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Taylor Haus Galleries

1822 Karnak Temple Napoleonic Savant-Illustrated Engraved Print for Description de l'Égypte

1822 Karnak Temple Napoleonic Savant-Illustrated Engraved Print for Description de l'Égypte

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Plan & detail of the ceiling on the South door of the Karnak Temple, in Luxor, Egypt. Published in 1822, the 2nd Edition of "Description de l'Égypte," on Emperor Napoleon's orders, compiled by his historically iconic savants (Institut d'Egypte). 

In 1798, Emperor Napoleon was joined by 167 savants from various fields including artistry, mathematics, engineering, botany, physics, and cartography. While administrators of the 'Commission des Sciences et Arts d'Egypte' as they later became known, were skilled craftsmen, many so-called savants were students, still awaiting graduation. 

This Karnak illustration, ordered by Baron Dominique Vivant Denon, was done before Egyptian Hieroglyphics were translated. Denon's famous first trip to Upper Egypt was the start of two more expeditions- then led by engineers Fourier and Costaz, who meticulously copied each detail and hieroglyph, as evident in this print. Once the Rosetta Stone was used to unlock the language of the ancient Egyptians, these illustrations were able to be translated- paving way for the Egyptology craze that has dominated ever since.    

To compile the "Description de l'Égypte,", the over 7,000 page multi-edition compilation of the savants work, a new printing machine was invented by Nicolas-Jacques Conté. This method required pressing an inked copper plate engraved with the desired image onto this lovely vergé paper. To use this method, illustrations were transferred to copper plates by engravers. 'Égypte ancienne et moderne' watermark can be seen in the top right corner, indicating it's Imperial Edition status (with later 'Royal' editions lacking the watermark).

 "Tuthmosis Ill of the 18th dynasty left in the temple of Karnak, a zoological and botanical record of his third campaign to Syria and  Palestine." -Robert Anderson & lbrahim Fawzy, eds. [Egypt Revealed: Scenes from Napoleon's Description de I'Egypte (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 1988)]

Dimensions (paper): 22” x 29” 

Dimensions (of print): 17.5” x 25”

Dimensions (watermark): 3.5 cm. x 3.5 cm. 

Dimensions (framed): 28.0" x 34.5" x 2.0"

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