Ruins of the Palace of Karnak at Thebes

Given its dating, this grand composition was likely painted in commemoration of one of the most ambitious expeditions – commissioned in 1842 by King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia – to explore and record the remains of ancient Egyptian civilization, and led by Karl Richard Lepsius (1810-84). The figure being carried in the sedan chair before the ruins of the temple of Karnak may well be Lepsius himself, considered the father of the modern scientific discipline of Egyptology.

The expedition, modelled on the earlier Napoleonic mission and building on Champollion’s findings, with surveyors, draftsmen and other specialists, lasted four years, returning to Europe in 1846. It spent seven months, from autumn 1844 until the summer of 1845, at Thebes and Luxor. The chief result of the mission was the publication of Denkmäler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien (Monuments of Egypt and Ethiopia), a twelve-volume compendium with 900 plates which remained the preeminent source of information for Western scholars well into the twentieth century.

Interestingly, at the time of the expedition and when this work was painted, the temple was still half buried under centuries of sand and silt, with just the upper portions of the columns of the Great Hypostyle Hall visible. It was not until 1881 that the archaeologist Gaston Maspero fully excavated the temple as we see it today. 

Object Details

Ruins of the Palace of Karnak at Thebes


Jacob Jacobs





oil on panel

Unframed: 98 by 142cm., 38½ by 56in.

Framed: 153 by 188cm., 60¼ by 74in.

Privet Collection