• Break the seal of the Pharaoh's Tomb and discover the fascinating links between Wedgwood and Egypt.

Wedgwood and Egypt

  • by Alistair Guy

Egyptian-style desk set

Theme

Howard Carters work had been financed by Lord Carnarvon since 1914. At this time Lord Carnarvon had one of the biggest collections of Ancient Egyptian artefacts in private hands but by 1922 he was getting frustrated with Carters lack of progress. Carter had become obsessed with finding the tomb of the little known king Tutankhamun and had been informed that 1922 would be his last year of funding.

Confident of eventual success, Carter began digging for his final season on the first of November. Three days later Carters excavation team unearthed the steps leading to Tutankkhamuns tomb. After excavating down to the plaster blocks of the tomb, at 4pm on November the 26th Howard Carter broke through and made one of the most amazing discoveries of the 20th Century. What lay before him was one of the best preserved and most intact Pharonic Tomb found in the Valley of the Kings, when Carnarvon asked “can you see anything?” Carter famously replied “yes wonderful things”.

On the 16th February 1923, Carter opened the sealed doorway of the burial chamber and caught his first glimpse of the sarcophagus of Tutankhamun. It would take ten years to catalogue all the artefacts collected from the tomb. Media interest in the discovery was already high and when Carnarvon died of pneumonia in Cairo it went stratospheric. Soon there were rumours of a curse on the tomb and Carter started to receive letters from Spiritualists. Legend has it, that by 1929 eleven of the people connected with the discovery of the tomb had died. This included two of Carnarvons relatives and Carters personal secretary, Richard Bethall.

This added layer of intrigue only fuelled peoples interest in ancient Egypt. Even Hollywood tried to cash in with, The Mummy (1932). The film stars Boris Karloff and is set in 1921. It tells the story of a British field expedition in Egypt who uncover the tomb of Im-Ho-Tep. One young member of the team reads from an ancient scroll, sending himself insane and bringing the mummy back to life.

During this period Wedgwood had continued making Egypt inspired pieces, although production had not been as prolific. This desk set produced in the nineteenth century is moulded in Majolica. The tray is in the form of a Nile barge, with its cargo being the writing accoutrements. Again we see the form of a canopic vase, this time being used as the inkwell. The holder for the taper is ornamented on the head of a Nile crocodile.

Catalogue

This desk set in majolica is in the Egyptian style. The tray is in the form of a Nile barge, with its cargo being the writing accoutrements. Here the form of a canopic vase has been used for the inkwell. The set dates from c.1875.