Inspired by the past
Imagining the past
Archaeological discoveries stimulated the European imagination, inspiring dreams of the ancient past.
The 19th century brought liberation from the old paradigm of ancient Greece and Rome as the epitome of taste, all else dismissed as primitive or degenerate. The senses were stimulated by an intoxicating flow of exciting new ideas. Everyone wanted to show how up to date their knowledge was regarding the new discoveries.

Fashionable jewellery and other artistic works with oriental motifs made desirable conversation starters. Artists carefully researched the latest finds to depict scenes from famous stories full of authentic details. In theatre, audiences witnessed Josephin Peladan’s Semiramis, rich with Middle Eastern names and costumes. In opera, Giuseppe Verdi entertained sell-out crowds with his Nabucco (short for Nabuchodonosor, king of ancient Babylon).

With mass production and the growth of product branding, companies selling chocolate, cigarettes and other popular goods put attractive collecting cards in their packets. Among the images used were ancient kings or famous artefacts.
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Inspired by the past

Archaeology as inspiration
Imagining the past
Egyptianising plate


The British Museum, London, United Kingdom

This Sèvres plate was part of an Egyptian service, with strong Egyptianising motifs and decorated with a copy of a drawing by Dominique Vivant Denon, Voyage dans la Basse et la Haute Égypte, pendant les campagnes du Général Bonaparte (1802). It is said the plate was thrown out of the windows of the Tuileries in Paris during the French Revolution of 1848.

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In this Exhibition
About the Exhibition
The birth of archaeology
The formation of museums
Inspired by the past