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Architecture, Egypt, Statue of Ozymandias, Napoleonic Expeditions, Antique Print, Paris, Early 19th Century


Cecile, Dutertre, Jomard et al. (after)
Baltard, Leclerc, Reville et al. (engravers)
Lepere et al. (architectural plans)
Thèbes, Memnonium,  Part A, Volume II, Plate 32
[Statue and Tomb of Ozymandias (Rameses II), Luxor, Egypt]
from Description de l’Egypte ou Recueil des observations et des recherches qui ont été faites en Egypte pendant l’expedition de l’armée Française
[Description of Egypt or Collection of Observations and Research Which Has Been Done in Egypt During the Expedition of the French Army]

Paris: 1st quarter, 19th Century
Copperplate engraving, uncolored
23.5 x 16.75 inches, plate mark
28.25 x 21.75 inches, overall

An engraving from a set illustrating art, architecture and natural history documented during Napoleon’s French campaign in Egypt and Syria at the turn of the 18th century. According to the description on this print, it shows details of carved chariots on first pylon and head of one of the statues of the tomb of Ozymandias (Rameses II, reigned 1279-1213 BCE) as well as debris from the left foot of the colossal statue, which would stand some 62 feet high if intact. The so-called Ozymandias statue in the Ramesseum, Luxor, Egypt, is one of two fragments of ancient Egyptian statues. It inspired the Percy Bysshe Shelley to write the famous poem Ozymandias.

Description de l’Égypte was published over a 20-year period with the ambitious goal of cataloguing all known aspects of ancient and modern Egypt, including its natural history. It was based on the work of the Institut d’Égypte, established by Napoleon Bonaparte in a palace outside of Cairo during his expedition in Egypt as part of the French Revolutionary Wars (1798-1801). 160 civilian scholars and scientists worked in the institute’s library, laboratories, and workshops. The idea of a comprehensive publication was conceived by the end of 1798. Production of the finished work took place on a monumental scale, involving 2000 artists and technicians, including 400 engravers. Among the prominent French artists who contributed to this work were botanical artist Pierre-Joseph Redoute and ornithological artist Jacques Barraband. There were two editions beginning in 1808, but in general, there are 10 volumes of plates comprising a total of 894 plates made from over 3000 drawings. Of these ten, the first five volumes of plates depicted Antiquitiés [Antiquities], two État Moderne [Modern State], two  Histoire Naturelle [Natural History] and one of maps. The second edition is known as the Panckoucke edition, published by Charles Louis Fleury Panckoucke in the 1820s.

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Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ozymandias:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:

And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

(The recitation of this poem was a prominent part of the 2019 Coen Brothers movie, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Part 3, Meal Ticket.)

Description lower margin: “Détails de chars sculptes sur premier pylône et tete de l’une des statues du tombau d’Osymandyas. Débris du pied gauche de la statue colossale d’Osmandyas.”

Condition: Generally very good with the usual toning, wear, handling, soft creases. Occasional scattered light foxing. Margins with scattered short tears, chipping, etc., all easily matted out.


“Description de l’Égypte.” Wikipedia. 4 August 2020. (22 January 2021).

Additional information


19th Century