Collections | Rediscovering the Past | Inspired by the past [27 Objects]

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Winged colossus

7th century BC

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom

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 Justification for this item

The massive Assyrian winged animals that protected the doorways of Assyrian palaces captured the imagination of the 19th-century public. They were favourite exhibits in museum collections. Large-scale reproductions of them were incorporated into “The Assyrian Court” at the Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851. They were awesome, artistically and technically, and made ideal subjects for souvenirs. How did the excavators move such large objects from the sites? How did museums get them through the doors?

Winged colossus

7th century BC

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom

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Egyptianising plate

1804–5

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom

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 Justification for this item

This Sèvres plate was part of an Egyptian service, with strong Egyptianising motifs and decorated with a copy of a drawing by Dominique Vivant Denon, Voyage dans la Basse et la Haute Égypte, pendant les campagnes du Général Bonaparte (1802). It is said the plate was thrown out of the windows of the Tuileries in Paris during the French Revolution of 1848.

Egyptianising plate

1804–5

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom

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Mr Drovetti and his entourage measuring a fragment of the Colossus in Upper Egypt

1819

National Library of France

Paris, France

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 Justification for this item

Bernardino Drovetti (1776–1852) was an Italian who joined the French army. With the favour of the Emperor Napoleon, he was sent to Egypt as consul. There, he collected antiquities. In this image, Drovetti stands with his team before a colossus, holding a plumb line. Drovetti sold his collections to the Prince of Piedmont, King Charles X of France and the King of Prussia.

Description de l'Egypte: frontispiece

1821–1830

National Library of France

Paris, France

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 Justification for this item

Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt (1798–1801) comprised not just soldiers but also scientists, engineers and designers. They were charged with collecting all sorts of scientific information. The resulting Collection of Observations and Research that have been made in Egypt during the Expedition of the French Army is a lavish set of ten volumes of plates and nine volumes of text, published between 1809 and 1826. It constituted a key resource for the study of ancient Egypt.

Description de l'Egypte: frontispiece

1821–1830

National Library of France

Paris, France

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Bisotun, geometric drawing of a bas-relief

c. 1851

National Library of France

Paris, France

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Bisotun, geometric drawing of a bas-relief

c. 1851

National Library of France

Paris, France

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Layard Freedom Casket

1852

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom

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 Justification for this item

Layard for the rest of his life would be known as “Layard of Nineveh”. This commemorative custom piece was made to honour his achievements. It is closely modelled on the sculptures discovered by him.

Layard Freedom Casket

1852

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom

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Scharf lecture

1852

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom

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 Justification for this item

Scharf was a gifted illustrator who made a series of important drawings of ancient sites in Turkey. He was a dedicated lecturer, communicating his passion for the ancient world to a new generation of students. He made large drawings of important objects for the purpose. Here we see a drawing of a lecture given by him at what was to become Queen’s College, London.

Scharf lecture

1852

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom

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Recreating Assyria

1850’s?

Private collection

n/a, United Kingdom

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 Justification for this item

Austen Henry Layard’s discoveries at the Assyrian city of Nimrud created a lasting sensation. At the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in 1851 (then moved and re-erected at Sydenham in south-east London), a massive, full-colour reconstruction of the “Assyrian Court” was erected. There was also a parallel “Egyptian Court”. Each was based closely on recent discoveries. The exhibition was enormously popular until it burnt down in 1936.

Recreating Assyria

1850’s?

Private collection

n/a, United Kingdom

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Oil Painting

After 1853

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom

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 Justification for this item

George Scharf illustrated his lectures with enormous paintings. This example is an oil painting showing Assyrian sculpture from Nimrud. It is based on the original drawing by Layard, who excavated the object. Both Layard and Scharf worked on the “Courts” of the Crystal Palace Exhibition.

Oil Painting

After 1853

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom

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The Virgin at the Nile

1865

National Gallery of Modern Art (GNAM)

Rome, Italy

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 Justification for this item

Federico Faruffini’s The Virgin at the Nile shows a scene of sacrifice. In the painting, the artist proposes the integration of two separate contexts through a different pictorial rendering: on the brighter upper part, he sets the historical character and in the lower zone, the more narrative, of obvious academic inspiration. The artist had researched well the customs, traditions and architecture of ancient Egypt.

The Virgin at the Nile

1865

National Gallery of Modern Art (GNAM)

Rome, Italy

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Assyrianising pendant

1865–1870

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom

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 Justification for this item

The winged bulls that once protected the doorways of Assyrian palaces became well-known images in 19th-century Europe. This gold pendant, made in Rome, draws on this popular motif to create a style of jewellery fusing contemporary tastes with fashionable ancient motifs.

Assyrianising pendant

1865–1870

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom

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Exposition Universelle - Their Royal Imperial Majesties and the Viceroy of Egypt visit the Temple of Edfu

1867

National Library of France

Paris, France

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 Justification for this item

At the Universal Exhibition of 1867, visitors explored a reconstruction of the Temple of Edfu in the “Egyptian Park”. This reconstitution (mixing different temples) corresponded to a fashion for ancient Egypt and a desire of the French Empire to develop diplomatic relations with contemporary Egypt. Here, indeed, we see the imperial couple in the company of Isma’il Pasha, Viceroy of Egypt. The Temple of Edfu had been excavated by the famous Egyptologist Mariette.

Lady Layard’s jewellery

1869

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom

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 Justification for this item

Layard, excavator of Nineveh along with other sites, had this necklace made as a wedding present for his wife. It combines ancient cylinder seals in contemporary gold settings. It is said that Queen Victoria admired it very much during a dinner in 1873.

Lady Layard’s jewellery

1869

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom

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Fantasy in Egyptian Gallery, the British Museum

1870

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom

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 Justification for this item

In British artist Walter Duncan’s Fantasy in Egyptian Gallery, the British Museum, a group of sculptures come to life. The scene is closely modelled on the Egyptian and Assyrian sculptures displayed at the British Museum.

Fantasy in Egyptian Gallery, the British Museum

1870

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom

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Lady Layard

1870

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom

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 Justification for this item

Layard’s wife here poses in her “Assyrian” jewellery.

Lady Layard

1870

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom

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Gold bracelet

1872

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom

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 Justification for this item

19th-century jewellery sometimes drew on recent finds to produce fashionable pieces. Here a gold bracelet is based closely on Assyrian reliefs.

Gold bracelet

1872

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom

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Gold brooch

1874

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom

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 Justification for this item

19th-century jewellery sometimes drew on recent finds to produce fashionable pieces. Here a gold brooch is based closely on Assyrian reliefs.

Gold brooch

1874

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom

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Parian ware colossus

1882

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom

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 Justification for this item

Figurines based on the Assyrian sculptures were popular collecting pieces. Owners displayed their interest in current events. Buyers included the rich and famous, as well as museums. These Parian ware figurines were designed by an artist who was working at the British Museum as a security guard. His series of animals and men draws from the Assyrian sculptures, but uses Victorian poses. These were also exhibited at the Great Exhibition.

Parian ware colossus

1882

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom

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Egyptianising necklace

c. 1880

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom

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 Justification for this item

This gold necklace, in the form of cast alternating lotus flowers and buds, illustrates the influence of Egyptian motifs on 19th-century French jewellery. As was typical, this necklace is not derived from an original, but is a more free creation based on pattern books.

Egyptianising necklace

c. 1880

The British Museum

London, United Kingdom

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Egyptian Landscape

1883

National Museum of Romanticism

Madrid, Spain

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 Justification for this item

Carlos de Haes painted this work without ever having visited Egypt. The main theme is based closely on print publications of the Temple of Kom Ombo on the east bank of the Nile Valley. The palm trees and other details were supplied from this imagination.

Egyptian Landscape

1883

National Museum of Romanticism

Madrid, Spain

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