4 See Benvenuto Cellini’s Autobiography, Mod- ern Library, 1927.

[a] Italy. Centers of Renaissance Art.

shop was a place where a patron could come to consult about building a palace or carving a statue or painting an altar- piece or decorating the walls of a chapel; where he could order a jewel set in a miter, a chest carved and


[a] Nicola d' Apulia. Pulpit in the Bap- tistery of the Cathedral of Pisa. 1260. ( Ali - nari )

painted, a banner decorated with the family heraldic device, costumes and properties made for pageants and church festivals, books illuminated, and tapestries designed for a palace or a church.

Training for such versatility was ac- quired through the apprentice system . 1 Each well-known artist had a shop, a bottega, as it was called — there may have been from twenty to thirty in Florence — and to the artist a boy was apprenticed when he was ten or twelve years old. He spent his time grinding the colors, preparing the gold, trans- ferring the cartoons (the master’s pre-

1 See Cennino Cennini, The Book of the Art of Cemino Cennini, London, 1922; Brown, op. cit., sections on a Florentine workshop, Pt. I, Chap. Ill; and E. H. and E. W. Blashfield, Italian

Cities, new ed., Scribner, 1912, “The Florentine Artist.”

liminary drawings) to the panel or wall, preparing the panel of seasoned wood for a painting. In this way years were spent in laying a solid foundation of craftsmanship. As the apprentice be- came proficient in the fundamentals of these crafts, he was permitted to work somewhat more independently and even trusted to paint minor parts of a great altarpiece or to make the jewel- set brooch, according to his master’s design; and finally, after many years of such training he might leave his mas- ter’s shop to set up one of his own.

For the public and officialdom, art was a matter of civic interest and en- thusiasm. The archives of fifteenth- century Florence reveal to us what a great amount of time the city council spent upon art projects, such as the competition for the dome to be erected on the Cathedral , or the bronze doors for the Baptistery , or the location of Michel- angelo’s statue of David. And the people as a whole felt and appreciated art as a vital part of life, so that much of the art criticism came from the masses. When Ghiberti was making his plaque in the competition for the doors of the Baptistery , he invited people to come to his shop and criticize his work as it pro- gressed. When Leonardo had made his cartoon of the Madonna with Saint Anne , “the chamber wherein it stood was crowded for two days by men and women, old and young — • a concourse, in short, such as one sees flocking to the most solemn festivals, all hastening to behold the wonders produced by Leonardo and which awakened amaze- ment in the whole people .” 2 When Duccio’s Majesta was completed, there was a holiday in Siena, and a great procession of priests and citizens in holiday dress, with candles and the

2 Giorgio Vasari, Lives of Seventy of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, tr. by E. H. and E. W. Blashfield and A. A. Hopkins, Scribner, 4 vols., 19x3, Vol. II, p. 393.


sound of bells and musical instruments, carried the altarpiece to its place in the cathedral.

The general appearance of the city had a stimulating effect upon both the people and the artists. In their love for it and in their pride, the Florentines adorned their city with works by the greatest artists, many of which were placed in view of the public along the thoroughfares and in the open squares. At the entrance of the municipal pal- ace facing the piazza stood Michel- angelo’s David; niches in Giotto's Tower and Or San Michele held statues made by Donatello, Ghiberti, and Verrocchio; Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise faced the cathedral piazza, in the heart of the city; along a narrow street was a lunette filled with a Luca della Robbia Ma- donna and Child in rich blue-and-white glazed terra cotta, or a painted terra- cotta Nativity by Donatello; just inside the churches and the monasteries were great cycles of mural paintings; above all soared the powerful lines of Brunel- leschi’s dome. With mind and eye trained by daily acquaintance with all these, it is little wonder that the average Florentine was a keen art critic.

[a] Arnolfo di Cambio . Detail from the Baldacchino of St, Paul’s Outside the Walls (Fig. 253A), Rome. 1285. (Alinari)



(about 1300-1600)

TOURING the Dugento and the Tre- U cento, and well into the Quattro- cento, the Gothic style of architecture prevailed, modified by climatic condi- tions and by the tenacity of the Roman- esque because of its peculiar suitability to Italy. In these centuries commercial expansion and material prosperity stim-


ulated a large amount of building, civic as well as ecclesiastical: San Fran- cesco, Assisi; Cathedral and Palazzo Pub- blico, Siena; Cathedral, Orvieto; Cathe- dral, Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella, Bargello, and Palazzo Vecchio, Florence; Ducal Palace, Venice; Cathedral, Milan; San Petr onto, Bologna.



[a] Nicola d* Apulia. Crucifixion. From the pulpit in the Pisan Baptistery (Fig. 432 a). 1260. (. Alinari )

In the thirteenth and fourteenth cen- turies sculpture also was largely medi- eval, an integral part of the structure. Yet new forces were already affecting its character, earlier than that of build- ing itself. For Nicola d’Apulia (Nicola Pisano; about 1206-1278), a sculptor who had been trained in southern Italy, where one of the earliest of classi- cal revivals was in full swing, began working in Pisa, Siena, and Perugia. His Pisan Pulpit (Fig. 432A) combines Romanesque, Gothic, and classical elements. The panel reliefs (Fig. 434A) are crowded with quiet, imposing fig- ures, flattened to maintain the frontal plane, and though Roman in type, 1 they achieve a decorative quality by

1 Nicola’s immediate inspiration seems to have been late Roman sarcophagi, examples of which were to be seen in Pisa.

the use cf a conventional treatment of details. A fresh observation of nature, however, and a certain solidity in the figures are new notes.

In the work of Nicola’s son, Giovanni (about 1250-1330), the discretion of Nicola, so truly sculptural in its effect, was submerged in tumultuous move- ment 2 (Fig. 435A) . Through the restless groups rapid movement rushes hither and thither. In detail each figure, com- pared with Nicola’s, is small in scale, and dynamically alive. Here Gothic naturalism and intricate linealism burst the bonds of architectural demands, but contributed to the evolving tradi- tion a dynamic living quality. A comparison of Giovanni’s Madonna in

2 Note the style of both these Pisani in the Siena Pulpit and in the Perugia Fountain, on which they collaborated.


Ja] Giovanni Pisano . Crucifixion. From, the pulpit at Pistoia. 1298-1361. ( Alinari )

Padua with the Vierge Dorie at Amiens illustrates well Giovanni’s use of the Gothic sweep of line.

Quite in contrast to Giovanni’s con- fused agitation are the clarity, the calm rhythms, and the architectural fitness in every detail of the tombs and ciboria of Arnolfo di Cambio (died 1302; Fig. 43 3 a). They show a perfect unity of various materials and forms — Gothic motifs, colorful Cosmati work and colored marbles, and highly deco- rative refined sculpture. Gothic lineal- ism, again, marks the work of Lorenzo Maitani (about 1275-1330) in the low reliefs on the fa$ade of the Orvieto Cathedral (Fig. 437 a).

Sculpture seems to have been more actively pursued outside of Florence until another Pisano, Andrea (about 1270-1348), was commissioned by the Florentines to make a set of bronze doors for the Baptistery (Fig. 436A). Andrea

made his doors decorative by means of a repeated geometric motif, one found in Gothic sculpture and illuminations, within which he placed low reliefs of simple composition with smoothly flowing lines, admirably adapted to the spaces and in no way detract- ing from the main decorative pattern. In his reliefs on the Campanile of the Cathedral one feels the largeness of Ni- cola’s style and the dynamic force of Giovanni’s, plus an accomplishment in design not met before. The adequacy of design to material as illustrated in the bronze reliefs of the Baptistery Doors is paralleled by the stone carvings of the Campanile (Fig, 441 a) . The amplitude of the forms, which are based upon a di- rect observation of nature, their clear placement in shallow space, and their highly sensitive relation to the hexago- nal shape seem to point to an influence upon Andrea of his contemporary

[a] Andrea Pisano. South Doors of the Bap- tistery, Florence. Bronze. In the panels are scenes from the life of St. John , and allegorical figures . 1330. ( Alinari )

Giotto, who designed the Campanile and probably carved some of the reliefs.

In the fifteenth century the builders, whose eyes opened to the material re- mains of the ancient civilization that lay everywhere about them, began to study these ancient monuments as the Humanists were eagerly perusing the literature of the same culture. When the young Brunelleschi went to Rome with his friend Donatello 1 he was struck with amazement, and eagerly spent day and night among the ruins, drawing ground plans, vaults, cor-

1 Read the account of this in Vasari’s lives of Brunelleschi and Donato (Donatello) .

nices, and moldings. As a result of this new interest in classical remains, the architects began to introduce into their buildings classical decorative motifs, cornices, and stringcourses, and thus freely intermingled the old and the new with a freshness and at times a daring that are indicative of the free attitude of the early Renaissance.

This daring is characteristic of the young Filippo Brunelleschi ( 1 379-1 446) in his design for the dome of the Cathe- dral of Florence (Fig. 439A), which though not original in construction, 2 sounds a

2 Read the account of the building in Vasari’s life of Brunelleschi.


[a] Lorenzo Maitani (?). Scenes from Genesis. Fagade of Orvieto Cathedral. Early 14th cent. (Alinari) Maitani designed the fagade and directed , if he did not actually share in, the

carving of the reliefs.

distinctive new note in its scale and external effectiveness. To roof a struc- ture with a dome had been accom- plished successfully many times before, notably in the Pantheon (Fig. 177A) and Santa Sophia (Fig. 259A); but a compari- son of these two domes with that at Florence reveals at once a sharp differ- ence — namely, that the former are partly concealed from the exterior view and aim at interior effect chiefly; the latter purposely emphasizes the ex- terior, to dominate not only the cathe- dral but the city. This dome is octagonal in shape, and rises from an octagonal base pierced with circular windows. The great stone ribs rise with a curve of great beauty and strength to con- verge on the circular apex holding the lantern. Because of its size and

simple design, the dome dominates by its grandeur. It does not possess the mystic, aspiring quality of the Gothic cathedral, nor yet the perfect equi- librium of the Greek temple, but rather the frankly pagan note of the mastery of power. But