Egyptomania Redux

bust of Egyptian Pharaoh Tuntankhamen

The word redux has its root in the Latin verb reducere meaning to lead back, something brought back, or a resurgence.

Southern California will soon be seeing a “resurgence” giving us a new chance to view some of the greatest artifacts of Ancient Egypt in a major exhibition entitled King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh.  The exhibit, the first of a 10-city world tour, will open in Los Angeles on March 24, 2018 at the California Science Center in Exposition Park and will be on view until early January 2019.

This exhibit will be the largest world tour ever, comprising 150 artifacts.  The previous tours had a limit of 50 objects.  Many of these King Tut treasures have never been seen outside of Egypt. It will be the last time to view these artifacts before their return to Egypt to be housed permanently in the new Egyptian Museum.  The purpose of the tour is to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb by archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922.

Featuring items owned and used by the “Boy King” (he is thought to have been 19 at the time of his death), the exhibit will include golden jewelry, carvings, sculptures and ritual artifacts. In addition, multimedia displays include how the scientific analysis of the 3000-year old mummy has revealed new information on his health and ancestry.  It also addresses how the latest in archaeology tools are aiding in the discovery of new tombs and in the analyzing of existing ones in new ways.

There have been several waves of Egyptian Revival throughout the last two centuries.  The discovery of the Rosetta Stone during Napoleon’s 1798-99 Egyptian campaign was the key to deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.  The publication of volumes in 1809 cataloging the sights and discoveries of the eventually ill-fated campaign ignited the creation of the field of Egyptology.  A second edition in 1830 elicited further interest in Egyptian art and culture.

Egyptian inspired chairs

Egyptian inspired buildings were erected in Paris during the decade after Napoleon’s campaign.  Ancient Egyptian art and architecture provided designers in France and England with a wide range of motifs.  Winged sun-disks, hawks and crocodiles were all incorporated into decorative arts and architecture.  An Egyptian dining room was created (1802-1806) at Goodwood House in Sussex for the Duke of Richmond.  It was the first interior in England that had its origin from the illustrations of ancient Egyptian monuments by the artist who had accompanied Napoleon to Egypt.  A number of motifs were applied architecturally and to the design of the furniture in the room.  The dining chairs had bronze crocodile figures inserted into their backs.

In America, Egyptian influence during these early years was primarily architectural.  Egyptian revival architecture in America can be seen in Benjamin Latrobe’s original design (not built) for the Library of Congress Room in the new Capitol (1808), the 4th Precinct Police Station in New Orleans (1836), The Tombs in New York City (1838), and the Washington Monument (1850) as well as in many other public and private buildings in cities and towns across America. There is a 3500-year old Egyptian obelisk, Cleopatra’s Needle, in New York City’s Central Park.  Egyptian themes, however, didn’t begin to be evident in the decorative arts until the end of the 19th century.

After the Civil War, Americans became interested in other cultures.  Designers and artists looked to Japan, the Middle East and Africa for new ideas.  Egyptian motifs were combined with more traditional western styles and the result incorporated details such as gilt-bronze sphinxes, textiles woven with Egyptian themes, geometric depictions of palm fronds, lotus blossoms and reeds.

The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, Verdi’s 1871 opera Aida and continued archaeological discoveries, particularly the excavation at Tel El-Amarna in 1887, kept the public’s awareness and interest focused on Egypt.

Medallion with Egyptian Scarab motif

Egyptian symbols and images translated well into the decorative arts and this aesthetic found its way into jewelry and silver designs.  At the turn of the 20th century as the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau styles became popular, Egyptian motifs appeared in jewelry, textiles, wallpaper and other decorative arts, providing an exotic alternative to the conventional and traditional styles of the time.

Scholars refer to these periods as Egyptomania – an obsession with Egyptian antiquities and design.  However, there would not be another major one until the discovery of King Tut’s Tomb in 1922.  Egyptian motifs began to be seen everywhere in modern culture and became an essential element in Art Deco design and architecture, carrying on into the 1930’s and early 1940’s.

The phenomenon continued to grip the world fueled by the rumors of a curse related to the death of Lord Caernarvon, who had financed Carter’s search for the tomb.  According to Robert Nemeth, an English architectural historian and conservationist:

“The discovery was still in the early days for Art Deco which took its name from the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts and Modern Industries held in Paris in 1925.  Designers of the time were enamored by the brilliant colors, angular shapes, hieroglyphics and mysterious symbols prevalent in ancient Egypt. These design features were incorporated into Art Deco furniture, art, clothing, jewelry and architecture.”

It will be interesting to see if the upcoming King Tut Exhibition will be the catalyst for a new wave of Egyptomania in design and the decorative arts.  As an appraiser, it is important for us to understand the forces in the marketplace that affect value.  An event like this may cause an increase in demand for items with these motifs.


Egyptian Revival. Sara Jakow, Institute of Fine Arts. N.Y., 2012

Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Experience “King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh at California Science Center

Victoria and Albert Museum

Treasures of Tutankhamen. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Exhibition Catalogue. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1976

Pinterest – Egyptian Revival Jewelry – 412 Images

Art Nouveau and Art Deco Jewelry, An Identification and Value Guide.  Lillian Baker. Collector Books. Paducah, Kentucky, 1981.

Gilt bronze figure of an Egyptian cat

There Will Be Art – PST: LA/LA

This exploration of Latin American and Latino art, led by the Getty Museum, includes more than 70 exhibitions across Southern California. Art and cultural institutions from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, and from San Diego to Santa Barbara are taking part in “thematically linked exhibitions and program highlighting different aspects of Latin American and Latino art from the ancient world to the present day.”

On the introduction page of a small booklet, billed as a travel guide to the Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA experience, is an overview of the exhibition’s purpose: “With topics as varied as luxury arts in the Pre-Colombian Americas, 20th-century Afro-Brazilian art, alternative spaces in Mexico City, the mural tradition, and the boundary-crossing practices of Latino artists, exhibitions range from mono graphic studies of individual artists to broad surveys involving countries throughout Latin America.”

This wide-ranging exhibition opened at the end of September 2017 and dates for closing vary by institution. Some events close at the end of January and others continue on into the spring of 2018.

Ancient Aztec calendar

Golden Kingdoms: Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas

Showcasing spectacular luxury arts from the Royal courts of the Maya, Incas and Aztecs.  The Getty Center – through January 28, 2018.


Merged Flag of USA and Mexico painted on concrete.

Found in Translation: Design in California and Mexico 1915-1985

This is the first exhibition to examine design trends between California and Mexico that shaped the architecture and material culture of each place.  LACMA – until April 1, 2018


Mexican mural painting, California

California Mexicana: Missions to Murals 1820-1930

Exploration of how part of Mexico became California and the role of the visual arts in creating distinct pictorial motifs and symbols that helped define the new California.  Laguna Art Museum – until January 14, 2018.


Kukuli Velardi – Artist

Personal and confrontational ceramic sculptures based on traditional forms and surface decorations of Pre-Colombian ceramics.  American Museum of Ceramic Art Pomona –  until January 28, 2018.

Kinesthesia Latin American Kinetic Art, 1954-1969

Palm Springs Art Museum – until January 18, 2018.

A Search for Living Architecture: Albert Frey and Lina LoBardi

Explores the visionary building and design of two mid-century architects who shared a belief that architecture is a way to connect people, nature, building and living.  Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center – until January 7, 2018.

Everyone is encouraged to visit familiar as well as new institutions. As the introduction states “Wherever your journey takes you, there will be art.”

The website has a full and up-to-date list of all the exhibitions, events and locations.

As a result of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, more than 60 new illustrated exhibition catalogues have been published and are available from Southern California bookstores and individual museums. The publications are “…a permanent legacy of the ground-breaking scholarship on Latin American and Latin art generated through more than five years of planning, research and collaborative work among hundreds of curators, artists and scholars.”  A complete list can be viewed at Additional details and descriptions of selected catalogs can be found on the website

As a personal property appraiser, it is important to be aware of major exhibitions.  They may have an impact on the collecting community, influence trends and affect values.

Print Source

There Will Be 70+ Exhibitions Across Southern California.  There Will Be Art.

Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA.  Latin American and Latino Art in LA.

Presenting Sponsors:  The Getty Museum and Bank of America

Contains complete list of sites, events and themes including a location map.  Available from the Getty Museum.