Exhibitions: Unearthing the Truth: Egypt's Pagan and Coptic Sculpture

Frieze of Animals in Plant Scrolls. Egypt, possibly from Herakleopolis Magna, 4th century C.E. Limestone, traces of paint. Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 41.1266

February 13–May 10, 2009

This exhibition presents the Brooklyn Museum's permanent collection of Late Antique stone sculptures (A.D. 395–642), including several reworked or repainted objects and some that appear to be modern forgeries. The ancient reliefs were made for use in pagan and Coptic Christian cemeteries as well as in Christian churches and monasteries. In addition to mythological and Christian motifs, these works include plant and animal designs that were apparently used by both religious groups. Sculpture of this type was little known when it began to appear on the market shortly after World War II and remained virtually unstudied even into the 1960s and 1970s, when most of the Brooklyn examples were acquired. Gradually, some scholars began to realize that the many examples now in museums in both Europe and the United States included many modern impostors, but a comprehensive study has yet to be undertaken. For a review of the Brooklyn Museum’s pieces, a curator of Egyptian Art joined the Museum’s objects conservators, and they also consulted outside authorities on Coptic art and on the sources of Egyptian stone; much of that work is still ongoing. This exhibition focuses on the work done so far, and especially on the stylistic characteristics of the works, both ancient and modern.

This exhibition is organized by Edna R. Russmann, Curator of Egyptian, Classical, and Ancient Middle Eastern Art, Brooklyn Museum.


Exhibition Highlights

Funerary Stela of C. Julius Valerius Funerary Figure of a Woman Bust of a Saint Hercules Smiting Acheloos in the Form of a Bull

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Exhibition Catalogue

Unearthing the Truth Exhibition Catalogue