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Wonderful things” (Carter 35) With that, the Egyptian craze started all over again, and collectors clamored for reproductions of objects from the pharaoh’s crypt. Flappers, the Cleopatras and Isises of the new century, strutted out in gold Egyptian-style slip dresses, wearing sequined headdresses with vultures poised at their foreheads. Designers celebrated the revival in Art Deco fashions, including beaded evening bags, sphinx cigarette cases, and lotusblossom necklaces. Cleopatra became an icon in the new motion picture industry, embodied in the sultry, kohled image of Theda Bara.

Through pop culture, Egyptian women had come to symbolize independence, ingenuity, and self-confident sexuality that flew in the face of the old Victorian ideals of femininity. They were the mothers of women’s liberation and the midwives of the sexual revolution, though their images still presented traces of the old cultural fears, first conjured by Herodotus. Through the encounter sparked by Napoleon’s campaign, images of a long-buried civilization had risen from the dust and settled over Europe and America in a way that shaped modern identity, helping to reorganize a culture that had been divided from itself since Moses told his followers to look away from Egypt and Herodotus cast Egypt as the stranger.

Looking East in the Victorian Age In 1838, the ambitious Muhammad Ali declared his intention to make Egypt and Syria independent of Ottoman rule, causing British concern about commerce and military links with the Far East. Egyptomania was declining among the upper classes, but the masses were more enthusiastic than ever. Prominent public events fed the middle-class passion for ancient Egypt, such as the erection of the Luxor Obelisk in the Place de la Concorde in 1836. International fairs provided a new venue for Europeans seeking entertainment and edification, and no fair was complete without a lavish Egyptian exhibition.

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Macchi MC.72


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