Archaeological discoveries stimulated the European imagination, inspiring dreams of the ancient past.
The 19th century brought liberation from the old paradigm of ancient Greece and Rome as the epitome of taste, all else dismissed as primitive or degenerate. The senses were stimulated by an intoxicating flow of exciting new ideas. Everyone wanted to show how up to date their knowledge was regarding the new discoveries.
Fashionable jewellery and other artistic works with oriental motifs made desirable conversation starters. Artists carefully researched the latest finds to depict scenes from famous stories full of authentic details. In theatre, audiences witnessed Josephin Peladan’s Semiramis
, rich with Middle Eastern names and costumes. In opera, Giuseppe Verdi entertained sell-out crowds with his Nabucco
(short for Nabuchodonosor, king of ancient Babylon).
With mass production and the growth of product branding, companies selling chocolate, cigarettes and other popular goods put attractive collecting cards in their packets. Among the images used were ancient kings or famous artefacts.