Egyptomania: Egypt in Modern Art, 1730-1930


608 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88884-636-3
DDC 709'.3'0744




Edited by Lynda Muir
Reviewed by Richard C. Smith

Richard C. Smith is a professor in the Classics Department of the
University of Alberta.


This This catalogue of both Egyptian art and art inspired by the world
of ancient Egypt was created by curators from the Louvre and from the
National Gallery in Ottawa for exhibitions in Paris, Ottawa, and Vienna
(at the Kunsthistorischen Museum) in 1994 and January 1995. Contributors
range from Australia to Russia and the United States, although the
majority come from Europe and, especially, France.

Despite the emphasis on art created from the 18th through early 20th
centuries in various waves of artistic enthusiasm for the scenes and
forms of Pharaonic and Greco-Roman Egypt, the exhibits included a
considerable number of original pieces from the ancient world. These are
used to show the sources of the later works and thus form a collection
of value to the students of antiquity as well as those interested in the
changing fads of more modern culture.

Each of the authors provides an introductory essay. In these it is
pointed out that Egyptomania refers not to all things Egyptian but
rather to a re-creation of antiquity from Egypt in a new context, a
re-creation that may well be based on obsolete or inaccurate sources.
Authors also point out that the Romans had their own form of Egyptomania
long before the advent of the modern age, which helped confuse as well
as inspire later interpreters.

The superb collection of art and sculpture presented in the collection
also includes representations of architecture, jewelry, furniture,
china, and even perfume bottles, clocks, and sugar bowls. These objects
are presented in chronological order, from the early–18th-century
Europe of the “Grand Tour” and Louis XVI through the creations of
Josiah Wedgwood. The effect of the archaeological discoveries in Egypt
is then traced down to the discovery of Tutankhamen, with special
sections on this mania’s impact on the opera, for example, as well as
on the Freemasons and the Rosicrucians. The last section deals with the
impact of Cleopatra on art throughout the entire period.

In sum, this catalogue is both erudite and well presented—a treasure
trove of art that, without the scholarly interpretation, might merely
seem bizarre.


“Egyptomania: Egypt in Modern Art, 1730-1930,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 13, 2024,