Saturday, 19 June 2010

The Egyptian way of death - in North London

The huge, sprawling Victorian cemeteries of Highgate and Kensal Rise in London are well known for their Egyptian influenced tombs and architecture.

One of the capital's lesser known cemeteries which is also under the 'spell' of the Black Land is Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington, North London.

The entrance of Abney Park is based on an Egyptian temple, flanked by pylons, and decorated with hieroglyphs which read: "The Gates of the Abode of the Mortal Part of Man." These were designed by Joseph Bonomi the Younger (1796–1878) the sculptor, artist, Egyptologist and museum curator in collaboration with architect William Hosking.

Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington, North London, is the last resting place of Egyptologist Samuel Sharpe (1799-1881), author of The History of Egypt - from the earliest times till the conquesy by the Arabs A. D. 640., Vol. 1 and 2, (published, I believe during the 1850s) and a translator of various Hebrew texts. His memorial is a plain stone chest tomb. 

Sharpe was a banker by profession who became fascinated by Egypt. He lived in nearby Stoke Newington Church Street as a child. Joseph Bonomi also illustrated many of Sharpe’s books so they were certainly aware of each other and probably friends. 

A portrait of Sharpe by the artist Matilda Sharpe (oil on canvas, 1868, 23-3/4 inches x 20 inches (603 mm x 508 mm), is in the National Portrait Gallery in London, although it is not currently on display. The gallery also owns a portrait of Joseph Bonomi the Younger, also by Matilda Sharpe (oil on canvas, 1868, 19-3/4 in. x 15-7/8 in. (502 mm x 403 mm). Again, this is not on display.

Sharpe’s works also included: Egyptian Mythology and Egyptian Christianity, London J. R. Smith (1863); The Alabaster Sarcophagus of Oimenepthah I., King of Egypt (1864). 

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