A tale of divinities and deception in Ancient Egypt

In Egypt’s New Kingdom (from the sixteenth to the eleventh century BC), the gods had long taken animal form; from Sobek the crocodile to Thoth the ibis, displaying their deities in the forms of animals with particular characteristics demonstrated what ancient Egyptians believed about each god or goddess's nature. It was commonplace for individuals to make votive offerings to the resident deities at shines or temples, the gifts ranging from food and drink to precious amulets and carved figurines in the form of their god’s theriomorphic (animal) representative. Many were so keen to win favour with their divinities, they would often turn to the god’s mortal counterparts as a messenger between themselves and their deity. However, it was equally common to use these mortal counterparts as holy sacrifices to the gods, as demonstrated by the many thousands of animal-mummies discovered in North Saqqara.

It seems that the creatures of ancient Egypt walked a fine line between the offered and the offering.

The animals of Thebes (modern day Luxor) are feeling uneasy. The Pharoah has recently passed to the afterlife, and the inhabitants of the city are devotedly filling his tomb with riches and gifts for his onward journey. This 70 day process is well underway, and the sarcophagus will soon be laid to rest. A street dog slinks in the shadows, watching as the mourners pass. Baskets of fresh bread, elegant pottery, clothing and elaborate jewellery are all carried through the doors of the dusty tomb, soon to be sealed for eternity.

The dog silently retreats unnoticed, her wiry black frame invisible in the shade. She makes her way to the far end of the necropolis where the animals of the city gather in the deep cool of the temples. The walls are vast and carved with hieroglyphic scripture, the ceilings painted with vibrant blue and yellow scenes. The sense of unease is growing, and the creatures know that the final ritual of votive offerings will soon begin.

As the group dejectedly awaits its fate, a young cat casually enters the temple. She pauses to clean her paws, before delicately seating herself in a pool of sunlight to continue her preening. Eventually noticing the melancholy atmosphere around her, the cat questions the low mood of the group. ‘Don’t you know?’ asks an exasperated goose. ‘The Pharoah’s mourning period is almost over’, explains his companion, ‘and that means many of us will be sacrificed to the gods!’, chimes a third goose, almost hysterical. The young cat simply rolls her eyes and continues her grooming. After several minutes, once satisfied of her thorough cleanliness, she calmly addresses the animals; ‘If you don’t want to be offered TO the gods, you must convince them you ARE a god’. With this, she stands, arches her back, and exits just as casually as she had entered.

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Inspiration

This collection is based around the incredible archaeological discoveries made in Egypt, including The Valley of the Kings, The Valley of the Queens and Deir el Medina in Luxor. From the excavation of the tomb of King Rameses V and VI to the unearthing of the tomb of Queen Nefertari (dubbed The Sistine Chapel of Ancient Egypt), the objects and stories of the Old and New Kingdom and beyond have been brought back to life in vivid colour (although sadly to the detriment of many of the original sites). Of particular interest was the discovery of The Sacred Animal Necropolis in North Saqqara, the resting place of thousands upon thousands of ‘votive offerings’ to the Gods. The role of many animals in Ancient Egypt was to act as an ‘avatar’ for a particular God, often becoming a symbol from which people could draw strength, courage and hope. These creatures were sometimes worshipped, and frequently ‘offered’ to the Gods as divine gifts.

This collection has been inspired by the paintings, carvings, pectorals, precious objects and jewellery of ancient Egypt, the mythology and the many stories which have been uncovered by these astonishing discoveries.

‘May your eyes see wonderful things.’
First hieroglyphic inscription seen by Howard Carter on entering the tomb of King Tutankhamun.

Process

View the collection illustrations in progress, and see how the drawings transform into detailed and intricate scarf designs. Sabina creates a story for each collection, as shown below, which is then illustrated and narrated through her elaborate handiwork.

The Campaign

Welcome to our Autumn/Winter 2022 campaign, Gifts for the Gods.

Shop the Collection

A range of beautiful fabrics are available for each design, from classic silk twill to our sumptuous signature wool and silk blend. Each piece is printed and hand finished by the renowned artisans of Como, Italy.

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