An Egyptianising Elephant-House
An article in AE 43 described the work of Belgian Egyptologists at Qurta in Egypt, and the long association of Belgium with the rich archaeological site of Elkab was recently described in the British Museum’s Sackler Memorial Lecture by Dr Luc Limme, Director of the Belgian Mission in Egypt. The extensive Egyptian collection of the Muséées Royaux de l’Art et d’Histoire in theParc du Cinquantenaire in Brussels is well worthy of more than a cursory visit. But if you are in Brussels you might also have time to make the short journey to Antwerp and its excellent Zoo. The Zoo, one of the oldest in the world, was founded in 1843. It houses over five thousand animals in excellent conditions and attracts about a million visitors every year. It is situated, most unusually, right in the centre of the city of Antwerp, next to the Central Station. Once through the elaborate gateway, the visitor enters a different world –a large and leafy park where one is completely unaware of the bustling town that surrounds it on all sides.
AEíís Deputy Editor, Peter Phillips , visits a remarkable building in Antwerp Zoo, Belgium.
It is perhaps unsurprising, given the explosion of innovative architecture in late nineteenth-century Belgium, (particularly in the Art Nouveau movement) that one of the most amazing examples of Egyptianising architecture in the world should have been built there, but to find it in a zoo is astonishing. There it stands, at the heart of the park, housing the elephants and giraffes. It was built in 1855-56, during the reign of King Lééopold I, as Belgium’s answer to the craze for all things Egyptian that swept Europe following the publication of accurate images of ancient Egyptian architecture by Napolééon between 1809 and 1822 in his Description de l’ÉÉgypte. The building was designed by Charles Servais, with help from Joseph Bonomi Jr. (who had worked as a draughtsman for Robert Hay in Egypt). The pronaos faççade imitates a Graeco-Roman Period Egyptian temple, complete with battered walls, cavetto cornice, and pseudo-Hathor-headed and palmiform columns in matching pairs across its axis (see left and right). The palmiform capitals are painted to resemble fronds of
ANCIENTEGYPTDecember 2007/January 2008