By the well-known law (in Ex 20:4 sq.; De 4:16 sq.; 27:15; comp. Diod. Sic. Eclog. xl, 1; Strabo, 16:761; Josephus, Cont. Apion. ii, 6; Ewald, Isr. Gesch. ii, 110 sq.; Tacit. Hist, v, 5, 4.
But see Bertheau, Isr. Gesch. p. 248) the Israelites were not forbidden to make any image in stone, wood, or metal (Michaelis, Mos. Recht, p. 150 sq.), for even in the sanctuary of Jehovah, on the ark of the covenant, there were two cherubs of gold; and flower-work as ornament was placed on the golden candlestick; and the large brazen bathing-vessel in the court (the so- called brazen sea [q.v.]) was supported on twelve brazen oxen (1Ki 7:25), though Josephus blames this arrangement as illegal (Ant. 8:7, 5). In the wilderness, too, even Moses set up a brazen serpent (Nu 21:8), and the Philistines offered golden figures as an offering to Jehovah (1Sa 6:17 sq.). But the design was to forbid all worship of images, and also all images of Jehovah (comp. Ex 20:5; Josephus, Ant. iii, 5, 5; Philo; Opp. ii, 591), for a sensual people would easily be led into idolatry by them, or at least would lose much of the spirituality of their ideas of Jehovah (temp. Philo, Opp. i, 496); and thus the golden calf of Aaron (Ex 32:4), the graven image of the children of Dan (Jg 18:31; comp. 17:4), and the two golden calves of Jeroboam (1Ki 12:28 sq.) were antitheocratic. Yet this Mosaic law prevented the great progress of sculpture, which in all nations has received its greatest impulse from religious faith and worship. (Schnaase, Gesch. d. bild. Kiinste, i, 257, thinks that the imagination of the Hebrews, as shown in their poetry, was too quick and mercurial for the patient work of sculpture.) Most of their works of brass of this kind were by Phoenician artists (1Ki 7:14). An example of sculpture not of a religious character occurs in the audience throne of Solomon, which was supported and surrounded by fourteen finely wrought lions, the symbol of strength (1Ki 10:19 sq.; 2Ch 9:19 sq.). After the exile, stricter views prevailed; and the orthodox Jews, or followers of the Pharisees, interpreted the Mosaic prohibition of sculpture in general (Josephus, Ant. 15:8, 1; 17:5, 2; 18:8, 1; War, ii, 9, 2; comp, also Mai- monides in Hottinger, Jus. Hebr. 39), even of architectural ornament (Josephus, War, ii, 10, 4; comp. Ant. 17:6, 2; Tacit. Hist. v, 5, 5. Yet according to Josephus, Ant. iii, 6, 2, only the image of living creatures were prohibited). Accordingly; a palace of the tetrarch Herod in Tiberias, which was adorned with the figures of · beasts, was burned by order of the Sanhedrim, simply because it was thought to violate their law (Josephus, Life, 12). Still less were images tolerated in the Temple (id. Wari i, 33, 2; Ant. 17:6, 2). Even the image of the emperor, carried on the eagles of the soldiers, could not be admitted into Jerusalem (ibid. 18:3, 1, and 5, 3; comp. War, ii, 9, 2, Ant. 15:8, I sq.). Yet such rigid views were not universal; at least, at an earlier period, John Hyrcanus adorned his castle beyond the Jordan with colossal animal figures (ibid. 12:4,11 ); queen Alexandra had portraits of her children made (ibid. 15:2, 6); and Herod Agrippa possessed statues of his daughters (ibid. xix: 9, 1).
Hebrew sculpture, such as it Was, no doubt was based upon, and sustained by, the art as practiced in Egypt. It was there governed by very strict rules, fixed proportions being established for every figure, which the statuary was not permitted to violate; and hence arises the great sameness in the Egyptian statues, and the stiffness for which they are all remarkable. Isaiah describes the process of idol-making very minutely. "The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in his house" (Isa 44:13). The mode of proceeding will easily be understood by a reference to the accompanying engravings. When a proper block of marble or granite had been procured by the sculptor, the surface was first smoothed, and parallel lines drawn from top to bottom; other lines were then drawn, at equal distances, from side to side, So as to divide the whole into a series of squares. The size of these squares was proportioned to the' size of the figure, but the number of them was invariable, whatever might be the dimensions of the figure: nineteen of these squares, according to some authorities, and twenty-one and one fourth according to others, were allowed for the height of the human body; when smaller figures or ornaments were introduced, the squares were subdivided into smaller squares, proportioned to the less figure. The outline was then traced, and its proportions were invariable. This, which to moderns would seem the most important part of the process, required no great exertion of skill in the Egyptian artist. It was then inspected by the master-sculptor, who wrote on various parts of it, in hieratic characters, such directions as he thought it necessary to give to the inferior artists who actually cut the figure. The colossal statue on which the workmen in the accompanying engraving are engaged appears so far advanced towards completion that the instructions of the master-sculptor have been chiselled away. We are informed by Diodorus Siculus that the most eminent statuaries always went to reside for a time in Egypt, as modern artists do in Italy, to study the principles of their art. He particularly mentions Telecles and Theodorus, the sons of Rhaecus, who made the celebrated statue of the Pythian Apollo at Samos, after what he calls "the Egyptian fashion." He explains this fashion to be the separate execution of the parts, for the statue was divided into two parts, at the groin: one half was cut by Telecles at Samos, and the other by Theodorus at Ephesus; yet, when they were joined together, they fitted so exactly that the whole seemed the work of one hand. And this seemed the more admirable when the attitude of the statue was considered, for it had its hands extended, and its legs at a distance from each other, in a moving posture. We thus see that Egyptian sculpture was almost wholly a mechanical process; the laws of the country prohibited the intervention of novelty in subjects considered sacred; and the more effectually to prevent the violation of prescribed rules, it was ordained that the profession Of an artist should not be exercised by any Common or illiterate person. Wilkinson, indeed, has shown the great probability of the higher artists having been included in the ranks of the priesthood. In some instances, however, we find reason to believe that the Egyptian artists broke through these trammels. In the two granite statues of lions presented by lord Prudhoe to the British Museum, we perceive a boldness and freedom of execution scarcely compatible with a strict adherence to mechanical rule (see Wilkinson, Ancient Egypt. ii, 342 sq.).