Design Like an Egyptian

With the four year world tour of King Tut's treasures we can expect to see a resurgence of all things Egyptian. Blues and gold are prominent with Lapis Lazuli, Faience, and Turquoise leading the way.

In 1925, Paris hosted Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. A prominent style emerged in this international showing, Art Deco. One of the most significant events to shape Art Deco was the discovery of of the tomb of King Tutankhamun in 1922. Egyptomania swept the world, and western art and commerce was impacted by the discovery. Fashion especially was set afire by the discovery. Distinctive and recurring features included Egyptian inspiration, a love of gold (especially paired with black), reliefs in architecture and stunning and energetic deployment of geometric forms.

Howard Carter, the man who made the discovery,pointed out that most people love the idea of buried treasure (a truth supported by hit movies like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Romancing the Stone, etc). Global media coverage, and industrialized mass production all combined to capitalize on Egyptomania. But it wasn’t just the kids rocking Tut-inspired looks. “The pylon, the winged scarab, the cavetto cornice: all of these appear in Art Deco architecture,” Ghislaine Wood, 20th-century art and design specialist and curator at the V&A, points out. Egyptian iconography and Egyptian geometry rose to the fore. “Ancient Egyptian motifs, such as animal-headed gods, vultures, and winged scarab beetles” soon adorned everything, from brooches to the top of the Chrysler building. The scarab had many uses and significances in Ancient Egypt. Speaking generally, it symbolized transcendence and rebirth. In addition to its inherent visual appeal, it spoke and speaks today to a generation that trying to reinvent itself.

King Tutankhamun lives on.

Visit the exhibit at the California Science Center in Los Angeles now through January 6, 2019.

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