The sculptor came and went, taking notes with papyrus and memory as she assumed the ritual postures of the goddess, just as in the temple ritual, though with a few Greco-Roman twists—the knotted drapery for one, which was of a heavier drape than in the sun-baked temples on the Nile. He was a pleasant enough fellow, and she questioned him as well, on his knowledge of anatomy and the process by which drawings transmuted themselves to the full round. She’d been curious about that craft for some time, noting the difference between the statuary in the pure Egyptian tradition and the Hellenic fashion; the one was a sort of standing or walking hieroglyph, the sacred writing taking three dimensions and walking abroad, and the other pretended to ordinary life with the charge of the divine carried only in the allegorical appurtenances, so that an Athena might look only a formidable matron until you saw her owl, and a Dionysus a sturdy handsome fellow with a fine crop of curly hair, known as the god only by his bunch of grapes and his wild-animal skins.
Anubis, Thoth, or Horus, on the other hand, made themselves known as gods immediately.
He answered her questions, startled at first by them. A foreign queen, and an educated woman, were apparently exotic and fearsome curiosities to him. He talked of the grand tour he had done of the temples of Greece, the peristyles open to the sky and the great statues of the gods gleaming inside. He had not been to Egypt but understood that temple architecture there was on a very much larger scale.
Julius Caesar commissioned a statue of Isis for the temple of Venus Genetrix (his divine ancestor). This excerpt, and next week’s as well, imagines Cleopatra’s conversation with the sculptor.
Weekend Writing Warriors offers eight-sentence excerpts from a variety of writers; see the other excerpts here.