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When History and Decor Intersect: Victorian Egyptomania

When History and Decor Intersect: Victorian Egyptomania
Brenda Pearce Writer

by Brenda Pearce

Unearthing vintage treasures,
One glorious story at a time


In the vibrant mosaic of design's illustrious past, the Victorian era stands out like a dazzling gem. This epoch wasn't just about change and innovation; it was a whirlwind romance of styles. At the heart of this romance was the era's infatuation with the mystique of ancient Egypt, a passion so intense it birthed its own name: 'Egyptomania'.

The 19th century, particularly in Britain, was a time of exploration and empire. The world seemed to be shrinking as explorers charted unknown territories, bringing back tales of ancient civilizations and treasures. The discovery of Egyptian antiquities, especially the deciphering of the Rosetta Stone in the early part of the century, ignited a fervor for all things Egyptian.

The Allure of the Nile

But what was it about ancient Egypt that so captivated the Victorian imagination? At its core, Egypt represented the exotic and the ancient, two themes that resonated deeply with Victorian sensibilities. The grandeur of the pyramids, the mysteries of the mummies, and the allure of hieroglyphics painted a picture of a civilization both deeply sophisticated and profoundly mysterious.

In the realm of decor, this translated into a rich tapestry of design elements. Sphinxes began to guard the hearths of Victorian fireplaces. Chairs and tables bore the motifs of lotus flowers and scarab beetles. Wallpapers were adorned with patterns inspired by ancient papyrus scrolls. And who could forget the obelisks? These pointed ancient structures became a popular decorative motif, appearing in gardens, on wallpaper, and even as the inspiration for table legs.

From Fashion to Furnishings

The influence of Egyptomania wasn't limited to home decor. It permeated every aspect of Victorian life. Women's fashion, for instance, saw the introduction of Egyptian-inspired jewelry. Gold necklaces with pendant scarabs, bracelets adorned with hieroglyphics, and even headdresses reminiscent of those worn by ancient Egyptian royalty became all the rage.

In the home, this Egyptian influence was seen in everything from grand pieces of furniture to the minutiae of daily life. Clocks were designed to resemble miniature obelisks, tea caddies bore Egyptian motifs, and even gas lamp brackets took on the form of Egyptian figures.

The Heart of the Home: The Living Room

Perhaps the most vivid representation of Egyptomania was in the Victorian living room. Fireplaces, the heart of the home, were often adorned with tiles showcasing Egyptian landscapes. Mantelpieces became showcases for Egyptian-inspired artifacts. Even the fabrics chosen for curtains and upholstery bore the unmistakable mark of the Nile, with patterns inspired by ancient Egyptian art.

A Lasting Legacy

While the fervor of Egyptomania may have waned as the Victorian era gave way to the 20th century, its influence is still felt today. Modern design often borrows from the past, and the rich tapestry of Egyptian-inspired Victorian decor is a treasure trove of inspiration.

Today, as homeowners and designers look for ways to bring depth and history into spaces, many turn to the Victorian era's Egyptomania for inspiration. Whether it's a subtle nod with a lotus flower lamp or a bold statement with a Sphinx-guarded fireplace, the magic of ancient Egypt, as seen through Victorian eyes, continues to enchant.

Fun Fact…  During the height of Victorian-era Egyptomania, mummy unwrapping parties became a bizarre social trend. Affluent individuals would purchase genuine Egyptian mummies, invite guests over, and then ceremoniously unwrap the ancient remains, turning a sacred ritual into a parlor entertainment!


The Victorian era's Egyptomania is a testament to the timeless allure of ancient civilizations and the ways in which history and decor intersect. It reminds us that every piece of furniture, every pattern, and every design choice tells a story. And as we sit in our living rooms, surrounded by the echoes of ancient Egypt, we are reminded of the timeless dance between the past and the present, between history and decor.