Friday, 2 October 2015

Selling Ancient Egypt

This week I have been doing some research into early twentieth century adverts which featured ancient Egypt as a selling ploy.  Unsurprisingly, quite a few originated from the period of Tutankhamen's tomb discovery which sparked a great love affair with not only the Tut himself, but also anything ancient Egyptian.  

It has been interesting to explore how the products that were advertised were linked to commonly perceived virtues associated with ancient Egypt during that period, for example, themes of beauty, glamour and quality are consistently explored in the adverts.  

Beauty products tapped into the idea of ancient Egyptian women as being "mysterious' and 'youthful' and adverts played on the idea that the civilisation were privy to deeply hidden secrets which allowed them to maintain this youthfulness.  Through the depiction of radiant, young Egyptian women alongside images of the product being marketed, there was a implied suggestion that by buying the brand, the purchaser could also become privy to the secrets of the ancients.

Palmolive frequently used ancient Egypt in their adverts for a variety of products which included soap, cream, powder,vanishing cream, shampoo and talcum powder.  One advert depicts Cleopatra reclining on a bed; in the background are two servants apparently concocting a mysterious potion.  Out of the vapours appear the image of Palmolive soap. "The great queen who reigned centuries ago" states the advert, "was one famous user of Palm and Olive oils - perhaps she pictured the day when modern science would combine them for universal toilet use".

Ancient Egypt was also linked to the concept of purity as evidenced in an advert for Sunlight Soap.  

"Sunlight Soap is always pure" declared the advert alongside the image of Egyptian women washing their clothes with the pyramids in the background. 
Tobacco companies also took to ancient Egypt to extol the pleasures of smoking their particular brand of cigarettes.  The inclusion of a beautiful young 'royal' ancient Egyptian woman in the Egyptian Deities advert opposite suggests a certain elegance and glamour to the product.  The wording also declares the brand are for "People of culture and refinement."  Another advert shown below for the same company portrays a statue on a throne-like seat and alongside it is a  contemporary photograph of a young lady seated royally on a draped chair.  The concept couldn't be clearer - smoke Egyptian Dieties and you too can feel not only like a King or Queen, but an ancient Egyptian King or Queen at that!!!

The idea of high quality can also be seen portrayed in advertising for other brands.  For example, Miltiades Cigarettes uses the sphinx in its royal headress as its logo, whilst Melachrino goes one further by using the goddess Maat alongside the tag-line "Melachrinos set the standard of cigarette quality".

Interestingly, companies would even use the concept of ancient Egypt even when the brand blatantly conflicted with what it was selling.  Take this early advert for Murad cigarettes.  Ancient Egyptian statues of Anubis, Egyptian furniture and architecture, and an Egyptian headress are all used to advertise Turkish cigarettes!

The use of ancient Egypt as a marketing tool continues to this day and the same concepts of quality and beauty are still important themes for advertisers. 

Take for example the Panasonic Lumix advert with its cleverly animated Anubis statue (click advert).

My personal favourite is the 1989 advert for Vaseline Intensive Care lotion where a mummy unwraps itself in a museum to reveal a beautiful young woman beneath the linen (click advert).  The Bangles "Walk Like An Egyptian" gives the advert an added thumbs up!!!

***Watch this space as I go off in search of ancient Egyptian inspired products and feature personal reviews on them***

Monday, 28 September 2015

Tamworth's First Carnival

Seems MacGregor is flavour of the month at the moment.

Another mention of him...this time about the hospital he helped create:

Tamworth's very first carnival

Image - Tamworth Herald

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Egyptian Inspiration at the Library!

I lived over 10 years in Tamworth and never noticed the ancient Egyptian inspired decoration on this plaque on Tamworth Library in Staffordshire!!!

Look closely at the bottom!

Image: B Rogers

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

New Exhibit Focuses upon Local Egyptologist and Collector

I am pleased to announce that a new exhibit has been launched in Tamworth to celebrate the links that Tamworth has with ancient Egypt.  The first stage of Tamworth's "Egyptian Trail" can be found at the Tamworth Library where the collection of the local benefactor Reverend William McGregor is featured.  I have been delighted to have worked as consultant to the exhibitors, Museufy.  The group, led by Mark Lorenzo, are a mixture of museum workers and designers who in their own words are 'trying to reveal the extraordinary in the ordinary' and are 'using the power of history and museum collections for the benefit of local areas'.  The exhibition will remain in the library till October when it is hoped that it will then tour other locations within the Staffordshire area.

Here is a link to the local press - Tamworth Herald.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Golden Mummy Mask from MacGregor Collection Discovered in Liverpool

I am very excited about a new object from the MacGregor Collection that has been brought to my attention by Dr Ashley Cooke of the World Museum in Liverpool. It is a beautiful golden faced mummy mask with a painted vulture on the top of the head.

The mummy mask features in the sale catalogue of MacGregor's collection as part of 7 objects which made up Lot 629.  The lot description stated:

"Five painted wood Fragments from mummy-cases, all of late period, one with a long inscription relating to a priest of Osiris; also two gilded Cartonnage Heads from mummy-cases, one in very damaged condition, the other well preserved"

The mummy mask is likely to be the one mentioned as 'damaged', for it is currently in a poor state of repair.  Despite its condition however, it is still remarkable: the colours are still vivid and the artwork is well executed.

I am now in the process of searching through my masses of research paperwork to see if I can find any mention of its find site or purchase information.

Watch this space for future news!

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Death Exhibition at Bristol Museum to open October 2015

There is an exciting and innovative exhibition due to hit Bristol Museum later this year!  Death: The human experience, which opens in October 2015, will explore the various ways in which humans from around the world - and from different time periods -  have approached the subject of death and dying.  Featuring hundreds of objects from Bristol's world cultures, archaeology, natural sciences, social history and art collections, the exhibition will explore stories from different cultures from ancient times to modern day. 

Amber Druce and Lisa Graves, Collection Officers for World Cultures, hope that the exhibition can help visitors learn from other perspectives:

"Many psychologists and bereavement counsellors believe that as a society we, and especially children, need to talk more about death to make it less scary. In this exhibition we’re looking to offer a communal, safe environment to address the issues and ethics around death and dying. Many cultures concentrate on celebrating the lives of deceased loved ones, most famously in Mexico, so it isn’t all doom and gloom!"

The Mexican Day of the Dead is just one of many themes explored in the exhibition, which also include Victorian mourning rituals, mummification, Buddhist watercolours showing death processes and ancestor worship, bespoke coffins and mourning clothes and jewellery. This thought-provoking exhibition raises scientific and ethical questions and acts as a platform for discussion about  how people have responded to death creatively with music, humour, film and literature.

The preparation process of putting on the exhibition has been extensive, with the organisers speaking extensively to the public and to professionals from the death industry. This has resulted in an exciting public programme that will run alongside the exhibition including writing workshops, debates, theatre, film screenings, and day-schools. 

Even the cost of the exhibition is innovative - visitors have the choice to pay what they think the exhibition is worth.

The exhibition runs from 24 October to 13 March 2016. I for one will definitely be visiting...and probably more than once!!!

Bristol Museums

Death Exhibition

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Spotlight on a Collector - Alexander Henry Rhind

Alexander Henry Rhind was a lawyer and excavator.  He was born on 26 July 1833 in Caithness.

After wintering in Egypt due to ill health, Rhind excavated at Thebes and Giza in later years and published several books including Thebes; its tombs and their tenants (1862) and Egypt: its Climate, Character and Resources as a Winter Resort (1856).

Rhind acquired a fine collection of Egyptian antiquities which in later years he bequeathed to the National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh (National Museum of Scotland) such as the bilingual Hieractic-Demotic papyri at Edinburgh (908-9).  A few, now well-known antiquities, also went to the British Museum such as the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus (EA 10057-8) which is a list of practical problems found in administrative and building works.  It contains 84 problems in the text concerned with numerical operations, practical problem-solving and geometrical shapes.

Rhind Mathematical Papyrus

Another British Museum antiquity is the Bremner-Rhind papyrus (EA  10188)

Rhind revisited Egypt in 1862-3 where he contracted a serious illness.  He died on the away home at Lake Como.

Bibliography:  Who Was Who in Egyptology 4th Revised Edition.  Ed. M L Bierbrier.  London: The Egypt Exploration Society (2012)