9567 A PAIR OF MAHOGANY AND EBONIZED & GILDED COMMODES IN THE EGYPTIAN TASTE, ONE INCORPORATING A SECRETAIRE Swedish. First Quarter Of The 19th Century. Measurements: Height: 38 1/2″ (97.8 cm) Width: 37 1/2″ (95.25 cm) Depth: 20 1/2″ (52 cm)
Of pyramid mahogany with black lacquer and gilt reserves. Both commodes of rectangular form are fitted with three drawers with lacquer vignettes depicting classical Egyptian imagery. One commode is fitted with a secretaire drawer, the other with faux cupboard doors. The escutcheons are old replacements. Both commodes are raised on ebonised zoomorphic feet, possibly old replacements.
Old Stopalo Collection, Stockholm
Europeans created a grammar of design that grew to incorporate ancient Egyptian decorative motifs, color schemes, and even script and symbols. This vast body of discovery and appropriation in the decorative arts, spanning the 18th and 19th centuries, can be seen as an Archaeological Revival, which includes the trend of Egyptomania. Napoleon’s military successes in Egypt at the end of the 18th century fueled excitement for the style, whose motifs exude a sense of mystery and exoticism. Baron Vivant Denon, who traveled northern Egypt during these campaigns, recorded all he saw in notes and sketches. The resulting two-volume work, Voyage dans la basse et l’haute Égypte, published in 1802, “can be said to be the first attempt to provide comprehensive and accurate descriptions of Ancient Egyptian architecture,” and spurred the Egyptian Revival in architecture and decorative arts. Seven years later, the Institut d’Égypte released its encyclopedic tome, Description d’Égypte, published in twenty-three volumes between 1809 and 1829, bolstering the enthusiasm for Egyptiennerie across Europe.
The present pair of commodes are a Swedish example of this trend. One is fitted with a secretaire drawer and the other with faux cupboard doors. These unusual examples, of mahogany with black gilt decoration, are painted with Egyptian imagery in an exaggerated, stylized manner. The bottom drawer depicts a gilded sphinx within a black lacquer lunette reserve and the central drawer’s vignette includes two cobras flanked by hieroglyphics. The individual hieroglyphs are accurate and the artist seems to have copied the text from a legitimate Egyptian source, rather than make up his own symbolism inspired by the Coptic. As witnessed by these commodes, designers were not only versed in the aesthetics of the Ancients, but were also committed scholars who avidly immersed themselves in ancient cultures for inspiration.