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Temple of ISIS Bookends

01 Jun
Photo of ISIS Bookends

Temple of Isis:  Height 4 inches, Iron.  Mark-Bradley and Hubbard, circa 1925.  Part of the Egyptian revival throughout the Western world which followed the display of the tomb contents of Tutankhamun in 1923.

Riveted on the front base of each bookend is a metal plate with the inscription “TEMPLE OF ISIS,” which should identify the ruins.  Are they Greek, Egyptian, Roman or a Victorian interpretation of the facade of a Temple to Isis?  In the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries, the ruins of the ancient world were of great interest to European and American travelers or tourists.  As bookends became popular decorative items in Victorian homes, they often reflected this interest in classical themes, such as this bookend of the Temple of ISIS.  

Isis was a very important Goddess in ancient Egypt.   Already present in the Egyptian  pantheon by 2000 BCE, she became the Goddess of motherhood, and was also revered as a magical healer who could cure the sick and bring the dead back to life.

The cult of Isis spread throughout the greater Greek and  Roman world, including the Greek island of Delos, where a famed ruin of an ISIS Temple stands. The island of Delos was a popular early tourist destination.  These bookends depict temple ruins that resemble the Delos ruins but not exactly.  Perhaps the Bradley and Hubbard artist never saw the Delos ruin.  

So…. our first guess was that these bookends were representative of the ruins on the Greek Island of Delos.  But the Delos ruins have only 4 columns and are topped by an entablature (the upper part of a Classical design comprising an architrave, frieze and cornice), in other words, a triangle.  

However, there was another early and famous tourism site in Egypt, the ruins of Philae.  And these ruins drew the attention of the world in the early 1900s (when bookends were coming into vogue) as they were in danger of being swamped by the building of the first ASWAN dam in 1902.  The Temple of Isis at Philae is credited with columns that reflect the influence of Greek and Roman occupation of Egypt, such as carvings that resemble bundled reeds.  The 5 columns of these bookends appear to have the “bundled reeds” carvings near the top.  There are 5 columns along the side of the Temple of Isis at Philae.  And our bookends display a Winged Sun Disc on the underhang of the cornice. A very typical Egyptian motif in the early 20th century. 

 So… our second guess would be that these bookends were meant to represent the Temple of Isis at Philae.  We’d like to point out that Theodore Roosevelt visited these ruins in the early 1870s, long before they were moved to higher ground in order to preserve them.  

 

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