Ancient Egypt has always been a source of fascination, with waves of “Egyptomania” notably influencing literature, architecture, art, jewelry, cinema, and more. One such wave was in the 1920s, coinciding with the discovery of the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun. Luxury brands like Cartier, Montblanc and others introduced Egypt-inspired jewelry and pens during that time. And now, in honor the 100th anniversary of the opening of Tut’s tomb in November of 1922, Montegrappa is introducing Tutankhamun, a new limited edition writing instrument collection.
The discovery of the tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt was a major event, and its unearthing, led by British Egyptologist Howard Carter, was an undertaking that entranced the world and sparked tourism far and wide. Most of the Egyptian pharaohs’ tombs had been plundered, sadly, in ancient times, leaving behind just a portion of the potential story. Thus Tutankhamun’s burial place was unique in its largely untouched status, leading to a cache of more than 5,000 objects whose opulence is a rich study of the life and times of the era.
But perhaps the most talked-about piece was Tutankhamun’s gold death mask, which bears the likeness of Osiris, the Egyptian god of the afterlife. The mask is one of best-known works of art in the world and one upon which Montegrappa aptly dwells.
There are two versions of the pen collection, one in vermeil and another sculpted in 18-karat gold, and each lavishly recreates the death mask on the cap of the pen using cloisonné, bas-relief and precious stones—including black diamonds. Its detail, I think, is truly incredible, as is the drama it conveys. The mummified body of the young king is suggested on the barrel of the pen, and here, too, the execution of the design is exquisite. There are 100 fountain pens and rollerball pens in vermeil and just ten pieces in gold, and each has unique attributes that tell the pharaoh’s tale. The cartridge- or converter-filled fountain pen is fitted with an 18-karat gold nib inscribed with hieroglyphics.
The discovery and clearance of the tomb was a multi-year event, and the death mask was not found until 1925. Here again, Montegrappa does an amazing job in suggesting the phases of the unearthing in its intricate packaging, the outer portion of which implies the burial chamber, which is robustly decorated with colorful imagery and notable scenes. Inside is a likeness of a sarcophagus with a clear lid that allows a view of the golden coffin within. The body-shaped coffin holds the final prize: the pen.
This is a dramatic writing instrument, clearly dominated by the thoughtfully designed and executed death mask-inspired cap with its lush engraving and many stones, which appear to be finely set. Full disclosure: I have not yet tried this pen, but it appears that once the cap is removed it would be a comfortable and eminently usable pen for signatures or everyday writing. Or its entirety—pen and packaging—would make a fabulous conversation instigator wherever one chooses to display it, particularly given its ingenious viewing windows.