Egyptomania At Sotheby’s Celebrates 100 Years Since The Discovery Of King Tutankhamen’s Tomb

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During the 20th Century, a remarkable discovery influenced jewelry throughout Europe. King Tutankhamen’s tomb was discovered and was one of the fascinating finds of the 20th century. The discovery of the tomb was instrumental in providing Egyptian inspiration as a continuation of the revival styles of the 19th century, which also brought back Etruscan, medieval, gothic and other archeological movements. It was dubbed Egyptomania and brought to the fore rare jewels by legendary jewelers and houses such as Castellani, Louis Comfort Tiffany for Tiffany & Co., LaCloche Frères, Boucheron, Froment Meurice, Mellerio and Carlo Giuliano to name some of the iconic house of the time. The movement also brought color, intricated details, and cultural nuances to the Art Deco period, which up until then, was geometric, streamlined, and based on speed and architectural designs.

This December as part of its Magnificent Jewels Sale in New York , Sotheby’s will showcase a selection of Egyptian-themed jewels to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the uncovering of the tomb. The exhibition and sale will focus on earlier pieces and feature brooches, bracelets, and necklaces from the 19th century to today. It will be on display at Sotheby’s New York galleries from November 30, 2022, through December 6, 2022, and will go on the block on December 7, 2022.

Says Carol Elkins Senior Vice President of Sotheby’s Jewelry department in New York, “The curated showcase comes in a significant year for the appreciation of Ancient Egyptian culture, with numerous exhibitions on aspects of Ancient Egyptian history opening at museums across the world, including the de Young Museum in San Francisco, the Sainsbury Centre in the United Kingdom, and the long-awaited Grand Egyptian Museum, which will house the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in the world including the full collection that was retrieved in 1922, which is due to open in Cairo this November.” She continues, “The 100th anniversary has inspired us to survey how Ancient Egyptian culture has flourished throughout centuries. We’re so honored to unveil these three exceptional highlights of our burgeoning showcase, representing some of the greatest achievements in jewelry-making during the 19th century and the turn of the 20th century.”

According to Sotheby’s catalog, “ the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 brought Egypt to the forefront of worldwide news and cast new interest on Egyptomania. All forms of fine and decorative arts were influenced, from sculpture and architecture to porcelain and jewelry. Ancient Egypt provided a rich source of new ideas for decorative motifs…Jewels in the shape of falcons, winged scarabs, lotus flowers, papyri and similar subjects often decorated with opaque enamel imitating the white, blue, yellow, red and green palette of Egypt imparted an alluring sense of exoticism, appealing to the elegant, discerning and fashion- conscious collector.”

Here are some of the highlights of the exhibition/sale with excepts of accompanying text about the jewels as written in Sotheby’s catalog:

Property of the 2002 Children’s Trust:Louis Comfort Tiffany for Tiffany & Co. Egyptian Revival Gold and Colored Stone Necklace

The double-stranded necklace of gold, lapis lazuli, turquoise, carnelian and green hardstone beads supporting an amulet centering an oval cabochon lapis lazuli, further decorated with turquoise champlevé enamel and beads of lapis, turquoise, carnelian and green hardstone, with a gold serpent’s head at top, the clasp in the form of a Hercules knot textured on the obverse with snake-like scales, length 16 inches, signed Tiffany & Co; circa 1913. Estimate $60/80,000

“Louis Comfort Tiffany may have seen, or been familiar with, the ancient Egyptian menat; a necklace composed of strands of beads linked to an amulet as counterbalance at the wearer’s back to keep it in place. The menat was intended to bring good luck and fortune and was worn as protection from evil spirits. The necklace Tiffany designed can be thought of as modern interpretation of the menat, but in his example, the counterbalance is centered and takes the shape of a miniature semi-cylinder of beads surmounted by an oval cabochon at the center, with the aten above, symbolizing the sun, flanked by cobras. His design is elegant and timeless, but very wearable, and remains fashionable today more than a century later.”

Property from an Important Private Collection: LaCloche Frères Colored Stone and Diamond Bracelet

Composed of three main panels, the central panel depicting Pharaoh and a kneeling scribe, a winged sun disc and royal scepters to the right, flanked by panels depicting a figure of the Egyptian goddess Nekhbet, set throughout with old European- and single-cut diamonds, accented by buff top rubies, emeralds and sapphires, length 7¼ inches, signed LaCloche Freres; circa 1925. Estimate $1/1.5 million

Property from an Important Private Collection: LaCloche Frères Pair of Egyptian-Revival Colored Stone and Diamond Pendant-Earclips, Paris

The panels depicting two Egyptian figures, set with old European- and single-cut diamonds, accented by buff top emeralds, rubies and onyx, supporting articulated fringes, signed LaCloche Frères Paris, with French assay marks; circa 1925. Fitted with screw backs. Estimate $300/500,000

“Jean-Marcel Humbert, who was curator at the Musée du Louvre during the 1994 exhibition titled Egyptomania accurately observed that “Egyptomania” is more than a simple mania for Egypt. It is not enough to copy Egyptian forms, artists must “re-create” them in the cauldron of their own sensibility and in the context of their times.” This was surely the goal of Lacloche and they successfully achieved that goal. In 1925, at the Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs, Lacloche exhibited at the Grand Palais and was awarded a Grand Prix. The production of Art Deco Egyptian-themed jewelry was short-lived, lasting until the onset of the 1930s, and it is important to note that these Egyptian-themed examples were fewer in number compared with other types of jewels created during the same period. The exceedingly rare bracelet and pair of earrings by Lacloche offered here can be considered among the finest examples of Egyptian revival Art Deco jewelry and are highly sought-after by an ever-increasing number of distinguished collectors.”

Property of the 2002 Children’s Trust:Castellani Egyptian-Revival Gold, Steatite, Faience and Micromosaic Necklace

Composed of fifteen antique steatite and faience scarabs, swivel-mounted within gold frames decorated with multi-colored tesserae in geometric designs, alternating with discs and pendant drops similarly decorated, strung on a gold loop-in-loop chain, length 16 inches, signed with interlaced Cs; circa 1860. With fitted box. Estimate $450/650,000

Property of the 2002 Children’s Trust: Castellani Egyptian-Revival Faience and Micromosaic Brooch

Centering an ancient Egyptian faience scarab carved with the baboon god, mounted within gold wings decorated with feathers in multi-colored tesserae, signed with interlaced Cs within a cartouche; circa 1860. With fitted box. Estimate $50/150,000

“The number of Egyptian-style pieces by Castellani that survive are few in number so this necklace (lot 79) and brooch (lot 78) are considered rare jewels in Egyptian taste produced by the firm. These spectacular examples of Castellani’s work in the Egyptian style are a deliberate nod to contemporary fashion in the 1860s and ‘70s that was all the rage ignited by the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.

Sotheby’s catalog also describes Amulets in the shape of scarabs.”[They] were produced in great abundance over a period of 2000 years, from the First Intermediate Period to Graeco-Roman times and not only in Egypt, as their forms were copied by local craftsmen in Syria and Palestine. The material used varied from gold to hardstone, glazed composition and glass. Ancient Egyptians considered the scarab beetle as a sacred symbol of spontaneous regeneration, life and resurrection. As a hieroglyph, the scarab has the phonetic value kheper, which means ‘to come into being.’ According to the ancient Egyptian legend of creation which centered on the city of Heliopolis, the sun god had three manifestations depending on the different time of the day. The rising sun was called Khepri and took the form of a scarab-faced man. In funerary scenes, Khepri was depicted as a large black beetle and represented the passage of the sun god from night to day, darkness to new life. In Egyptian iconography, the scarab is sometimes represented with a set of wings, underscoring the scarab’s rise toward heaven in resurrection.

Gustav Manz for F. Walter Lawrence Egyptian-Revival Gold and Ancient Glass ‘Desert’ Brooch

Depicting a caravan of camels a rider approaching the pyramids at Giza, within a palm tree border against a sky formed from a fragment of ancient glass, dimensions 3 x 2½ inches, unsigned; circa 1901. Estimate $10/15,000

Walter Lawrence (1864- 1929) was an Arts & Crafts jewelry designer recognized for his imaginative creations which were highly sought-after by discriminating clientele at the turn of the 20th century. Lawrence first became an apprentice at Durand and Company, a jewelry manufacturer in 1880. Subsequently, he studied with the silver firm of Howard and Company, as well as jewelry retailer Jaques and Marcus in New York City. Lawrence collaborated with Gustav Manz, a classically trained German goldsmith who adapted Lawrence’s sculptural designs at the turn of the 19th century. The two worked on several jewels, including the brooch offered here…This “Desert Brooch” was exhibited in 1903 at the Arts and Crafts exhibition of Art Craftsmanship at Art clubs in Syracuse and New York. The Brooch was one of just 27 items exhibited by Lawrence at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair indicating the importance he assigned to the piece within his body of work.

Verdura Ptolemaic Gold Coin and Sapphire Pendant

Set with a gold mnaieion (octadrachm), struck at Alexandria, with a diademed and veiled bust of Arsinoe II; behind head, K, reverse, a double cornucopia bound with a royal diadem; the coin mounted in a frame of round sapphires, unsigned. With signed, fitted case. Estimate $10/15,000

“Patricia Corbett notes in her seminal book on Fulco di Verdura that he “had a preference for coinage,” positioning them as featured motifs in both jewels and objects. Not simply currency, coins also serve as souvenirs from travels abroad, and it is reasonable to speculate this may have been the original intent of the pendant offered here, set with a 4th- 3rd century B.C. gold octadrachm from the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Ancient Egypt. The portrait bust featured on this coin is that of Arsinoe II (b. 316 B.C., d. 270 B.C.) a queen and co-regent of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of ancient Egypt. She was given the Egyptian title “King of Upper and Lower Egypt,” making her pharaoh as well. Arsinoe was also Queen of Thrace, Anatolia, and Macedonia by marriage to King Lysimachus. Her role as queen was unprecedented in the Ptolemaic dynasty; she wielded great power and acted as a role model for later Ptolemaic queens.”

Émile-Désiré Philippe Gold, Hardstone Scarab and Charm Bracelet

Featuring a graduated row of carved hardstone scarabs suspending gold charms in the forms of djed pillars, ankh symbols, and nefer amulets, length 7 inches, with maker’s mark for Émile-Désiré Philippe; circa 1870. Estimate $8/12,000

“Émile-Désiré Philippe (1834-1880) was a 19th century French jeweler who created interesting pastiches of jewels with Egyptian motifs. He is mentioned in Cartier: Jewelers Extraordinary by Hans Nadelhoffer in the chapter titled Pharaohs, Sphinxes and Pyramids. Nadelhoffer notes that Philippe was a pupil of Jules Wièse père, another distinguished French jeweler known for his extraordinary work in archaeological revival styles. At the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1878, Philippe exhibited an entire parure which he then gifted that same year to the Musée des Arts Decoratifs…The bracelet offered here is a rare example by Philippe entirely mounted in gold. The various elements are each symbols commonly found in ancient Egyptian religion. The scarab beetle represented the eternal cycle of life; the djed pillar represented stability and was commonly associated with Ptah, the creator god, and Osiris, known as god of the after-life; the ankh was a hieroglyphic symbol used in Egyptian art and writing meaning ‘life’; and nefer was a hieroglyphic symbol which could mean beautiful, pleasant or good. The material that binds these symbols together is gold, which the ancient Egyptians believed to be a divine substance possessing magical powers. French Egyptologist Christiane Zeigler postulated “The jeweler (Philippe) most assuredly would have consulted an Egyptologist and perhaps he himself had even handled pieces of Pharaonic jewelry”. His designs are indeed beautiful, pleasant and good, and appear to have been inspired by a profound understanding of Egyptian art and symbols.”

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