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Napoleon Bonaparte of France is usually credited with the onset of a period of great interest in all things Egypt, as his invasions of the 1800’s included the home of King Tutankhamen, a place which fascinated him, and by extension, the nation of France upon his return. The period of about 1820-1850, sometimes called the “Egyptian Revival”, was characterized by Egyptian motifs and forms applied to memorials, cemeteries, and interestingly, prisons. A second renewal of interest in Egyptology occurred with the discovery and opening of King Tut’s tomb by Howard Carter in 1922; this renewed interest is often linked to the onset of the Art Deco movement in art and architecture, one that was characterized by, among other things, bold geometric shapes (reminiscent, of course, of the pyramids). Generally, the Egyptian influence can be seen wherever there are triangular columns (although Egyptian columns were sometimes circular, rectangular or even octagonal), a type of quarter circle molding called “cavetto”, capitals inspired by palm leaves (palmiform), papyrus reeds, or lotus flowers.
Specific examples of the influence of Egyptian forms in architecture include the garden follies found on the bridge, swing and bath house of Chateau de Montbeliard in France; the palmiform capitals found on the cornices and pillars of the building of the Courier newspaper in London, the curves of the spire on the top of New York City’s Chrysler Building, as well as the papyrus flowers that decorate the elevator doors of that building, and the cavetto cornices found on the Pyramid Theatre and Cinema in Manchester, England, a building whose façade looks very much like a temple construction of the New Kingdom.
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