(b Berlin, Oct 29, 1868; d Hessisch-Lichtenau, April 6, 1957).
German Egyptologist and writer. He studied Egyptology at Berlin University and began work in the Ägyptisches Museum, Berlin, before completing his doctorate in 1892. He remained in the museum all his working life, travelling principally for fieldwork in Egypt, which included seasons at Abu Ghurab, Abusir and Philae.
Schäfer was an outstanding historian and analyst of Egyptian art and made a vital contribution to the general theory of art. He published studies of individual works and made Egyptian art accessible to the public, as well as collaborating with Walter Andrae (1875–1956) on the standard history of Ancient Near Eastern art, Die Kunst des alten Orients. More important is his work on representation, on which he wrote many articles and smaller works, synthesizing his results in Von ägyptischer Kunst. The first two editions are concerned with two-dimensional representation, the third and fourth with two and three dimensions and with the general character of Egyptian art. The two-dimensional studies are the most important. Schäfer showed in detail how a non-perspectival system operates, and he examined Egyptian art primarily from the viewpoint of the ancient Egyptians themselves. He proposed two universal representational strategies, which he termed ‘pre-Greek’ (non-perspectival) and ‘Greek’ (incorporating foreshortening). His explanation of the character of ‘pre-Greek’ representation as based on mental images is not ultimately satisfactory, and there is still no convincing solution to this question, but his analysis of and insight into the problems remain fundamental....