Drawing on the remarkable number of artefacts that were being excavated and housed in repositories such as the British Museum, artists such as John Weguelin were able to depict scenes that seemed to bring ancient history to life. Weguelin’s first set of historical illustrations were for Lord Macaulay’s The Lays of Ancient Rome (1881).

The Victorians were fascinated by Ancient Egypt. Equally, as pet lovers, the British responded warmly to this convincing evocation of the funeral rites accorded to a mummified cat.

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  • Title: The Obsequies of an Egyptian Cat
  • Creator: John Weguelin
  • Date Created: 1886
  • Subject: Egypt
  • Physical Dimensions: w1425 x h994 x d85 mm (Without frame)
  • Conservation notes: Infrared makes it possible for conservators to examine the paint layers, providing additional information about the artist's techniques. The process uses infrared light to reveal any underdrawing beneath the paint layer. The carbon-based properties of the charcoal underdrawing absorb the IR wavelengths rather than reflecting them, causing the drawing to become visible and the paint surface to be read as transparent. This allows any change of composition to become evident. In the case of Weguelin's The Obsequies of an Egyptian Cat, a number of changes are apparent: The arm and hand held up towards the altar have changed to angle further away from the body. Other alterations are evident, however most are discernible with the naked eye due to brushstrokes beneath the top paint layer that did not correspond with the visible composition of the final image.
  • Artist biography: John Reinhard Weguelin was born in 1849. He was a Victorian artist and illustrator who was influenced by the neo-classical style of Edward Poynter and Lawrence Alma-Tadema. In the 1890s, he specialised in the medium of watercolor. Weguelin exhibited landscapes and biblical and classical subjects and illustrated several volumes of poems, translations and stories. He studied at the Slade School and exhibited from 1877 at the Royal Academy, Society of British Artists, Grosvenor Gallery and New Gallery. Weguelin died in 1927.
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Mackelvie Trust Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
  • External Link: Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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