The artistic lure of Egypt: 19th century visitors to Thebes

9789774247057The current situation in Egypt may discourage potential tourists from visiting, but it was a very different scenario in the 18th and 19th centuries when Europeans began to discover the marvels of the ancient Egyptians amidst an impressive landscape.  Archaeologists and scholars, were joined by explorers, collectors of antiquities, and artists, whose paintings and sketches documented the wonders around them.

“Sometimes their drawings were made as aides-memoire in personal journals or as contributions to scholarly surveys of Egyptian culture.  Some were intended for interior designers back in Europe who catered to the Egyptomania sweeping the continent…In many cases, these records are all we have.  Many of the monuments they recorded have since been destroyed by erosion, water, vandalism, and theft, and the modern-day Egyptologist must rely heavily on these nineteenth-century paintings to reconstruct badly damaged tomb and temple walls.” (Foreword, p. 2)

2008BT7733_owen_jones_tomb_cairo2In Explorers and artists in the Valley of the Kings over 12 artists are featured, with brief biographies, and colour illustrations of their paintings, offering the reader a wonderful pictorial trip through Thebes.  One of these artists was the Welsh Owen Jones (1809-1974) who trained as an architect.  When he was 23 he journeyed to Greece, Turkey and Egypt and made many sketches along the way some of which he later turned into lithographs and published in 1843 in Views on the Nile from Cairo to the Second Cataract.

A lovely resource for anyone interested in 19th century travellers to Egypt, the artists who made this ‘grand tour’, or Egyptology in general.

Roehrig, Catharine H. (2002) Explorers and artists in the Valley of the Kings.  Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press.
ISBN: 9774247051
Classmark: Folio DT73.B44.R6 (ASSL)