Egyptian Revival 2.0: Art Deco Sphinx Fob Seal
The discovery of ancient Egyptian artifacts has inspired and influenced jewelers to revive and reinterpret some of these “antiquated” design elements. Paying homage to these ancients has occurred not only once but some three more times since the initial 1798 – 1810 Neo Egyptian style as a result of Napoleon’s campaigns.
Egyptian motifs were one of the most popular themes of the Art Deco period. Lotus flowers, scarabs, palm leaves, falcon wings and golden serpents, hieroglyphics, pylons and pyramids soon covered everything from book bindings to biscuit boxes. The stepped profile is one of the archetypal shapes used in both architecture and jewelry.
Although Egyptian-flavored design was widespread, the use of the sphinx motif was a very scarce subject for a fob. Masterfully crafted from 14k yellow and rose gold, the careful details such as the individual feathers of the wings, the muscled haunches and the finely chiseled features of the face with headdress are apparent.
The iconic figure is posed regally recumbent upon a golden platform, replete with tail positioned in a gentle upward curve and topped with a gold “O” fitting. The matrix of the fob is engraved in script with the initials “VSG” or “VIG”.
Provenance: From a private collection.
Measurements: 1-1/2 inches (3.8 cm) in length by 1-1/8 inches (2.9 cm) in width. This fob has a weight of 9.3 grams (6.0 dwt).
Date: Circa 1925
Overall Scale: Medium
Historical Notes: A Sphinx is an ancient iconic mythical creature usually represented as a recumbent lion (an animal with sacred solar associations) with wings and a human head. Although the Egyptians of the Old Kingdom have been credited with its invention, the sphinx is a cultural import from archaic Greek mythology where it received its name which translates as "strangler". As a symbol of holiness and protection, the Egyptian Sphinx was commonly used as guardian statues for the tombs, pyramids and sacred highways.
The first Egyptian Style Revival was around 1897 with important exhibitions of these antiquities in New York, France and London and the earlier opening of the Suez Canal which spurred what is typically known as the Victorian era of Egyptian revival. The next is personified by this example with the 1922 discovery of the tomb of King Tut. The third seemed to be a consequence of the Hollywood films of The Ten Commandments and Cleopatra (with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton) and the later decade’s world tour of the riches of Tutankhamen tomb.
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