Thomas Hope (1769 - 1831), the British author and virtuoso, was born in Amsterdam to John Hope, a banker of Scottish origin, and Philippina Barbara van der Hoeven. He embarked on an extensive Grand Tour in 1787, during which time he sketched architectural remains in ancient lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea. He continued to travel for several years, revisiting Italy and also journeying to Egypt in 1797 and to Athens in 1799 in order to pursue his interest in antiquities. With the Napoleonic disturbances in Europe, Hope took a hiatus from his travels until 1815.
Thomas Hope amassed an impressive art collection, chiefly during his stay in Italy; the collection was further augmented by his youngest brother, Henry Philip Hope. His collecting interests may very well have been sparked by his father, who had been a patron of Giambattista Piranesi; and by one of his cousins who was acquainted with the scholar Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717 - 68), author of History of Ancient Art, and the collector Cardinal Albani; and perhaps also by his uncle, Henry Hope, who unsuccessfully attempted to purchase part of the Borghese collection of classical marbles. The journeys on which he encountered civilizations past and present, together with his familial connections to the artists and antiquarians of the day informed his romantic Neo-classicism and contributed to his patronage of such exponents of that style as John Flaxman, Antonio Canova, and Bertel Thorvaldsen (Waywell, op. cit., p. 35).
With the occupation of the Netherlands by France, Thomas Hope permanently settled in England in 1795. In 1799 Hope purchased a substantial mansion in London on Duchess Street off Portland Place to the north of Oxford Circus. The house had originally been designed by the famed architect Robert Adam around 1768. Thomas Hope spent the interval between 1799 and 1804 designing the interiors of that house and acquiring its furnishings with the objective of creating "a coherent ambient symbolic of the antiquities contained within" (Humbert, et al., Egyptomania. Egypt in Western Art, 1730 - 1930, Paris, 1994, pp. 186 - 187). The house was officially opened to the public in 1804 and was accompanied by the publication of Household Furniture and Interior Decoration Executed from Designs by Thomas Hope, which included engravings of many of the rooms. The volume was to have considerable influence on the taste of English Regency design and established what came to be known as the "Hope Style".
The Duchess Street mansion had rooms dedicated to specific themes, including two for the display of Greek vases, a sculpture gallery, a picture gallery, and an Egyptian room. Based on the drawing from Household Furniture (fig. 1) and from contemporary descriptions, we know that this room had a painted frieze of Egyptian deities inspired by vignettes from an illustrated ancient Egyptian funerary papyrus, and contained authentic Egyptian antiquities displayed together with Egyptianizing Grand Tour objects and furniture incorporating Egyptian themes. The Egyptian sculpture has been considered one of the most remarkable collections of its kind then in England (Watkin, Thomas Hope 1769 - 1831 and the Neo-Classical Idea, London, 1968, p. 48). The present statue is identifiable in that drawing where it is positioned on a pyramidal base, centered on a set of double doors to the left. It is not known if the second tier of the sculpture's plinth was omitted by the artist, or if it was recessed into the base.
In late 1824 or early 1825, Hope transferred a large number of his sculptures to his country residence, the Deepdene, near Dorking in Surrey. A new wing had just been added to the Deepdene to accommodate them (Waywell, op. cit., p. 50). Although the collection was now divided between his two residences, the Egyptian statue made the move, and was displayed in what Hope called the Orangery and Sculpture Gallery (W on fig. 2), where Prosser saw it in 1828 within a circular recess behind a bronze figure of a gladiator (Waywell, op. cit., p. 56). The sculpture probably stayed in that position after Hope's death, at least until 1849, when the Duchess Street residence was sold and many of the remaining sculptures were moved to the Deepdene, requiring some rearrangement. When the German scholar Adolf Michaelis catalogued the sculpture at the Deepdene (he visited first in 1861, and later in 1877, by which time the house had passed to Anne Adèle Hope, widow of Henry Thomas Hope - see also lot 477 in this sale), its position was in what he called the "Gallery of the Hall". Michaelis dismissed the Egyptian statue as "probably modern" (Michaelis, op. cit., p. 288, no. 25). The auction catalogue for the Hope sales at Christie's, London in 1917 merely repeated Michaelis' view, so too Parke-Bernet in New York in 1954.
The Hope Pharaoh depicts a ruler in the time-honored, ancient Egyptian pose of striding forward with the left foot advanced. Of particular note is the treatment of the corpulent face with its fleshy throat and prominent lips, as well as the configuration of the toes of both feet.
The dating of the Hope Pharaoh can be suggested by the time of its acquisition, its material, and its style. It was certainly acquired during one of Hope's travels, most likely in Italy, and was in his collection by the late 18th century, as the initial publication makes clear. Despite having been dismissed by Michaelis, who was a superb Classical scholar but not an Egyptologist, this statue cannot be a European Egyptianizing creation, because it does not conform to prevailing norms of Egyptomania, as comparisons with any number of Egyptianizing works created in Europe around 1800 clearly demonstrate. Examples from the 18th century may be regarded as loose approximations of Romano-Egyptian norms. See, for example, the 18th century restoration of the head on Neshor in the Louvre (Humbert, et al., op. cit., no. 4). See also the upper part of a statue of Ramesses II, also in the Louvre (op. cit., no. 5), the restored heads of sphinxes in the Louvre (op. cit., nos. 31 - 32), the Antinoos-Osiris by Claude Michel, called Clodion, Paris, private collection (op. cit., no. 55), or the series of images in Munich (Schoske, Staatliche Sammlung Ägyptischer Kunst München, Mainz, 1995, pp. 12 - 13, fig. 7), for more aberrant creations of the 18th century.
Egyptianizing works of this period are either approximations, one might say near but not exacting replicas, of genuine examples of ancient Egyptian art or aberrations evocative of Hollywood at its worse. The Hope Pharaoh shares none of these aberrations. Most popular at this time was the depiction of Antinoos as Osiris, known from rosso antico and gray marble versions found at Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli, which are all basically a classical Polykleitan torso bearing the head of Hadrian's favorite, clad in an Egyptian kilt and nemes-headdress (Humbert, op. cit., pp. 46 - 47). While the Hope statue bears the same Egyptian attributes, the modelling of the torso and the treatment of the face differ greatly from the Egyptianizing depictions of Antinoos, Hadrianic and revival.
The Hope statue is sculpted from a type of banded alabaster, known in Italian as alabastro fiorito, which was quarried in Asia Minor. Alabastro fiorito, as well as Egyptian alabaster, was favored by the Romans for floor pavements, columns, deluxe vases, and statues, particularly of Egyptian deities associated with the cult of Isis and Roman Egyptomania. The material was first introduced during the Roman Republic, but its use became widespread during the Imperial Period (Anderson and Nista, eds., Radiance in Stone, Sculptures in Colored Marble from the Museo Nazionale Romano, Rome, 1989, p. 52).
The style of the Hope Pharaoh is in keeping with that of Romano-Egyptian images of pharaohs. It finds its closest parallels in a serpentine depiction of a Roman emperor datable to the 1st or 2nd century A.D. (Bianchi, Cleopatra's Egypt. Age of the Ptolemies, Brooklyn, 1988, pp. 250 - 251, no. 138). There are exact correspondences in the tripartite modelling of the torso with its wasp waist and the position of the similarly designed belted kilt worn low on the waist, as well as in the slightly off-center, round navel and unadorned hood of the cobra fronting the nemes-headdress, which is not striated. The face of the serpentine example is also characterized by a protruding upper lip, more accentuated in the profile view. And finally, the position of the pigtail of that headdress relative to the back pillar, although now largely missing on the serpentine example, has left a footprint that corresponded exactly to that of the Hope Pharaoh. Both figures belong to a closely related group of similarly uninscribed images which are clearly of Roman Imperial date. These include the striding images of a pharaoh in the Palazzo Altemps in Rome (Stanwick, Portraits of the Ptolemies. Greek Kings as Egyptian Pharaohs, Austin, 2002, p. 173, fig. 62 [B 16], incorrectly assigned to Rome, the Museo Nazionale, for which correction we thank Sally-Ann Ashton) and a second in Copenhagen (Stanwick, op. cit., p. 173, fig. 64 [B 18]), both of which are preserved with integral plinths of different design. The Romans apparently had a predilection for multi-tiered bases for their Egyptian-inspired statues, as can be seen on two reliefs, one in Rome depicting the Apis Bull and one from Arrica depicting Egyptian deities (Müller, Der Isiskult im antiken Benevent, Berlin, 1969, pl. XII, fig. 2, Apis bull, and fig. 1, Arrica relief).
The prominence given to the mouth with its protruding upper lip, suggestive of acute malocclusion, is in keeping with physiognomic conventions common to late Ptolemaic royal images in both the Hellenistic (Stanwick, op. cit., no. C13. Alexandria, Graeco-Roman Museum 362) and pharaonic idiom (Stanwick, op. cit., figs. 258 - 259, New York, Collection of William Kelly Simpson). Such features are particularly characteristic of depictions of two Roman Emperors: Caligula, Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus, Emperor 37 - 41 A.D. and especially Domitian, Titus Flavius Domitianus, Emperor 81 - 96 A.D. (Kleiner, Roman Sculpture, New Haven, 1992, pls. 102 - 104, Caligula and pl. 145, Domitian). In addition to the Roman-style portraits of Domitian, there are also pharaonic images associated with him found at his Sanctuary of Isis at Beneventum near Naples (Müller, op. cit., pls. XIX and XX). These images share with the Hope Pharaoh a similar treatment of the overbite, the wasp-waisted tripartite torso, the plain nemes-headcloth and the unstriated kilt hanging low on the hips.
The Hope Pharaoh is an original Roman work of art, created in accordance with pharaonic Egyptian design tenets, and incorporating certain Roman predilections such as the use of exotic Asia Minor alabaster and the integral two-tiered base, and displays a unique physiognomy characterized by a protruding upper lip. It is without doubt one of the finest such examples to have survived from ancient Rome. The Hope Pharaoh enjoyed pride of place in the Egyptian Room at the Duchess Street mansion and later at the Deepdene, and, as an ensemble with the other Egyptian and Egyptianizing objects with which it was displayed, came to exert a profound influence on the subsequent development of the Egyptian Revival during England's Regency Period.
Please note this sculpture has been requested for inclusion in the forthcoming exhibition on Thomas Hope in 2007 - 2008.