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Roman Mosaics; Or, Studies in Rome and Its Neighbourhood by Hugh Macmillan

Roman Mosaics; Or, Studies in Rome and Its Neighbourhood by Hugh Macmillan

Author:Hugh Macmillan [Macmillan, Hugh]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Rome (Italy) -- Description and travel
Published: 2005-07-01T16:00:00+00:00


One of the most valuable results of the expedition of the great Napoleon to Egypt, ostensibly for scientific and antiquarian purposes, but really for military glory, was the acquisition of the Rosetta stone now in the British Museum—which afforded the key to the decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphics—and of the obelisk of Luxor which now adorns the noble Place de la Concord in Paris. The history of the engineering difficulties overcome in bringing this obelisk to France is extremely interesting. Indeed, the story of the transportation of the obelisks from their native home, from time to time, to other lands, is no less romantic and worthy of study than the artistic, religious, or antiquarian phases of the subject. It forms a special literature of its own to which Commander Gorringe of the United States Navy, in his elaborate and magnificent work on Egyptian obelisks, has done the amplest justice. It cost upwards of £100,000 to bring the Luxor Obelisk to Paris, owing to the inexperience of the engineers and the imperfection of their method. But it was worthy of this vast expenditure of toil and money; for standing in an open circus unimpeded by narrow streets, and unspoiled by the tawdry ornaments which disfigure the Roman obelisks, it adds to the magnificent modern city the charm of antique majesty. It stands seventy-six feet and a half in height, with its apex left rough and unfinished, destitute of the gilded cap which formerly completed and protected it. Each of its four sides contains three vertical lines of well-executed hieroglyphics, which show that it was raised in honour of Rameses II., to adorn the stupendous temple of Luxor at Thebes which he constructed. When it lay on its original site, previous to its being transported, it was found to have been cracked at the time of its first erection, and repaired by means of two dove-tailed wedges of wood which had perished long ago. But this defect is not now noticeable. The companion of this obelisk is still standing at Luxor, and has already been described. Both of them show a peculiarity in their lines, which could only be noticed effectually when the pair stood together. This peculiarity is a convexity, or entasis, as it is called, on the inner faces. Even to the untrained eye its sides seem not of equal dimensions; and actual measurement shows the irregularity more clearly. This is said, however, to be exceptional to the general rule, and to be foreign to the design of an obelisk in the best period of the Pharaonic art. Still, several magnificent specimens, such as the Luxor and Flaminian obelisks, exhibit it. And they are an illustration of what was a marked characteristic of all classic architecture, which shows a slight curvature or entasis in its long lines.

It was early found out that mathematical exactness and beauty were not the same. By making its two sides geometrically equal, the living expression of the most beautiful marble statue is destroyed, and it becomes simply a piece of architecture.



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