The end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century saw a renewed interest in Egypt, following archaeological excavations largely funded by the French, British and German governments when several important discoveries were made, including the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb by Howard Carter in 1922.
All the decorative ornament on this vitrine is reminiscent of Egypt and a large number of iconographic elements are represented. The base is reminiscent of sleds used by the pharaohs, the central gilt-bronze ornament with winged vulture, lotus leaf capitals adorned with the heads of the goddess Hator,sphinxes and hawks. The very shape of this vitrine reflects the drawings by Emile Prisse d'Avennes of the niche of Mammisi ("House of Births") of Denderah on the 53rd plate of his Atlas of Egyptian Art, published from 1858 to 1878. The profiles to the left and right are Pharaoh Amenhotep III and Queen Tiyi (Figure 5) and King Taharqa in Amun (Ibid., plate 38).
Besides the aesthetic decoration, this vitrine combines several interesting elements and the hieroglyphs are all legible and include the name of the cabinetmaker, the date of manufacture and the name of the sponsor. It was made by Giuseppe Parvis (1831-1909). Born in Bremen in Lombardy, he studied at the Accademia Albertina in Turin. In 1859 he settled in Cairo where he made and sold furniture (Fig. 3). He gained international fame following the Universal Expositions in Paris in 1867, Philadelphia in 1876, Milan in 1881 and Turin in 1884 where he exhibited his Egyptian bedroom and where a cabinet very close to ours was presented (Fig. 4). Note a secretaire with a similar construction to our piece and a bureau recently offered on the market in Paris and New York.
The present piece is dated 1907 and the name of its sponsor is also known as King Chulalongkorn, Rama V (1853-1910), King of Siam, today called Thailand. He ruled from 1868 to 1910 (Figure 1) and travelled to Europe, including Paris in 1897 and 1907, via the Suez Canal. He would thus have stopped in Egypt and probably acquired the present piece during one of his visits.
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