A pastiche of archaeological influences

A mysterious and intriguing enamel and gem-set bangle by Carlo Giuliano, circa 1870.

This jewel is a veritable eclectic mix of myriad influences from popularised Egyptian to Hellenistic.

Egyptian art had begun to influence the repertoire of decorative arts in the early 19th century. Jewellers, however, did not become sensitive to this theme until the 1860s. Indeed, it was not until after the 1867 Universal Exhibition in Paris that the Egyptian style became widely fashionable.

This image of the French jeweller Baugrand’s showcase at the 1867 Universal Exhibition, Paris, is emblematic of the impact that the fascination with Egypt had on the decorative arts. Note the statue of Isis and the Egyptian style casket, and the tiara decorated with lotus motifs, showing below

The elements which played the most important role in the promotion of Egyptian art and of the Egyptian Revival, were the publication of Auguste Mariette’s papers on his excavation in Egypt in the 1850s and the arrival at Louvre Museum of the large collection of artefacts he had unearthed in that area.

Lithographs from David Roberts, Egypt and Nubia, 1846-1849, the ‘Grand portico of the Temple of Philae’, detail

Another event that played an important role in the Egyptian focus of the period, was the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 to much international celebration and press attention. Egyptian themes and motifs infiltrated the design and production of all the major European jewellers at this time. Among them, Froment Meurice, Mellerio and Boucheron in Paris; Robert Phillips and Carlo Giuliano in London; and, to a lesser degree, Castellani and Pierret in Rome. These creations were mainly pastiches of pharaonic motifs, unlike the meticulous accuracy of the Greek Archaeological Revival jewels mastered by Castellani and Melillo which were based on genuine archaeological examples.

David Roberts, lithograph, ‘Portico of the Temple of Dendera’, the colourful rendering of the columns’ capitals may well have inspired Giuliano’s creation