Nothing (or almost nothing) is ever truly new. Artists, designers and craftsmen have been stealing good ideas from their predecessors since, well, forever. In fact, it is those artists who attempt to be inventive who often end-up disappointing me the most. In my humble opinion, taste, aesthetics and execution are what makes good art—not novelty or innovation (unless taste, aesthetics and execution also are employed).
I love finding links between the great design of today (or yesteryear) and the design which came well before that. Today I will show you three ancient examples—all to be found in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo—which have found their ways into Nineteenth and Twentieth Century art and design.
Shown above, a hand-carved granite "palm column," made around 2450 BC. The simplicity belies its age. And the artful use of a natural botanical element—in this case, a palm tree, lashed together with rope—was created to function as a durable, structural element in ancient pharaonic architecture. We might see this type of capital used again during the Empire Period (circa 1810 AD, soon after Napoleon's campaigns to Egypt) and again in the Art Deco 1920's and 1930's (shortly after Howard Carter discovered King Tut's tomb in 1922). A column like this may also have been adapted as a small pilaster or decorative element on a piece of furniture or a finding in a piece of jewelry. And full-sized columns were not uncommon in flamboyant Art Deco movie houses or Edwardian department stores.
Above we have a "false door," carved of limestone and painted (circa 2465 BC), which was probably one of several decorating an ancient wall near the stepped pyramid in Sakkara. Does it not have the ring of Frank Lloyd Wright during the American Arts & Crafts movement (circa 1905?)
Lastly, here's a gilded wooden chair, the Throne of Princess Sitamun (c. 1391-1353 BC). Furniture like this, discovered by Napoleon during his Egyptian Campaign, became the rage in Europe in the 1810's (and, a little later, in America), called the Empire Period. When Napoleon went to Egypt, he took a squadron of artists to record the architectural sites and artifacts they discovered. These images were published as portfolios—much to the delight of style hungry Europeans.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248