NEWS: "Magic of ancient Egypt" exhibition (Museum of Fine Arts, St.
Magic of ancient Egypt transforms the Museum of Fine Arts, St.
Posted by TANN Breakingnews, Exhibitions, Travel, USA 12:00 PM
This landmark exhibition brings to life one of the greatest
civilizations in the history of the world. Ancient Egypt-Art and
Magic: Treasures from the Fondation Gandur pour l'Art/Geneva, on view
from December 17, 2011-April 29, 2012, spotlights astonishing objects
of every kind. Swiss art collector, philanthropist, and entrepreneur
Jean Claude Gandur has developed one of the world's most important
private collections of Egyptian antiquities.
Mummy cases and sacred works in diverse media, tomb and temple
reliefs, a vignette of the weighing of the heart from the Book of the
Dead, alabaster vessels, and rare objects comprised of precious stones
make this one of the most dramatic shows ever presented at the MFA.
The 101 works demonstrate the genius of ancient craftsmen, and the
magical or spiritual qualities of the objects are revealed at every
The internationally respected Egyptologist Dr. Robert Steven Bianchi
is the guest curator. He introduced the exhibition in a lecture on
Sunday, December 18, at 3 p.m. and afterwards signed copies of the
A magnificent red granite torso of Rameses the Great honors one of the
most celebrated pharaohs in history. A large stele or stone marker
commemorates a cult statue of Rameses III, one of his successors, and
its endowment. Other key works include a tomb relief of the nobleman
Nefer-Hotep, a relief from the Amarna Period from a temple erected
during the reign of the Pharaoh Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti, and
a fragment from a temple relief paying tribute to Alexander the Great.
A limestone sphinx is similarly impressive. The sphinx, with the head
of a pharaoh and the body of a lion, points to the profound
interrelationship of humans and nature in ancient Egypt. The natural
world was not something apart for the Egyptians, and neither were the
deities, who could take the form of animals and natural forces such as
Ancient Egyptian art centers on transformation, renewal, and eternal
life. These objects were invested with visual and symbolic power.
Hieroglyphics, the ancient Egyptian written language, were, by
themselves, a high form of artistic expression.
The mummy cases or sarcophagi are the largest works in the exhibition.
One is covered in colorful images-like a brilliant painting-and was
designed to honor the status of an unidentified court official and to
assure his eternal life. Another, more than six-and-a-half-feet tall,
includes inlays of alabaster, as well as hieroglyphics, and has a
monumental presence asserting the authority of a certain Hor-Em-Akhet.
This impressive object was in the collection of French fashion
designer Yves Saint Laurent at the time of his death.
"The Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg is proud to bring these
distinguished works of art to America," said MFA Director Kent
Lydecker. "The quality of the objects will be a revelation to scholars
and the public. We are indebted to the Fondation Gandur pour l'Art, to
Dr. Bianchi, and to our exhibition sponsors for making this
extraordinary project possible."
The Magic of Ancient Egyptian Art
Magic and spirituality infused every aspect of Egyptian art. Instead
of providing a chronological survey, Dr. Bianchi has emphasized the
objects' sacred qualities. Priests accompanied the workers to gather
natural materials and conducted specific rituals upon entering and
leaving the quarries.
According to Dr. Bianchi, "for the ancient Egyptians, all stones were
considered to be a privileging material, because they symbolized
eternity, permanence, immutability, and incorruptibility.Any object
created in stone or any text inscribed into stone remained intact and
immune to the agents of time. Stone, possessed of a vital energy, was
alive." Statues of gods and pharaohs possessed their animating spirit.
In antiquity, expeditions to the Red Land-the desert, a place of
chaos, evil, and demons-were ordered by pharaoh. The materials were
returned to the Black Land-named for the rich silt deposited by the
Nile-where the ancient Egyptians lived and thrived.
Craftsmen then converted these raw materials into fascinating and
timeless objects representing cosmic order. The Black Land was the
world of civilization, and the color black signified rebirth. These
objects always had an elevated purpose and meaning, but they can be
appreciated for their sheer beauty alone.
Source: Museum of Fine Arts [December 19, 2011]