More Musings of an Ancient Nature…

15/04/2012

I can’t shake off this obsession with ancient Egyptian-inspired design, and even less so now I’ve been reminded of an object I’ve longed for for ages and that I will one day track down and own.

Liberty & Co patented the design for their Thebes stool in 1884 which is much earlier than I understood the Egyptian revival to be in vogue… it was on sale in the store until around 1919 which was three years before the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun so my understanding of the whole early twentieth century design period has been totally revolutionised by learning about this one object. This stool is considered to be very much an Arts & Crafts period piece, therefore the Egyptian aesthetic was influencing design long before Art Deco. I am perhaps the only person in the world to not know this, but there we are. They do come up every now and then at Christies, ranging in price from around £600 to over £5,000 depending on the type (there are many variations).

Cartier pin at Bentley & Skinner

Another utterly divine piece I should love to (but probably won’t) ever own is a Cartier pin such as this one which is currently at Bentley & Skinner in Piccadilly. Coral, onyx, rock crystal and diamonds are absolutely typical for Cartier designs of this period and here the fan-shaped terminals and rod-shaped coral beads just scream Egyptian inspiration.  This piece is signed and dates to around 1930. The price is excruciating and I can’t put it down in black and white as it is too depressingly expensive.

I am reading and very much enjoying Nancy Mitford’s Christmas Pudding which I picked up at Hatchards a short while ago. One of the main characters, Paul Fotheringay (an author) makes the following hilarious observation which I find particularly apt for my current state:

“Personally, I have always thought that as a rule it is people of more imagination than intellect who feel drawn to Egypt” 

Oh Ms. Mitford, how true that probably is.

Thebes Stool Image – V&A This object can be seen in the British Galleries… go and have a look if you can.
Cartier jewel image – Bentley & Skinner 

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One Response to “More Musings of an Ancient Nature…”

  1. Dr. Sphinx Says:

    The best part of Egyptomania is how impossible it is to pin to sources of inspiration. There are of course obvious results of certain events like Tut’s tomb excavation, or Liz Taylor cavorting as Cleo, but what about all the little bits that were produced before, after, and between these? Maybe your quote above gives us a clue, that Egypt is a magnet for our imaginations, thereby ever present in our bag of tricks when we need to design something. I know in my years of collecting Egyptomania, I am ever surprised and delighted by the endless variety and persistence of this style.


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