“Death Shall Come on Swift Wings to Him Who Disturbs the Peace of the King”
The “mummy’s curse” engraved on the exterior of the tomb of King Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings did not stop the Englishman Howard Carter from excavating this site in 1922 where he discovered the nearly intact tomb of this Egyptian Pharoah. The discovery sparked renewed interest in ancient Egypt and propelled Carter into fame as a world-renowned Egyptologist and archaeologist. Carter arrived in Egypt in 1891 at the age of seventeen as an artist working in the Middle Kingdom tombs of Beni Hasan. His interest in Egyptology was noted by the great archaeologist Flinders Petrie under whom Carter learned the disciplines of field archaeology and excavation. His artistic prowess was a very useful talent, allowing Carter to document the progress of excavations and their findings. He became the head draughtsman at the site of the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor and was then appointed, at the age of twenty-five, as Inspector General of Monuments for Upper Egypt.
In 1908, after several difficult years that forced Carter to make his living again as an artist, the director of Egyptian Antiquities Service, Gaston Maspero, introduced Carter to the 5th Earl of Carnarvon who spent the winters in Egypt on his doctor’s orders to aid a pulmonary ailment. Carnarvon sponsored archaeological excavations and became Carter’s financial backer. For five years Carter followed his dream of finding the tomb of the young pharaoh Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings. The story of King Tut had come to Carter’s attention in 1905 when a small faience cup inscribed with the king’s name was found by the American Egyptologist Theodore Davis who excavated in the Valley of the Kings for twelve years. In 1922, Lord Carnarvon gave up hope of finding King Tut’s tomb and returned to England, giving Carter one more excavation season to work before he ended his financial support. Three days into his last attempt, Carter stepped on a platform after clearing some debris and found a sunken staircase that, after slow and meticulous excavation, led his team to the entrance of the pharaoh’s tomb. Carter waited fifteen days for his patron to arrive back in Egypt before they were able to open the tomb and see the most famous archaeological discovery of all time.
We are pleased to include nine drawings by Howard Carter from The Collection of William Kelly Simpson in our November 3-4 auction that were done in Egypt during this period of discovery. Carter worked with Theodore Davis on several excavations, making drawings for Davis to document their findings. Included in the sale is a beautiful rendering of an entryway into an Egyptian tomb and a group of drawings of vessels and small articles found during the excavation of the Tomb of Iouiya and Touiyou. Before the discovery of King Tut’s tomb, the tomb of Iouiya and Touiyou had been the greatest discovery in the Valley of the Kings. These drawings were used to illustrate Davis’ 1907 book The Tomb of Iouiya and Touiyou.