Howard Carter, the English archaeologist who discovered the tomb of the Boy Pharaoh Tutankhamun in 1922 was also a watercolourist , and now three water colours of Egypt by the archaeologist painter are to be sold at Bonhams ‘Travel and Exploration’ Sale in London on 3rd December.
The works have a combined upper estimate of £25,000. The archaeologist was trained by his painter father, it is a little known fact that Howard Carter started life as an artist. When Carter first visited Egypt in 1891 to help record the excavation of Middle Temple tombs he was only 17 but quickly managed to improve the method of copying tomb decorations. The archaeologist worked at Thebes from 1894-99 recording the wall reliefs in the temple of Hatshepsut.
One of the paintings in the sale is ‘The Temple of Hatshepsut’ estimated at £6,000 to £8,000 and dates from this period. In 1899 Carter soon began supervising excavations of his own after he was appointed to the Egyptian Archaeological Service; and was highly regarded for his methodical approach and the measures he introduced to safeguard ancient sites.
In 1907 he was approached by the amateur Egyptologist the Earl of Carnarvon to oversee his Theban excavations. Carter’s ‘painting Under the Protection of the Gods’ depicts this period and a tomb decoration is dated 1908 and estimated at £7,000 to £10,000. In 1914, Carnarvon and Carter were given permission to dig in the Valley of the Kings resulting in Carter’s watercolour of the same name which is estimated at £5,000 to £7,000. The work was suspended during the First World War and did not begin in earnest until 1918. The digs ambition was to find the legendary tomb of Tutankhamun, a prize which had eluded earlier archaeologists searching in the area in vain.
However, with no progress having been made by 1922, the Earl of Carnarvon was on the verge of giving up when Carter made his great discovery. The news of the find quickly became an international sensation, sparking a craze for all things Egyptian during the period. But the following year; Carnarvon’s death from blood poisoning started the story that Tutankhamun’s tomb was cursed. Subsequently any misfortune, however minor, afflicting any figure, however remotely connected to the 1922 unearthing of the tomb, has been attributed to the curse of King Tut. However Carter retired from archaeology shortly after his monumental discovery becaming an agent for museums and private collectors, The archaeologist died of causes entirely unrelated to any curse in 1937 aged 64.