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Museum Tour (page 3) - Egyptian Revival Tea Service

For centuries, the world has been captivated by the treasures of Egypt. From the architecture of Egypt’s ancient cities to the mystery of the pyramids, Egypt has inspired artists all over the world. This Egyptian Revival tea set captures the beauty and mystery of ancient Egypt and marries it to a whimsical Victorian elegance. Gorham Silver Co. produced this set around 1870, many of its characteristics are indicative of the art deco era, including the squared handles and classical ornamentation. Despite the forward-looking design of the set, it also has a number of Romantic and Victorian elements. The handles of the tray are like flowing ribbons.

Each of the tea set’s pieces feature a number of distinctive characteristics. The squared handles are unusually tall. Each handle is accented with the head of an Egyptian pharaoh. Each knob and foot is supported with a winged sphinx. The sphinx is common to Egyptian and Greek mythology. These proud creatures have the head of a Pharaoh (Egypt) or a woman (Greece) and the body of a lion. Mythology tells the story of sphinxes walking the earth, ensnaring hapless individuals. The sphinx would pose a riddle to anyone that they encountered. If the person was unable to reply with the correct answer, then the sphinx would eat them. This is just one of the mythological references that make this tea service unique. Other unique characteristics of this set include the sugar pail. This piece resembles a sand pail and is used for holding sugar cubes.

The Egyptian Revival, or “Egyptomania,” reached its height during the 19th and early 20th century. The influence of the Egyptians on Western art began with Napoleon Bonaparte’s 1798 Egyptian military campaign. Napoleon’s army consisted of more than 40,000 individuals, including artists, sculptors, rug weavers, tapestry weavers, and writers. Napoleon would later abandon his army in Cairo and return to France with a select few of the artists who first accompanied him. Many of these artists became famous for their portrayals of Egypt, such as Jean-Louis David and Leon Gerome. The works that they produced during and after Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign would act as a catalyst for Egyptian fervor in the European art world. If you are interested in patterns that have been made in the Egyptian Revival style, then consider Wedgwood’s Egyptian Gilded Black Basalt, Egyptian Terra Cotta on Black, or Egyptian Terra Cotta on Primrose. To read more about the history of Gorham, the please click here.

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