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Egyptomania in France | Art Institute of Chicago

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From pyramids and sphinxes to scarabs, lotus flowers, wejat eyes and hieroglyphs, iconic ancient Egyptian motifs and architectural styles have inspired artists around the world for thousands of years.


The influence of Egyptomania manifests itself in many forms, including ancient Roman art, Chicago architecture, and even contemporary pop culture such as Marvel. moon knight2022 marks the anniversary of two key Egyptological discoveries that sparked a resurgence of Egyptomania. The decipherment of hieroglyphs using Rosetta’s stone, which was discovered during Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt in 1822, and the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922. This article is: This is the first in a series in which his members of curatorial staff throughout the museum are invited to take a closer look at works that have been reinterpreted, repurposed or inspired by the visual heritage of this glorious North African culture.

—Ashley Arico, Associate Curator of Ancient Egyptian Art, Arts of Africa

Celebrate Napoleon’s Egypt with printed fabrics

Although Napoleon’s military campaign in North Africa – ‘The Battle of the Pyramids’ (1798–1801) – may have been short-lived and ultimately unsuccessful, reports of the expedition gave French artists and designers the opportunity to explore Egypt. provided a new visual dictionary of motifs and themes inspired by printed textiles. Les Monuments Dipte (under) It presents historical and fictional depictions of modern and ancient Egypt, including monumental statues of gods seated on either side of a pillared entrance, two obelisks, a sphinx guarding a hieroglyph-covered temple, and the harbor of Alexandria. increase.

The image of this furniture cloth is derived from a painting by Louis-François Casas, who was commissioned by the Ottoman court ambassador to travel the eastern Mediterranean between 1784 and 1786 to record ancient monuments, landscapes and scenes of everyday life. Thing. In 1799 and his 1800, hundreds of engravings of Casas’ drawings were published at the same time that Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt was attracting the attention of all of France.

A copy of the volume. III, from plate 98 Voyages Pittresque de la Silly, de la Phenicia, de la Palestine, and e de la Bas Egypt,roll. II-III (1799-1800)

Original art by Louis-François Casas. Courtesy of the Heidelberg University Library.

Widely known for their technical skill and aesthetic quality, Casas’ paintings reflect the idealized, exotic, and antiquity views that were popular in Europe in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and are considered by modern inhabitants Rather, it focuses on the charm of the past. .

Casas prints are the result of innovations by the sculptor and colorist Christophe Philippe Oberkampf, who founded one of the most important cotton printing factories in Jouy-en-Josa, France, near the court of Versailles in 1760. Reborn. Les Monuments Dipte It was roller-printed using an engraved copper cylinder, a technological advance that Oberkampf introduced in France. While the pattern width and repeat length are limited by the size of the cylinder, roller printing can quickly produce continuous monochromatic designs rendered in very fine lines.

Jean-Baptiste Yue

Use the zoom tools in the upper right corner to examine details.

The artistic possibilities of this printing method were fully expressed in collaboration with Oberkampf and his talented head designer, Jean-Baptiste Huet. Oberkampf and Huet derived from the work of Louis-François Casas, but revised much of the original material. By extracting specific details, simplifying each design, and combining various elements, we were able to create a well-balanced and uncluttered composition suitable for the market.

Used for curtains, wall drapes, or furniture coverings, this furniture cloth was printed with a deep red dye on the smooth surface of a fine cotton cloth probably imported from India at a high price. The subtle allusions of light and shadow and the delicate depiction of the human form, which are characteristic of , bring each scene to life. The design is further accentuated against a subtly dark gridded background, accentuated by block-printing yellow negative space.This effect integrates individual elements into an overall balanced design. will be

Oberkamp’s insistence on using the highest quality fabrics and dyes, employing new printing techniques, working with the most skilled designers and engravers, and adapting quickly to the changing tastes of his well-heeled French clientele made him led to success. As well as celebrating the French fascination with exotic lands, Les Monuments Dipte It displayed palpable political and patriotic importance in times of revolution.

—Elizabeth Pope, Senior Research Associate, Arts of the Americas and Textiles

movie ancient egypt

In 19th century France, modern photography, invented in 1839, was, paradoxically, intricately linked to ancient Egypt. Proponents of the new technology pointed out that it would take legions of draftsmen decades to copy millions of hieroglyphs on great monuments. But with photos, one person can accomplish the task quickly and accurately.

This documentation advance was important to the French, who had strategic and cultural interests in Egypt, and photography soon joined another relatively new field of study, archeology. Photographers participate in archaeological surveys to document excavations, their records help scholars of antiquity, and travelers who are delighted to be able to witness sublime monuments without leaving the comfort of their homes. It made people happy.

In 1849, the journalist Maxime du Camp, together with his friend and writer Gustave Flaubert, embarked on a two-year expedition into and around Egypt, enthusiastically documenting local monuments and inscriptions. He selected 125 of these for inclusion on the album. Egypt, Nuby, Palestine, Syria, published in 1852, du Camp gained instant fame. In many of Du Camp’s photographs, monuments stand devoid of people. This is fiction that matches his European audience’s desire to see ancient Egypt without modern Egyptians. In this way, European audiences were able to project ownership over what was considered the birthplace of Western culture at the time.

However, in many other images, such as the one above, Ducan included local residents. immediately alerted viewers to the size. But the presence of such locals also underscores the perceived ‘exoticism’ of contemporary Egyptians, as opposed to the apathetic scientific status of archaeologists and photographers. did.

—Elizabeth Siegel, Curator, Photography and Media

Part 2 reveals ancient Roman Egyptomania and 19th-century American design.


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