Collections > UNC Chapel Hill Undergraduate Honors Theses Collection > Egyptomania and Exoticism in Britain and France: Western Hegemony and Cultural Appropriation
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In Egypt's sandy silence, all alone, Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws The only shadow that the Desert knows:— "I am great OZYMANDIAS," saith the stone, "The King of Kings; this mighty City shows "The wonders of my hand."— The City's gone,— Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose The site of this forgotten Babylon. - Horace Smith, Ozymandias, 1818 Horace Smith was wrong; Egypt is far from a forgotten Babylon. Egypt has enthralled artists, writers, travellers, and dreamers for thousands of years. The ancient remains of this great civilization have been a constant source of inspiration for great works of Western art since classical antiquity. The golden age of this so-called Egyptomania blossomed in the nineteenth century after Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798. In the aftermath of this infamous expedition, the West was flooded with ancient Egyptian artifacts, depictions of military campaigns, as well as illustrations of modern and ancient daily life. Egypt would remain a powerful source of artistic inspiration for France throughout the nineteenth century, but Great Britain was also especially captivated by Egypt’s illustrious history. This thesis will examine how France and Britain used Egypt, ancient and modern, to different ends in the nineteenth century, through painting, engraving and photography. The Egyptian Orientalist was both a “rescuer” and a pious hero, breathing new life into Egypt’s glorious past.