Imagining Egypt : the Regency furniture collections at Harewood House, Leeds and nineteenth century images of Egypt
Two objects formed the catalyst for this project and can be used to introduce the set of parallel and converging discourses that underline the text. A pair of cross-frame stools, still found in the entrance hall at Harewood today, generate a series of questions, regarding the collection itself and the Regency period, the history of the Lascelles family in the early nineteenth century and the dichotomy clearly present between the patterns of patronage of the previous generation and that of Edward Lascelles (d. 1814). Stylistically the stools look towards Egypt, engendering an investigation into the formation of this particular revival, centred on the figure of Dominique-Vivant Denon, whose text Voyage dans la Basse et la Haute Egvpte introduced French society to the archaeological discoveries found in the conquered lands. A copy of this text is located in the Harewood collections, and it forms the foundation of a consideration of the political, semiological and social implications of the use of a particular decorative style. Questions are asked regarding the cultural implications of interior design. This leads us back to an examination of how and why the Egyptian revival was established in Britain. This has motivated a consideration of the discourses of furniture history and the methods by which we understand stylistic change, and particularly an analysis of the presentation of such collections today and the historiography of English furniture styles. Each aspect of the study coheres around the central theme of the Harewood collection. Material objects such as the cross-frame stool represent a number of social rituals and cultural practices. My aim is to use theoretical models to begin to unravel the meanings associated with such objects.