A very handsome woman is dressed in an exceptional costume and is reclining among beautiful robes. She could be royalty, perhaps a queen or a princess, but the bookends do not hint at her status or origins. We will call her Exotic Woman.
Tag Archives: Egyptian Revival
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.
Hatshepsut (1508-1458 BCE) was born a princess in the Egyptian royal line and became the regent for the the infant who would become the next king, Although only a regent , she assumed the title and the trappings of a king with the additional title of Pharaoh. She then ruled Egypt from 1473 to 1458 BCE, a rare woman to achieve that position in 3000 years of Egyptian history.
Hatshepsut proved to be a successful and important ruler as she restored many monuments and restored trade with western Asia, with Punt, and with the Aegean Islands. No other female king appeared until Cleopatra (51-30 BCE).
A statue in THE MET in New York City is very similar to these bookends. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Egyptian Expeditions in 1926-27 and 1929 excavated bits and pieces of a statue of Hatshepsut near her funerary temple at Deir el-Bahri in Thebes. In 1929 they acquired a fragment that had been excavated and taken to Berlin in 1845. Click here for the link to The Met page on the Hatshepsut statue. It is on view at THE MET Fifth Avenue in Gallery 115.
Another bookend depiction of a female pharoah is a bust by Dodge Inc. probably in the 1940s.
San Diego’s Natural History Museum is hosting “The Discovery of King Tut.” This exhibition features more than 1,000 reproductions of the treasures discovered in Tutankhamen’s tomb and will surely increase interest in Egyptian Revival pieces from the Art Deco era. San Diego’s Museum of Man has a permanent collection of Egyptian objects from Amarna, where King Tut spent his boyhood. The museum boasts, “See the Only Real Mummies and Shrunken Heads in San Diego.”
When the British archeologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb of the boy pharaoh Tutankhamun in 1922 and opened it in 1923, a wonderful lode of ancient Egyptian treasures was revealed.
The find was so spectacular that it excited the entire Western world and ignited a wave of Egyptian Revival designs in jewelry, art and home decor. Bookends depicting pyramids, camels, jewelry, sphinxes, tomb doors, Egyptian gods, and Pharaohs proliferated. Egyptian themed bookends are classified as Art deco because they were produced in the nineteen twenties which is recognized as an Art deco period.