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Quay in Saint Petersburg, with two sphinxes of Amenhotep III brought from Egypt in 1832.

Egyptian Revival is an architectural style that makes use of the motifs and imagery of ancient Egypt. It is generally dated to the enthusiasm for ancient Egypt generated by Napoleon's conquest of Egypt and, in Britain, to Admiral Nelson's defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of the Nile in 1798. Napoleon took a scientific expedition with him to Egypt. Publication of the expedition's work, the Description de l'Égypte, began in 1809 and came out in a series though 1826. However, works of art and, in the field of architecture, funerary monuments in the Egyptian style had appeared in scattered European settings from the time of the Renaissance.


Egyptian Revival architecture before Napoleon

The obelisk in Piazza Navona

The most important example is probably Bernini's obelisk in the Piazza Navona at Rome. Bernini's obelisk influenced the obelisk constructed as a family funeral memorial by Sir Edward Lovatt Pierce for the Allen family at Stillorgan in Ireland in 1717, one of several early eighteenth century Egyptian obelisks erected in Ireland in the early eighteenth century. Others may be found at Belan, County Kildare and Dangan, County Meath. The Casteltown Folly in County Kildare is probably the best known, albeit the least Egyptian, of these obelisks.

Egyptian buildings had also appeared as garden follies. The most elaborate was probably the one built by the Duke of Württemberg in the gardens of the Château de Montbéliard. It included an Egyptian bridge across which guests walked to reach an island with an Egyptian swing and an elaborate Egyptian "bath house". The building featured a billiards room and a "bagnio". It was designed by the duke's court architect, Jean Baptiste Kleber.

Egyptian revival in the wake of Napoleon

The facade of the Egyptian Hall in 1815.
An illustration of a small Egyptian temple from William Hosking's chapter on 'Architecture' in the Encyclopaedia Britannica (offprint pub. 1832). Hosking was later chosen by the founders of Abney Park Cemetery to design a pair of similar Temple Lodges for its front entrance

What was new in the wake of the Napoleonic invasion was the sudden leap in the number of works of art and the fact that, for the first time, European buildings began to be built to resemble those of ancient Egypt.

The first of the Egyptian style builings was a newspaper office. The Courier, a London newspaper, built a new office on the Strand in London in 1804. It featured a cavetto (coved) cornice and a pair of Egyptian-looking columns with palmiform capitals.[1]

The most important building of the Egyptian revival in France was the Egyptian Temple in the Place des Victoires, built as a memorial to generals Desaix and Kleber. The cornerstone was laid on 19 Fructidor Year VIII (September 6, 1800.)

An Egyptian Revival building that can still be seen in Paris is the 1812 Fountain of the Fellah, Rue de Sèvres, by François-Jean Bralle.

The Egyptian Hall in London, completed in 1812, and the Egyptian Gallery, a private room in the home of connoisseur Thomas Hope to display his Egyptian antiquities, and illustrated in engravings from his meticulous line drawings in his Household Furniture (1807), were a prime source for the Regency style in British furnishings.

The cemetery at Highgate, with its Egyptian Avenue, is an example of the popularity Egyptian style continued to enjoy as funerary architecture.

The Egyptian Bridge, St. Petersburg
The Regional Studies Museum in Krasnoyarsk

In Russia, this wave — associated primarily with the discoveries of Champollion — produced similar monuments:

In the United States and British colonies

The Egyptian revival enjoyed greater popularity as an architectural form in the United States and the British colonies than in Europe. A number of Egyptian-style buildings were erected, of which some survive.

In the Middle East

Unsurprisingly, a number of buildings in Middle Eastern countries, especially Egypt itself, have been built in this style, where it competed with versions of the Moorish Revival style, a revival of the style medieval Islamic architecture in Egypt, as well as Western styles. The National Museum of Beirut, completed in 1937, is an example. A number of entries for the competition for the proposed Grand Egyptian Museum near the Pyramids mixed modernism with various elements of Ancient Egyptian tomb and temple architecture.[6]

Twentieth century

The expeditions that eventually led to the discovery in 1922 of the treasure of Tutankhamun's tomb by the archaeologist Howard Carter led to a third revival. Grauman's Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, USA, now home to the American Cinematheque, is an Egyptian Revival theatre from the era. Interestingly, the Egyptian Theatre was designed, built and opened in October 1922, two weeks before the historic discovery in November 1922 of the tomb.

The Reebie Storage Warehouse in Chicago, Illinois, features twin statues of Ramses II and accurate use of ancient Egyptian images and hieroglyphics. Plaster reliefs depict ancient Egyptians moving grain on barges. The warehouse is one of the nation's best examples of pure academic-style Egyptian Revival commercial architecture, and is designated as a Chicago Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Simultaneously, Aleksey Shchusev designed Lenin's Mausoleum (1924; rebuilt in 1929) with many elements borrowed from the Pyramid of Djoser. The Egyptian revival of the 1920s is sometimes considered to be part of the Art Deco decorative arts movement. It was present in furniture and other household objects, as well as in architecture.

The Louvre Pyramid in Paris and Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose, California, are modern-day examples of Egyptian Revival structures. Additionally, Rosicrucian Park contains many examples of Egyptian Revival architecture.



Late 20th century

Egyptian-influenced funerary architecture

See also


  1. ^ Egyptomania; Egypt in Western Art; 1730-1930, Jean-Marcel Humbert, Michael Pantazzi and Christiane Ziegler, 1994, pp. 172-3
  2. ^ The History of the Jews of Philadelphia from Colonial Times to the Age of Jackson, pages 365-366 (Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society, 1956, 1975) by Edwin Wolf, II and Maxwell Whiteman
  3. ^ Medical College of Virginia
  4. ^
  5. ^ Dubuque Jail
  6. ^ Competition entries


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