Egyptomania at Sotheby’s: See the Egyptian Revival Jewels Heading to Auction
The auction house is celebrating 100 years since the discovery of King Tut’s tomb.
British Egyptologist Howard Carter unearthed the tomb in 1922. It had been hidden from the world for more than 3,000 years and was almost completely intact.
While the discovery of the tomb and the hoard within caused “Egyptomania” to reach a fever pitch in the West in the ‘20s, there had been a fascination with the country long before that, including with Egyptian Revival jewelry.
This December, Sotheby’s will reflect that timeless fascination with a selection of Egyptian-themed jewels, including rare pieces by Italian jewelry house Castellani and Louis Comfort Tiffany of Tiffany & Co.
One of the highlights is the Castellani necklace featured at the top of the page. It was created using the art of micromosaic, in which very small pieces of glass are cut into segments and set into a mosaic pattern.
Inspired by artwork found in ancient Egyptian temples, the necklace combines geometric shapes and carved scarabs, a sacred symbol of life and resurrection. It features gold, soapstone, and Egyptian faience, a ceramic material used with a brightly colored glaze.
Sotheby’s estimates the piece will sell for between $450,000 and $650,000 at auction.
A scarab motif features prominently in another design in the auction—the Castellani Egyptian Revival brooch seen above also was created using micromosaic and faience.
It’s estimated to go for $50,000-$150,000.
Both the necklace and the brooch are from the personal collection of Alfredo Castellani and were first sold in Rome in 1930, according to Sotheby’s.
They recently were featured in an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, focusing on Egyptian Revival jewelry.
Sotheby’s said there aren’t many surviving Egyptian-style pieces by Castellani.
Another highlight of the auction is the Tiffany necklace pictured below, designed in 1913 and inspired by Louis Comfort Tiffany’s trip to Egypt half a decade earlier.
Sotheby’s said it could be seen as a modern interpretation of an ancient Egyptian menat, a necklace made with strands of beads and an amulet placed at the back of the neck to act as a counterbalance.
A menat was meant to bring good fortune to the wearer and protect them from evil spirits.
In Tiffany’s example, the menat features a semicircle of beads with an oval-shaped lapis lazuli cabochon at the center, the aten symbol—representing the sun—above that, and cobras flanking it.
It could sell for between $60,000 and $80,000 during the jewelry auction.
Details of more jewels appearing in the auction, including brooches, bracelets and necklaces spanning the 19th century to the present, will be unveiled in the coming weeks.
They will go on display at Sotheby’s New York galleries from Nov. 30-Dec. 6 to coincide with its series of luxury auctions.
“The 100th anniversary of one of the most spectacular archaeological events of the 20th century—the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb—has inspired us to survey how ancient Egyptian culture has flourished throughout centuries, especially as it pertains to jewelry design from the 19th century to the present day,” said Carol Elkins, senior vice president of Sotheby’s jewelry department in New York.
“We’re so honored to unveil these three exceptional highlights of our burgeoning showcase, representing some of the greatest achievements in jewelry-making during the 19th century and turn of the 20th century.
The winners, picked by a group of judges and voted as the public’s favorite, will be announced in a webinar on Oct. 11.
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