The early 19th century was the heroic age of Egyptology. It was also largely dominated by Napoleon, who had led his ill-considered invasion of Egypt (1798-1799). The eastern Mediterranean was under the control of the ramshackle Ottoman Empire, from whom the Greeks were to win their War of Independence. Apart from its archaeological importance, Egypt was also one of the most important cockpits in the struggle amongst the various European powers and their fight against the Turks.
Bernardino Drovetti was the French consul in Egypt for most of the early 19th century. After an important career in the Napoleonic army, he came to Egypt in 1803 where he was to play a leading role in many fields: diplomacy, politics, archaeology and exploration, amassing no fewer than three collections of antiquities.