|Africa group from the Albert Memorial (1864-1876)|
|Egyptian pillars in Highgate Cemetery|
|Afterglow in Egypt (1864) William Holman Hunt|
|The Lantern maker's Courtship William Holman Hunt|
|Ancient Eyptian stool|
|Familiar design on the chair...|
The above Ancient Egyptian stool was copied by Liberty & Co in their late 19th century 'Thebes' stool...
One of the main reasons for the influx of Egyptian influence and style on the Victorians was the ruler of Egypt between 1805 and 1848, Muhammad Ali. He wished to modernise the country, and win favour and build relations with European powers, who were no doubt more than happy to take advantage. He seemed not to hold the ancient artifacts of his country in any great esteem (or at least that is what we tell ourselves) and gave them away as gifts. It is true that Muhammad Ali proposed demolishing the Giza pyramids to provide stone for the Nile dams. The ruler that followed him seemed to hold the same views, as Florence Nightingale wrote of the destruction of a tomb in Upper Egypt in 1850 to make a sugar factory for the ruler's son. Such rather cavalier attitude to history gave those that needed it a reason to go in to 'save' artifacts and bring them back to Britain, flooding the country with images, stories and objects that spoke of a foreign culture, ancient, glamorous and unknown. The Victorians fell in love with their very own Egypt, and she was beautiful...
|An Egyptian Beauty Thomas Kent Pelham|
|An Egyptian Water Carrier (1881) Arthur Hill|
|Feeding the Sacred Ibis in the Halls at Karnac Edward John Poynter|
|Egyptian Musician Charles Knighton Warren|
Come on now, which of us hasn't strummed on a banjo and had a boob pop out. See, it's a problem of antiquity and nothing to do with six glasses of Dubonnet and lemonade. This is possibly the first instance of wardrobe malfunction recorded in antiquity. Serious business, this Egyptology. Actually, the term 'Egyptology' only came into use in 1859 and was not in common usage until the 1870s. Before then, if you wished to look closer into the matters of Egyptian lovelies with their bristols out, you would have to call yourself an Orientalist or Egyptologue. I like 'Egyptologue'. Say it out loud, isn't it lovely? If you raise an eyebrow on the 'logue' part, I think it strikes the right tone.
|The Pharaoh's Handmaidens John Collier|
Now them, my Egyptologues, how educational is the above image? Don't be concerned by the amount of nude lady-flesh on display, it's fine because it's ancient. Really, it's a proper study of life in historic Egypt. I think it must be looked at for a long time so you learn a great deal. Possibly in a room on your own so you're not disturbed. Moving on.
|The False God William Wontner|
It must have been difficult not to pause and sneer at the Ancient Egyptians, in the way that we in the 'most civilised' times and countries always look down on previous civilisations with amused affection, as if looking at a child doing something quite clever but nonsensical. Look at all those funny Gods! Look at the way they believed they needed things to be taken with them into the afterlife! Ancient Egyptians are funny! Much of the gawping at nude Egyptian lovelies comes from the belief that for all their architectural advancements and style, secretly the Egyptians were nothing more than savages, so it was fine to picture the women in their 'natural state'.
If only they had had a Queen, a glorious, beautiful Queen, who also wasn't averse to a bit of nudity...
See you tomorrow.