May 15, 2012

The Temple of Kalabsha, 1848

The Temple of Kalabsha, 1848
Harriet Martineau

Temple of Kalabsha
I was glad to go over it, and admire its magnificence, and the elegance of many parts; and be amazed at its vastness: but it is too modem to interest us much here. It was founded and carried on, (not quite to completion) by one after another of the Caesars: and it is therefore not truly Egyptian. The most interesting circumstance to me was that here we could form some judgment of the effect of the Egyptian colour-decoration: for here there were two chambers in fine preservation, except where water had poured down from the massive lion-head spouts (Roman) and had washed away the colours. The relief to the eye of these strips of pure sculpture was very striking. My conclusion certainly was, from the impression given by these two chambers, that, however valuable colour may be for bringing out the details, and even the perspective, of sculptured designs, any large aggregate of it has a very barbaric appearance. Still, we must not judge of the old Egyptian painting by this Roman specimen. The disk of Isis is here painted deep red, the colour of the ordinary complexion. The pale green and brilliant blue of the ancient times are present; and I was here, and here only, a violet or plum-colour.

As for the rest, this temple is a heap of magnificent ruin; magnificent for vastness and richness; but not for taste. One pillar standing among many overthrown, rich capitals toppled down among rough stones; and such mounds of fragments as make us wonder what force could have been used to cause such destruction, these are the interests of this temple. It may be observed too, that the adytum has no figure at the end, and that it appears never to have been finished. It is a singular spectacle, the most sacred part unfinished, while the capitals of the outer columns, with their delicate carvings of vine-leaves and tendrils twining among the leaves of the doum palm, are overthrown and broken!

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