Egyptian Revival Scarab Bracelet

Date: New Kingdom to Late Period, ca. 1550–664 BC (in probably a French mount, ca. 1870)
Dimensions: 8 L
Materials: Gold, Egyptian faience, and glazed steatite
Credit: Gift of John Townsend Lansing
Accession Number: 1900.7.1
Interest in ancient Egyptian art and culture spread throughout Europe and North America in successive waves during the nineteenth century. The first great surge in interest occurred after Napoleon’s military and scientific expeditions in Egypt between 1798 and 1801. Later waves of interest followed new archaeological discoveries, international expositions that included Egyptian displays, and popular entertainment productions, such as the debut of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Aida, which opened in Cairo, Egypt, in 1871, and New York City in 1873.
Architects, furniture designers, and jewelers used Egyptian motifs and frequently grafted Egyptian design elements onto contemporary forms. This bracelet combines two revival styles: the gold loops and rings imitate ancient Etruscan forms, while the glazed steatite scarab beetles copy ancient Egyptian models. Ancient Egyptians revered scarab beetles. The beetle's habit of rolling spheres of dung across the ground reminded Egyptians of the sun's movement across the sky, performed by the deity Re. Scarabs, therefore, became sacred symbols in ancient Egypt and, during the nineteenth century, popular design elements in Egyptian revival jewelry.