The Grammar of Ornament

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Speaking of London’s Great Exhibition of 1851, which I was a few posts ago in relation to St Mark’s church in Alexandria, another of the architects involved in that fantastic project had a strong connection with Egypt and that was Owen Jones.

Educated at England’s Royal Academy, Jones travelled in Egypt (where he joined the party of painter Robert Hay), Greece, Turkey and Spain from 1833 to 1834 making copious notes and sketches along the way. These became the basis for a lifetime’s work as a highly influential writer, architect-decorator and illustrator. He was commissioned to work on the interior arrangements at the Great Exhibition. When the venue for the exhibition, the Crystal Palace, was disassembled moved and reassembled in south London, Owen was tasked with creating a series of decorative courts themed on Egypt (pictured above), Greece, Rome and the Alhambra. He was assisted in this by Egyptologist Joseph Bonomi.

In 1856, Jones published the work for which he is best known, the mesmerising Grammar of Ornament. In this he presents in a series of painted plates key examples of design through the ages from around the world, but particularly the Middle East. It is a sumptuously beautiful thing, available in modern facsimile, which is large, heavy and expensive, but happily also online in the archives of the University of Heidelberg. Go take a look for yourself.

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Filed under Art and artists, Egyptologists and Egyptology, Egyptomania

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