Throughout the 19th Century and the first half of the 20th, the abundant discovery of artifacts in ancient Egypt and the meticulous documentation of these finds bore a strong influence on the decorative arts of France. This was largely due to a series of international events which began with Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in 1798, organized to thwart English colonial aspirations. Numerous scientists and explorers accompanied the expedition and the results of their research brought a wealth of knowledge to the European continent. Works such as Denon's ‘Le Voyage en Haute et Basse Egypte,’ published in 1802, had a definitive influence on aesthetic preferences for years to come. Another publication, Owen Jones's ‘Grammar of Ornament’, which appeared in London in 1856 and remained a classic well into the 1900s, was also instrumental in developing this aesthetic.
Subsequent to Napoleon was the gift in 1831 from Mehemet Ali, vice-regent of Egypt, to Louis XVIII of an obelisk which was taken from the Luxor Temple built circa 1260 B.C. and placed in the center of Place de la Concorde. There was also the famed exhibition of 1867 in Paris which, according to Henri Vever in ‘La Bijouterie Francaise au XIX Siècle’ (1908), was characterized by a marked Egyptian taste. The building of the Suez Canal also placed Egypt in the headlines during the nearly ten years it took to build (1859-1869). The jewelers Baugrand, Boucheron and Mellerio all produced creations in honor of this great achievement.
The beginning of the 20th century brought the 1911 Franco-Egyptian exhibition to the Louvre and, more importantly, the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun by Howard Carter, a renowned British archeologist who had been appointed General Inspector of Egyptian Antiquities by the Egyptian government in 1899. He had later supervised the excavations in the Valley of the Kings from 1902 and was presently under the employ of Lord Carnarvon who had the largest known collection of Egyptian art in private hands. On November 26th, 1922, Carter came upon a door bearing the seal of Tutankhamun. Its opening brought to light two life-size statues of the young Pharaoh as well as his throne. For the next ten years, the newspapers carefully followed the excavation's progress.
This discovery occasioned an Egyptomania in France and much of the rest of Europe in keeping with the pace of the Roaring Twenties. Most of the major jewelry houses produced at least one or two pieces relating to the craze, but the forerunners in these designs were without doubt Cartier, Lacloche and Van Cleef & Arpels.
Beginning in 1852, Louis-Francois Cartier had created an occasional jewel in the Egyptian style, yet it was not until 1910 that the firm began to excel in this category. In 1913, a wonderful pylon pendant was created in diamonds and onyx, the design of which was borrowed from Pharaonic pectoral ornaments. The present brooch is in the typical colors of these ‘Revival’ jewels: green, red, blue and black on a white background. Its central section represents a twin lotus flower. In ancient Egyptian imagery, the lotus often symbolized Lower Egypt.