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Eternal Egypt: Masterworks of Ancient Art from the British Museum

DATES November 23, 2001 through February 24, 2002
  • Ancient Egyptian Art: Made for Eternity
    Ancient Egypt is the oldest known civilization in Africa and one of the earliest and greatest in the world. Along the Nile river, ancient Egyptians built innumerable temples and tombs, which they filled with resplendent works of art. Through surviving examples of such art objects, Eternal Egypt: Masterworks of Ancient Art from The British Museum examines this culture’s history spanning more than three thousand years—from the first Egyptian rulers in 3100 B.C. through A.D. 170, when Egypt had been under Roman rule for about two centuries.

    As in most ancient societies, power and wealth in Egypt belonged to a relatively small group of rulers and administrators. These elite individuals commissioned the greatest artists to create statues, reliefs, and paintings for their temples, where they worshiped the gods, and for their tombs, where they hoped to preserve the spirit as well as the memory of their dead. Although the majority of Egyptians owned only a few modest amulets (small, symbolic images worn or carried to provide magical protection), people who held moderately important positions, such as officials and priests, were often able to afford small statues and other objects including funerary articles, jewelry, and cosmetic vessels. As a result, ancient Egyptian art represents a considerable variety of media, styles, and purposes, revealing much about the civilization’s society, customs, and religious beliefs.

    To emphasize the shifts in styles and conventions over ancient Egypt’s long history, most of the objects in this exhibition have been arranged in chronological order. The works displayed here demonstrate that, despite stylistic changes, central traditions and values of ancient Egyptian civilization and its representation endured over thousands of years. Through their art, the Egyptians themselves sought eternal life—a desire expressed in the hieroglyphic phrase ankh djet, which means “living eternally.”

    From ancient Rome through the present day, Egyptian art has fascinated collectors, archaeologists, and general audiences. Some of the most important and exquisite surviving examples are preserved in The British Museum in London, whose renowned collection was assembled over more than two hundred years of exploration, excavation, bequests, and acquisition. This exhibition presents many of the finest and most famous objects from that great collection.

    Edna R. Russmann
    Curator, Department of Egyptian, Classical, and Ancient Middle Eastern Art
    Brooklyn Museum of Art
  • Kings and Dynasties
    Kingship was so central to all aspects of the Egyptians’ government and religion that they based their historical records, from the First Dynasty (about 3100 B.C.), on the reigns of individual kings and their families, or dynasties. Almost three thousand years later (about 280 B.C.) an Egyptian priest named Manetho used this continuing record to write an important history of Egypt, in which he grouped all the kings into thirty dynasties. By Manetho’s time, the king was usually called pharaoh, which literally means “the palace” (much as Americans today often refer to the president as the White House).

    Modern scholars have divided these dynasties into the Old Kingdom, the Middle Kingdom, the New Kingdom, and the Late Period. These times of strong central government are separated by eras of political instability, known as Intermediate Periods. Dates for most of ancient Egyptian history are still uncertain and sometimes change with continuing research. In this exhibition, dates are often preceded by the word “about.”

    Representations of Egyptian kings show them with royal costumes and symbols, which include crowns or a royal headcloth (called a nemes), a cobra at the forehead (called a uraeus), and usually a traditional short kilt. Kings also sometimes wear a “royal beard,” an artificial rectangular piece attached to the chin with straps. In Egyptian art, royal names are written within an oval, which is known by the modern term cartouche.
  • Early Dynastic Period Dynasties 1 and 2 (about 3100–2686 B.C.)
    According to ancient Egyptian records, a king named Menes founded the First Dynasty by uniting northern and southern Egypt into a single kingdom. This unification under strong central government led to important social, economic, and artistic developments. Egyptian kings built huge tombs, filled with goods for the Afterlife, including precious works of art. First and Second Dynasty kings also built large ceremonial enclosures for their funerary rites. Although these structures were built in mud brick, Egyptians had already begun to use stone in tomb construction. Like the statues and reliefs depicting the king, these tombs were intended to last forever.

    Few works of art have survived from this early period, however, because of destruction and theft by ancient tomb robbers seeking valuable treasures. Most of the surviving works are small objects that escaped the attention of these early thieves, such as the three ivories in the nearby case. Their sophisticated craftsmanship reflects a predynastic tradition of ivory carving that was already a thousand years old.
  • The Old Kingdom Dynasties 3-6 (about 2686–2181 B.C)
    The Old Kingdom was a period of intense creativity in ancient Egyptian art. In the Third and Fourth Dynasties, artistic activity centered on the need of the kings and their families to build and furnish their tombs for protection and longevity in the Afterlife. During the Fourth Dynasty, King Cheops built his tomb, the Great Pyramid, at Giza. His son Chephren built both a huge pyramid and the nearby Great Sphinx. These immense structures are perhaps the best-known surviving Egyptian monuments. In the sculpture made for these tombs, Egyptian artists began portraying the human figure with increased naturalism.

    As in the First and Second Dynasties, the culture of the Old Kingdom focused on the all-important figure of the king. As this period progressed, however, the Egyptian economy and society grew richer and more complex, necessitating ever larger numbers of religious and governmental officials. By the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties, an increasing number of priests and bureaucrats were building tombs, which they decorated with scenes of agriculture, fishing, and other daily activities. The depictions of such activities were intended to magically ensure an eternal supply of food and other goods for the deceased. These scenes provide precious information about the lives of ordinary people, who themselves could not afford decorated tombs or elaborate works of art.
  • Wood Sculpture
    The four wooden statues displayed nearby exemplify a new way of depicting the human body that was introduced late in the Old Kingdom (Sixth Dynasty). In contrast to the sturdy, muscular forms of early Old Kingdom stone statues, these figures have long, slender bodies, oversized heads, and large, staring eyes. The reasons for these stylistic changes are not clear, and scholars still do not understand why, in this period only, statues of high-ranking men and women were sometimes shown nude, without costumes or jewelry to indicate their status.

    Most ancient Egyptian wooden statues, examples of which are displayed throughout this exhibition, were considerably smaller than life-size. Because the trees native to Egypt produced wood of poor quality, fine wood had to be imported from farther south in Africa or from the area of Lebanon, and was therefore expensive. In order to use wood most economically, Egyptian artists usually carved a statue’s head and body from a single piece and made the arms, the fronts of the feet, and the base separately. The dynamic striding figure of Meryrahashtef nearby is a rare exception, carved from a single piece of wood. Since wood is lighter and more easily worked than stone, wood carvers usually eliminated the filled-in spaces between the limbs as well as the back pillars typical of stone statuary.
  • The First Intermediate Period and the Early Middle Kingdom Dynasties 9–11 (about 2160–1985 B.C.)
    Egypt’s central government collapsed at the end of the Old Kingdom. The civil disorder of the First Intermediate Period that followed had a direct effect on Egyptian art. Artists in provincial centers had little training in the controlled, formal styles associated with the royal court, and they developed their own stylistic variations. In the stela (decorated stone slab) of Inyotef displayed nearby, the artist’s renderings of figures with large heads and hair textured by drill holes are signs of a regional style.

    Toward the end of the First Intermediate Period, King Mentuhotep II rose to power. He eventually reunited Egypt, establishing the strong centralized government of the Middle Kingdom. One of Egypt’s most influential kings, Mentuhotep II had a large and lavishly decorated funerary temple built for him at Thebes, along the Nile river in southern Egypt. The head of a statue of him and three wall reliefs displayed nearby came from that now-ruined temple.

    Stelae were used by Egyptians to commemorate their death and transition into the Afterworld. Decorated with funerary or offering scenes, they were located in or in front of tombs. Stelae were also placed in temples with representations of the king or private people, who thus served the gods eternally.
  • The High Middle Kingdom Dynasty 12 (about 1985–1795 B.C.)
    The powerful and capable kings of the Twelfth Dynasty moved their capital from Thebes, in southern Egypt, to Lisht, in the northern part of the country. This was a strategic move to strengthen their control over the entire country, but it also enhanced the influence of Old Kingdom art and architecture, which was still prominent in the north.

    Like Old Kingdom rulers, Twelfth Dynasty kings had pyramids built as their tombs, testifying to their unity with Egypt’s past and assuring their own future in the Afterworld. The artist of the statue of Sesostris I whose upper half is on view in this gallery was strongly influenced by the sturdy naturalism of Old Kingdom sculpture, as is evident in the youthful face and body. The somber standing statue of his great-grandson, Sesostris III, and the colossal head of his great-great-grandson, Amenemhat III (displayed in the next room), show these later kings with unusually individualized features. They are also depicted with somber expressions, which appear to reflect a Middle Kingdom perception that kingship was a heavy and difficult burden.
  • The Late Middle Kingdom and the Second Intermediate Period Dynasties 13–17 (about 1795–1550 B.C.)
    The centralized government achieved by the kings of the High Middle Kingdom disintegrated under their Thirteenth Dynasty successors. Although we know very little about these kings, Egyptian records indicate that about fifty of them reigned over a period of 150 years, in what is known as the late Middle Kingdom. In that unsettled time, many artists consciously attempted to evoke the spirit of the great Twelfth Dynasty kings. As we can see in the statues displayed in this gallery, these artists often paired mature facial features with youthful bodies. This artistic combination echoes Twelfth Dynasty statues of the powerful kings Sesostris III and Amenemhat III.

    Egypt’s political difficulties enabled rulers from the east called Hyksos (an Egyptian word meaning “chiefs of foreign lands”) to gain control over the northern part of the country. This period of foreign rule, known as the Second Intermediate Period, ended about 1550 B.C. At that time, a Theban dynasty under King Ahmose expelled the Hyksos, once again uniting Egypt and beginning the great era known today as the New Kingdom.
  • The Mummy as Statue
    Ancient Egyptians preserved the bodies of their dead through mummification, a process of drying the body with salts and organic substances. They developed this practice because they believed that the body had to survive intact in order for the soul to enjoy eternal life in the Afterworld.

    Egyptians designed various coverings—masks and coffins, for example—to protect the body physically. In addition, coffins and tomb walls were decorated with imagery of the gods and symbols of rebirth, to supply magical protection. In periods when people were buried in group tombs, dense coffin decoration, as on the intricately patterned lid displayed nearby, took the place of tomb wall decorations.

    Ancient Egyptians believed that human-shaped coffins, mummy masks, and tomb statues could receive offerings of food on behalf of the deceased. During the New Kingdom and later, the coffin (with the mummy inside) was placed upright outside the tomb during the last rites, as if it were a statue of the deceased. Like the coffin lid, the much later coffin displayed in this gallery was designed to stand upright before being laid in the tomb.
  • The Book of the Dead: Drawing and Painting on Papyrus
    Throughout their history, ancient Egyptians believed that their spirits could live forever in an underworld where the sun traveled through the night—a realm that combined features of life on earth and the mythical presence of the gods they worshiped. Increasingly, they came to think of their journey to the Afterworld as a difficult and sometimes dangerous one. To assist them in this passage, they developed what we now call the Book of the Dead, collections of magical spells that were placed in tombs. Scribes wrote these spells on long strips of papyrus, the earliest form of paper, which was made from stalks of the papyrus plant that grew along the Nile river. The spells were illustrated, sometimes with elaborate scenes.

    An unusual painted scene from a Book of the Dead displayed in this gallery shows a couple with their earthly house and garden, worshiping the god Osiris in the mythical land of the Afterworld. Three other paintings in this gallery come from the most famous of all funerary papyri, made for a scribe named Ani. One scene depicts Ani’s funeral procession, and the others illustrate episodes in the Afterworld—the weighing of Ani’s heart (the final judgment of his soul) and his idyllic Afterlife. Another painting of the weighing of the heart displayed nearby, made almost a thousand years later, shows how little depictions of this scene changed over time.
  • The Early New Kingdom Dynasty 18 (about 1550–1295 B.C.)
    The New Kingdom, founded by King Ahmose, was Egypt’s imperial age. Under Ahmose’s successors, especially the conqueror Thutmosis III, Egypt extended its power to the east and the south, making it the strongest and wealthiest civilization the world had ever known. The art of this expanding empire expressed wealth and power through elegance and beauty. The costumes and adornments of the elite became increasingly elaborate.

    Thebes, in southern Egypt, was the royal city of the Eighteenth Dynasty kings. The Valley of the Kings, on the Nile’s West Bank, was the royal burial ground, and huge royal funerary temples lined the bordering plain. The enormous head from the statue of Amenhotep III displayed in this gallery comes from his funerary temple, which today is almost destroyed, except for two gigantic seated statues of the king known as the Colossi of Memnon. Karnak, the main temple of the Theban god Amun, on the East Bank of the Nile, became one of the richest and largest in Egypt. The head of Thutmosis III in a tall crown and the cloaked figure of Senenmut with a princess displayed nearby are examples of the fine statues that once lined Karnak Temple’s corridors and courtyards.
  • Akhenaten and Tutankhamun Late Dynasty 18 (about 1352–1336 B.C.)
    For thousands of years Egyptians worshiped many gods and goddesses. When King Akhenaten came to power in the late Eighteenth Dynasty, he rejected the traditional religion and worshiped only the sun’s disk, which was called the Aten. The king’s subjects, in turn, worshiped the royal family as the Aten’s descendants on earth. Akhenaten ordered the temples of the traditional gods and goddesses to be closed, and their images to be destroyed. The king founded a new capital city at a site in central Egypt now called Amarna, where he lived with his queen, Nefertiti, and their six daughters. The distinctive artistic style that developed in the Amarna Period began with exaggerated representations of the king’s long neck, drooping chin, and plump figure, and moved toward softer, more naturalistic depictions.

    After Akhenaten’s death, Tutankhamun—who was probably his son—became king. Still a child, Tutankhamun was a leader only in name. Powerful officials exercised his authority, restored the old gods and their temples, and abandoned Amarna and the religion of the Aten. The elegant naturalism of the Amarna style continued, however, in sculpture such as the standing figure of Tutankhamun in this gallery.

    A few years after Tutankhamun’s premature death, his chief-of-staff, named Horemheb, became king. This gallery includes a relief from the large, elegantly decorated tomb that he built for himself while he was serving Tutankhamun. For his successor, Horemheb chose a military colleague, Ramesses I, who founded the Nineteenth Dynasty.
  • The Scribe as Artist
    In ancient Egypt, where very few people could write, scribes (writers) were highly respected professionals. Although the majority of scribes were not artists, most painters and sculptors were trained as scribes. This practice encouraged a close relationship between writing and art.

    Egyptians wrote in combinations of flat, schematic pictures of plants, animals, and other objects. These images, known as hieroglyphs, had to be precisely drawn in order to be readable. Therefore, artistic and scribal training emphasized the importance of outlines in hieroglyphs and, consequently, in paintings and reliefs. This integration of writing and images helps explain why Egyptian artist-scribes drew figures and landscapes in a way that eliminated any sense of spatial depth, even when carved in relief. These intentionally flat images demonstrate an artistic sensibility very different from that associated with Western conventions of perspective.

    Young scribes and artists learned their trade by copying the hieroglyphs and drawings of masters. When decorating the walls of tombs or temples, professional Egyptian artists probably worked from sketches and often used an underlying grid to ensure the correct proportions of figures. Egyptian scribes and artists used very simple tools: reeds with pointed or frayed ends were their pens and brushes. They used paint and ink made from pigments, such as red and yellow ocher and carbon, which were ground and mixed with water or a binding medium.
  • Creative Solutions
    The works in this section demonstrate inventive solutions to various artistic challenges. In order to depict the many ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses with animal heads and human bodies, for example, artists carefully adjusted the proportions of the heads and bodies and covered the awkward join by adding a long wig. Human and animal shapes also inspired an ingenious interplay of form and function in decorative objects. The craftsman of the headrest in the shape of a hare displayed in this gallery designed it so that the sleek ears form the cradle for the owner’s head. The artist who made the statuette of a girl holding a box on her head that could be used for cosmetics answered his patron’s desire for a delightful, unique luxury item by portraying the figure in an unusual and naturalistic pose.

    Ancient Egyptian craftsmen worked in a wide variety of media. Faience, a type of glazed ceramic invented by the Egyptians, was used to make objects ranging from jewelry and amulets to statuettes like the little figure of a monkey stealing a horse in the nearby case. In glass, ancient Egyptian craftsmen were able to produce such exquisite pieces as the fish and sphinx head in the nearby case, despite the technical challenge of being unable to melt glass to the point where it was easily workable. Even pottery, usually restricted to simple vessels, was sometimes used for human forms, such as the graceful figure of a woman playing a lute, in the same case.
  • Magic and Symbols in Egyptian Art
    In ancient Egypt, religion and art were closely related. Egyptians believed that images of people or things could become magically alive when animated by the proper rituals and spells. The “cult” statue of a god in a temple, such as the silver figure of Amun displayed nearby, served as a body that the god could inhabit to receive worship and accept daily offerings from the priests. Kings placed their statues in temples to ally themselves with the gods and to serve them for eternity. Egyptians furnished their tombs with statues and painted or carved wall decorations. These images of the deceased were considered able to receive the offerings needed to sustain their souls in the Afterworld.

    Ancient Egyptians also believed that various symbols—from images of plants and animals to hieroglyphs—possessed magical powers. Egyptians relied on them for protection from physical danger and demonic spirits, both on earth and in the Afterlife. Because Egyptians believed that the ankh sign, a hieroglyph meaning “life,” had the power to strengthen the life force, the represented it on many different kinds of objects, like the small ring in the nearby case. Egyptians from all levels of society possessed protective amulets.
  • The Late New Kingdom Dynasties 19 and 20 (about 1295–1069 B.C.)
    The late New Kingdom is called the Ramesside Period, after its most important king, Ramesses II, known as Ramesses the Great. His long reign of sixty-seven years, his military prowess, and his colossal monuments and statues were models for his successors. Some of the structures he built—such as parts of the temples atKarnak and Luxor and the rock-cut temple at Abu Simbel in the far south—have survived. Many of his statues are extant as well, including a large pink granite bust from a standing figure of him in this exhibition.

    Representations of Ramesses vary considerably, both in their facial features and bodily proportions, as do the statues of his contemporaries. At this time, elite individuals were shown wearing wigs and costumes that were even more elaborate than those of the earlier New Kingdom.

    Ramesses’ successors tried to imitate his triumphs and artistic ambitions. Many of them even named themselves after their famous predecessor. None were as successful in their endeavors as Ramesses the Great, however, and Egypt’s empire began to fall to both dynastic quarrels and political turbulence abroad. The Twentieth Dynasty—and the New Kingdom—finally came to an end with Ramesses XI.
  • The Third Intermediate Period Dynasties 21–25 (about 1069–656 B.C.)
    The kings of what we call the Third Intermediate Period were mostly of foreign ancestry. Those of the Twenty-first to Twenty-fourth Dynasties were descendants of Libyans who had long been settled in northern Egypt. The Twenty-fifth Dynasty was a family from the kingdom of Kush, in present-day Sudan. These kings practiced the Egyptian religion and adopted traditional royal regalia. Unlike their predecessors, however, few of them had firm control over the entire country. Despite political problems, Egyptian society and culture remained strong and stable throughout this period, and the arts flourished. Kings continued to build temples, which included great columned halls. The decorative top of a giant column from one of these halls is displayed in this gallery.

    Artists of the Third Intermediate Period were encouraged to look to earlier Egyptian art for inspiration, but new artistic ideas also arose. One of the most striking of these innovations was the development of large or elaborately inlaid bronze statuary, exemplified in the richly decorated dress of a divine consort or queen on view nearby.
  • Looking to the Past: Archaism in Dynasties 25 and 26 (about 716–525 b.c.)
    To ancient Egyptians, the past was always alive. It was part of the eternal cycle in which the sun rose and set each day, and of the unending chain of life, death, and rebirth. Throughout their history, ancient Egyptians continued to regard the reigns of strong earlier kings as models to be followed, especially during periods of political disturbance or social unrest.

    Egyptians expressed this idealization of the past in many ways, including the imitation of earlier Egyptian art. This practice, called archaism, can be seen in Egyptian art as early as the Old Kingdom, but it reached its peak during the Twenty-fifth and Twenty-sixth Dynasties, when its popularity helped to stimulate an artistic revival. Reliefs and statues made during these dynasties show influences from the art of the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms. Sometimes artists imitated the poses, costumes, and hairstyles of a single past period quite faithfully, but often they combined features from different periods in one work of art. For example, the kneeling statue of Nespakashuty holding an emblem of the goddess Hathor elegantly combines an Old Kingdom kilt with a typically NewKingdom pose, elaborate wig, and beard.
  • The Late Period Dynasties 26–30 (664–343 B.C.)
    Under the strong kings of the Twenty-sixth (“Saite”) Dynasty, a number of new developments began that lasted for the rest of pharaonic history. One was an increase in the number of immigrants, many of them Greek, who came to Egypt as traders and soldiers. A second development was the emergence of a new artistic style that combined archaism (the imitation of earlier Egyptian art) with innovative elements. The result is an elegant, impersonal style, characterized by a move toward fleshier, more softly modeled forms. One distinctive feature of this new style is the little “Saite smile” with its deeply curved lower lip. This pleasant attribute can be seen on many of the statues of both kings and commoners displayed in this gallery.

    Persian emperors defeated the last Saite king and ruled Egypt for more than a century (525–404 B.C.). When the native Egyptian kings of the Thirtieth Dynasty regained control of Egypt, they continued to build large temples, and they and their subjects had statues made that were based on the Twenty-sixth Dynasty style. This artistic mode had become so strongly identified with Egyptian tradition that the pharaohs of the following Ptolemaic Period also adopted it as their royal style.
  • The Ptolemaic and Roman Periods (332 B.C.–A.D. 642)
    In 332 B.C. the Macedonian prince Alexander the Great expelled a second wave of Persian invaders from Egypt and added the country to his growing empire. Although Alexander himself held Egypt only until his death in 323 B.C., the Greek conquest of Egypt marked the end of native Egyptian rule. Alexander was eventually succeeded as king in Egypt by his boyhood friend and later general, Ptolemy, after whom the Ptolemaic Period is named. The fifteen rulers of this dynasty are notorious for their powerful ambitions and often violent political rivalries. The last of them—and probably the most capable—was the famous Cleopatra VII, who was ultimately unable to withstand the power of Rome. In 30 B.C. she and her consort Marc Antony were defeated by Augustus, and Egypt became the property of the Roman emperors.

    Under the Ptolemies, Greek was the language of the government and Alexandria, the royal city, was a major center of Greek culture. Nevertheless, official policy encouraged the vast majority of Egyptians to live and worship according to their ancient traditions. The government also supported the construction of imposing temples decorated with wall reliefs representing the Ptolemies as traditional Egyptian pharaohs.

    Although statues of these rulers and their Egyptian subjects often had faces with features based on Greek- and Roman-style portraits, they continued to have traditional Egyptian poses, costumes, and style, as in the standing statue nearby of a Ptolemaic pharaoh. Even for these last Greek and Roman rulers of ancient Egypt, who were faithful to their own Western religions and customs, ancient Egyptian art, culture, and traditions had an eternal appeal—which resonates with us today.
  • April 2001: Eternal Egypt: Masterworks of Ancient Art from The British Museum will provide a unique opportunity to view more than 140 masterpieces from the extraordinary holdings of The British Museum. The presentation at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, from November 23 through February 24, 2002, will be the only Northeast venue of this exhibition, drawn from one of the most important collections of ancient Egyptian material in the world.

    The exhibition encompasses the entire period of pharaonic history, from the First Dynasty into the first centuries of the Roman conquest of Egypt, with works of art ranging in size from minute to colossal. Many of these objects have never before traveled outside of Great Britain.

    The exhibition is organized by the American Federation of Arts and The British Museum. Dr. Edna R. Russmann, Curator of the Department of Egyptian, Classical and Ancient Middle Eastern Art at the Brooklyn Museum of Art is the guest curator.

    This exhibition and its national tour are made possible by Ford Motor Company. Additional support is provided by the Benefactors Circle of the AFA.

    “We are delighted to be the northeastern venue for this extraordinary exhibition of Egyptian masterworks from The British Museum,["] said Brooklyn Museum of Art Director Arnold L. Lehman. “It complements the Museum’s own world-renowned holdings of ancient Egyptian art. We are grateful to the American Federation of Arts and the British Museum for organizing this traveling exhibition and to Ford Motor Company for their support in bringing “Eternal Egypt” to the Brooklyn Museum of Art and New York City.”

    “The art of Egypt inspires people of all ages and backgrounds,” said William Clay Ford, Jr., Chairman, Ford Motor Company. “Its appeal crosses boundaries of time, geography, and culture, and for many schoolchildren it is the first exposure to history, art, archaeology, and social studies. Ford is committed to supporting the education and enjoyment that come from experiencing extraordinary cultures, and we are proud to be a partner in this historic exhibition.”

    Most of the statues and reliefs in the exhibition will be arranged chronologically, providing the viewer with a panorama of Egyptian art that spans over 3,000 years of continuous development. Other objects will highlight specific aspect of Egyptian artists’ training, as well as their responses to artistic and technical challenges.

    One of the oldest objects in the exhibition is a small ivory plaque that served as a label for a pair of sandals deposited in the tomb of the first Dynasty king Den, shortly after (or about) 3,000 B.C.

    From Dynasty 3, the formative period of the early Old Kingdom (ca. 2686–2613 B.C.) comes a seated granite figure of a Third Dynasty ship builder named Ankhwa. Ankhwa’s strong, blunt features and the shape of the chair on which he sits are marks of the archaic style of Egyptian art.

    One of the most remarkable objects in the exhibition, the wooden statuette of Meryrahashtef, was made late in the Old Kingdom, when the sturdy, muscular forms of earlier Old Kingdom sculpture had given way to more slender, elongated figures which were sometimes represented nude. The statue depicts Meryrahashtef as a young man. An asymmetrical torso, which bends forward and slightly to the right, emphasizes his vigorous stride.

    A number of colossal works, many broken in antiquity[,] are included in the exhibition. The largest complete statue is a magnificent over-life-sized red granite lion, one of a pair from the temple of King Amenhotep III at Soleb, in Nubia (now Sudan). Layers of inscriptions testify to this statue’s interesting history, which included restoration under Tutankhamun.

    The exhibition also features a superb collection of sculpture from Dynasty 18 including a graywacke head of Thutmosis III in a white crown, and a figure of Senenmut, Queen Hatshepsut’s steward and the tutor of her only child, Princess Neferure. The little girl sits on her guardian’s lap and, enveloped in his cloak is invisible but for her head and right hand. She holds her forefinger to her mouth, in the emblematic Egyptian gesture of childhood.

    A selection of Middle Kingdom jewelry emphasizes the symbolic, protective qualities of Egyptian ornament. An electrum and gold amulet depicting a loop of papyrus stalks represents an early form of preserver. Also a hieroglyph, for the word sa, “protection,” the amulet provided magical protection through both image and word. The row of images on a curious bangle-like object of gold and silver includes amuletic symbols such as ankh signs and wadjet eyes, interspersed with representations of such dangerous or ill-omened creatures as snakes, turtles and desert hares, thus diverting their power to beneficial purposes.

    In addition to such famous works from the Amarna period such as a stela depicting Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye, there are several lesser-known pieces in the exhibition. One is the molded-plaster face of a young royal person, a tool used by Amarna sculptors to develop portrait images of Akhenaten and his family. The coarseness of the plaster and the soft, sweet features of the face indicate that this example was made near the end of the Amarna period. A strong resemblance to early statues of Tutankhamun suggests that it represents either the young prince or his future queen, Princess Ankhesenpaaten. Another image of Tutankhamun appears on a statue inscribed for King Horemheb. Since the facial features correspond with those on Tutankhamun’s latest sculpture, it seems likely that the king died before the statue could be finished by carving the king’s name.

    The bust of a colossal standing statue represents Ramesses the Great from the temple of Khnum on Elephantine Island. A silver statuette of the god Amun, overlaid with gold, may date to Ramesses’s reign or that of his father, Sety I. Since it was made entirely of precious metals, the figure may have been a cult statue, very few of which have survived. Gold jewelry from the New Kingdom includes three cats on spacer bars from a pair of bracelets made for a Seventeenth Dynasty queen, and an earring with the name of the Nineteenth Dynasty queen, Tauset.

    Several works come from the funerary temple at Deir el Buhri of the early Middle Kingdom king Mentuhotep II. The grand scale of some of this temple’s painted wall reliefs is evident in a fragment depicting dead and dying foreigners. Though sizable, it was only a detail of a much larger composition showing the capture of a Middle Eastern walled city by Egyptian soldiers.

    Additional funerary material in Eternal Egypt includes a shabti inscribed for King Ahmose, the founder of the New Kingdom. This impressive little figure is also an important historical document because it is one of just three statues known to represent Ahmose, and the only one that is complete. Two masks provide a striking contrast: one early example is lavishly gilded while another, painted much later, is entirely Graeco-Roman in style. Both, however, were placed over the head of a mummy.

    The sophistication of Egyptian drawing and painting in the New Kingdom and later is demonstrated by illustrated sheets from several Book of the Dead papyrus rolls, including three from the celebrated Nineteenth Dynasty papyrus of Ani. A vignette from the Book of the Dead of Nakht shows him with his wife on their earthly estate, which includes a rare representation of a house, with ventilator hoods on the roof. The couple worships Osiris, the king of the dead, who is shown in his domain, the mythical West of the Afterworld.

    A colossal Hathor-headed column capital from the temple of the cat goddess Bastet at Bubast is a work of the Third Intermediate Period (ca. 924–850 B.C.)[.] Other examples from this period include the upper part of a large, little-known bronze statue of a man and the head of a Kushite king, almost certainly Shabako.

    A standing statue of a man named Tjayasetimu, closely modeled on much earlier Old Kingdom sculpture, exemplifies the archaism which was characteristic of the Third Intermediate Period and the early Late Period. In a statue made at the end of Dynasty 26 or the early Dynasty 27, the period of the first Persian occupation of Egypt, a priest named Amenhotep from the city of Sais holds a naos containing a figure of the goddess Neith. Though his heavy kilt was formerly considered a Persian style, and his rather mournful expression a response to Persian oppression, we now know that both features had already entered the Egyptian sculptural repertoire during the Twenty-sixth Dynasty.

    Another statue of a priest holding a shrine with a figure of the god Atum is a rare example of a Ptolemaic portrait head still attached to its original body. The statue appears to be the work of two sculptors-a mediocre craftsman who carved the body, while a specialist in portraiture would have carved the finely detailed head to the owner’s specifications.

    The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue, with two essays on Egyptian art by Dr. Russmann, and a history of the British Museum’s Department of Egyptian Antiquities written by its former Curator, T.G.H. James. The catalogue is supported in part by Helen H. Scheidt.

    Eternal Egypt: Masterworks of Ancient Art from The British Museum will be a ticketed exhibition. View Original
  • June 2001: Continuing Exhibitions

    Arts of Africa
    Long-Term Installation

    Leon Golub: Paintings, 1950–2000
    Through August 19, 2001

    Digital: Printmaking Now
    June 22-September 2, 2001

    Upcoming Exhibitions

    My Reality: Contemporary Art and the Culture of Japanese Animation
    July 28-October 7, 2001

    American Identities: A Reinterpretation of American Art at the BMA
    Opens September 5, 2001 (Long-Term Installation)

    Wit and Wine: A New Look at Ancient Iranian Ceramics from the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation
    September 7-December 30, 2001

    Vital Forms: American Art and Design in the Atomic Age, 1940–1960
    October 12, 2001-January 6, 2002

    Eternal Egypt: Masterworks of Ancient Art from The British Museum
    November 23, 2001-February 24, 2002

    Star Wars: The Magic of Myth
    April 5-July, 7 2002

    Exposed: The Victorian Nude
    September 2, 2002-January 5, 2003

    The Last Expression: Art from Auschwitz
    February 28-May 11, 2003

    Great Expectations: John Singer Sargent Painting Children
    September 19-November 30, 2003


    Continuing Exhibitions

    Arts of Africa
    Long-Term Installation
    (African Galleries, 1st floor)
    More than twenty important objects, previously not on view, will be integrated into a major reinstallation of some 225 works from the Museum's exceptional holdings of African art. Although a wide selection from the hundreds of African cultures will be represented, the reinstallation is exceptionally strong in works from Central Africa, particularly those from the Kongo, Luba, and Kuba peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The majority of the items on display were created for religious or political ceremonial life, but the presentation will also include furniture, textiles, architectural fragments, household items, and objects of personal adornment.
    Organization: The reinstallation has been organized by William C. Siegmann, Chair of the Department of the Arts of Africa and the Pacific Islands at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

    Leon Golub: Paintings, 1950-2000
    Through August 19, 2001
    (European Painting and Sculpture Galleries, 5th floor)
    This exhibition examines the career of Leon Golub (b. 1922), dean of American political art, whose intense, gritty paintings examine the complexities of power. The artist's raw and expressive canvases span the second half of the twentieth century and explore issues of race, violence, war, and the human condition. The exhibition of some fifty-five works, many of which are mural-sized, includes such monumental paintings as Gigantomachy Il (1966), Vietnam II (1973), and the BMA's own Riot IV (1983). A selection of Golub's lesser-known political portraits and his recent paintings that consider mortality will also be included.
    Organization: Leon Golub: Paintings, 1950-2000 was curated by Jon Bird, an independent, London-based curator, and organized by the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin. Brooke Kamin Rapaport, Associate Curator in the Department of Contemporary Art, organized the presentation at the BMA.
    Support: The BMA presentation is supported, in part, by the BMA's Barbara and Richard Debs Exhibition Fund. Additional support is provided by The Broad Art Foundation and Dr. and Mrs. Philip J. Kozinn. Educational activities are made possible by the Third Millennium Foundation.
    Publication: Leon Golub: Echoes of the Real, with an essay by Jon Bird, includes more than 130 color plates and is published by Reaktion Books, Ltd., London.

    Digital: Printmaking Now
    June 22-September 2, 2001
    (Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, 4th floor)
    This installment of the Print National, a survey of important developments in the field of printmaking, will focus on the increasing use of computers in the printmaking process. The exhibition, one of the first to address this issue, will include traditionally printed works that have been manipulated digitally and works created entirely by computer.
    Organization: This exhibition was organized by Marilyn Kushner, Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Support: Digital: Printmaking Now is organized by the Brooklyn Museum of Art. The exhibition is made possible, in part, by the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc., and the BMA's Prints and Photographs Council. Additional support is provided by Marc A. Schwartz, Seymour and Laura Schweber, and Philip and Alma Kalb, and The Fund—created by a gift from the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation. Educational activities are supported by the Third Millennium Foundation. Media sponsors are Artbyte Magazine and Art on Paper.
    Publication: A fully-illustrated color catalogue will be available.


    Upcoming Exhibitions

    My Reality: Contemporary Art and the Culture of Japanese Animation
    July 28-October 7, 2001
    Synergies between Japanese and American popular culture are explored in this showcase of photography, painting, sculpture, and video that investigates the influence of Japanese animation (anime) and techno-culture on art. Anime is incredibly versatile in its ability to comment on social and sexual mores, gender roles, and traditional values in the face of an increasingly alien future. The exhibition features work by Takashi Murakami, Mariko Mori, Paul McCarthy, and Charlie White, among others.
    Organization: My Reality: Contemporary Art and the Culture of Japanese Animation was originally curated by Jeff Fleming, Senior Curator, and Susan Lubowsky Talbott, Director of the Des Moines Art Center. The exhibition is coordinated at the Brooklyn Museum of Art by Charlotta Kotik, Department Chair of Contemporary Art.
    Support: Educational activities for the BMA's presentation are supported by the Third Millennium Foundation. Additional support provided by The Fund—created by a gift from the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation.
    Publication: An illustrated catalogue co-published by the Des Moines Art Center and Independent Curators International accompanies My Reality.

    American Identities: A Reinterpretation of American Art at the BMA
    September 5, 2001-Long Term
    (Luce Center for American Art, 5th floor)
    This reinstallation of approximately 350 works from the permanent collections will present an innovative thematic survey of American paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts from the early eighteenth century to the present. An orientation gallery will introduce the visitor to the scope of the collections, showcasing a number of icons in a Brooklyn context. The galleries will be organized in a general chronological fashion with richly interpreted installations devoted to such themes as Dutch New Yorkers, Shaping American Landscapes, The Civil War Era, Women's Worlds, Urban Experiences, and The Drive toward Abstraction.
    Organization: This project is a collaboration among curators of American Paintings and Sculpture: Teresa A. Carbone, Project Director; Linda S. Ferber and Barbara Dayer Gallati; Decorative Arts: Kevin L. Stayton, Chair of Department of Decorative Arts, Barry R. Harwood; Contemporary Art: Charlotta Kotik; Arts of Americas: Susan Kennedy Zeller
    Support: American Identities: A Reinterpretation of American Art at the BMA is supported by a generous grant from the Independence Community Foundation for the Museum's project American Identities: Building Audiences for the Future, and by the National Endowment for the Arts.

    Wit and Wine: A New Look at Ancient Iranian Ceramics from the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation
    September 7-December 30, 2001
    (Robert E. Blum Gallery, 1st floor)
    This exhibition comprises forty-five pottery vessels—most for holding or pouring wine—from ancient Iran, ranging in date from the fifth millennium B.C. to the third century A.D. Demonstrating the extraordinary range of Iranian pottery, the exhibition includes such whimsical examples as a juglike vessel in the shape of human feet, and sculptural works in the shape of camels and bulls. Some containers clearly imitate early metal prototypes, with their unusually thin walls and long spouts, while others are painted with sophisticated ornamental designs depicting the animals of the Iranian highland. The Brooklyn Museum of Art is the last scheduled venue for this traveling exhibition.
    Organization: The exhibition has been organized by the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation and curated by Dr. Trudy S. Kawami. James F. Romano, Curator of Egyptian, Classical, and Ancient Middle Eastern Art at the BMA, will organize the presentation at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

    Vital Forms: American Art and Design in the Atomic Age, 1940-1960
    October 5, 2001-January 6, 2002
    (Grand Lobby, 1st floor; Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, 4th floor)
    This interdisciplinary exhibition will present 250 of the most innovative works of the 1940s and 1950s that embraced a vocabulary of organic, or vital, forms. Through architecture, decorative and industrial arts, graphic design, painting, photography, and sculpture, Vital Forms will examine the use of nature-based imagery during the postwar era. The exhibition will show how this aesthetic development represented an affirmation of life in the face of the Cold War and at the dawn of the nuclear age. Exploring the organic visual language adopted by some of the era's most progressive creators, the exhibition will include works of art and design such as paintings by Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko, the "Predicta" television set, images of Eero Saarinen's TWA Terminal at JFK International Airport, Tupperware, the "Slinky," and the Ford Thunderbird. Additionally, the exhibition will trace how that visual vocabulary was applied to objects of popular culture, such as Formica countertop laminate and paperback book covers. The exhibition is the third in a series organized by the BMA that began with The American Renaissance, 1876-1917 (1979) and continued with The Machine Age in America, 1918-1941 (1986).
    Organization: This exhibition will be organized by Brooke Kamin Rapaport, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, and Kevin Stayton, Department Head and Curator of Decorative Arts at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Martin Filler and Mildred Friedman are consulting co-curators, and Dr. Paul Boyer is the project's cultural historian.
    Publication: A full-color catalogue published by the Brooklyn Museum of Art and Harry N. Abrams, Inc., will accompany the exhibition.
    Tour:
    Brooklyn Museum
    of Art:
    October 12, 2001-January 6, 2002

    Walker Art Center:
    February 16-May 12, 2002

    Frist Center for the Visual Arts:
    June 21-September 15, 2002

    Los Angeles County Museum of Art:
    November 17, 2002-February 23, 2003

    Phoenix Art Museum:
    April 4-June 29, 2003

    Support: Vital Forms: American Art and Design in the Atomic Age, 1940-1960 was organized by the Brooklyn Museum of Art. The exhibition was made possible, in part, by generous grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support was provided by the Mary Jean and Frank P. Smeal Foundation, The Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation, and the Gramercy Park Foundation. Support for the catalogue was provided through the generosity of Furthermore, the Publication Program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund, as well as a BMA publications endowment created by the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

    Eternal Egypt: Masterworks of Ancient Art from The British Museum
    November 23, 2001-February 24, 2002
    (Beatrice and Samuel A. Seaver Gallery, 5th floor)
    This exhibition will provide a unique opportunity to view more than 140 ancient Egyptian masterpieces from The British Museum in London, many of which have never before traveled to the United States. Many large-scale works will be presented, including the capital of a temple column with a monumental carving of the goddess Hathor, as well as a world-famous portrait statue of the great pharaoh Sesostris III, royal jewelry, and paintings on papyrus illustrating scenes from The Book of the Dead. The exhibition will span the entire pharaonic period, from Dynasty I (about 3100 B.C.) to the period of Roman rule (4th century A.D.).
    Organization: This exhibition was organized by the American Federation of Arts and the British Museum, with guest curator Edna R. Russmann, Curator of Egyptian, Classical, and Ancient Middle Eastern Art at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and W. V. Davies, the British Museum's Keeper of Egyptian Antiquities.
    Support: This exhibition and its national tour are made possible by Ford Motor Company. The official hotel of the Brooklyn leg of exhibition is the New York Marriott Brooklyn. Promotional support for the BMA's presentation is provided by Bloomingdale's. Additional support has been provided by the Benefactors Circle of the AFA.
    Publication: A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies this exhibition.

    Star Wars: The Magic of Myth
    April 5-July 7, 2002
    (Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, 4th & 5th floors)
    The exhibition showcases original artwork, props, models, costumes, and characters used to create the original Star Wars trilogy—Star Wars: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi—as well as Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Included will be over 30 mannequins, 35 models, and 50 pieces of framed artworks. Among them will be R2-D2, C-3P0, Darth Vader, Yoda, Boba Fett, and Yoda as well as Princess Leia's Slave Girl Costume, Han Solo frozen in carbonite, the Millennium Falcon, and one of Queen Amidala's royal gowns. Interpretive panels throughout the exhibition trace the mythological and literary sources that transform Star Wars into a timeless epic. Drawing upon the work of Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the exhibition shows how the themes of the young hero, the faithful companions, the endangered maiden, the wise guide, and others resonate through the Star Wars saga and give it an enduring universality. The exhibition will include a 26-minute documentary film, which will play continuously, on the making of the Star Wars saga.
    Organization:
    Star Wars: The Magic of Myth was developed by the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. The exhibition was organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES). All artifacts in this exhibition are on loan from the archives of Lucasfilm Ltd. The Brooklyn Museum of Art will be the final stop of a national tour. Catalogue: An illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition, entitled Star Wars: The Magic of Myth, by Mary Henderson, exhibition curator from the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution.

    Exposed: The Victorian Nude
    September 2, 2002-January 5, 2003
    (Schapiro Galleries, 4th floor)
    The nude figure was one of the most controversial subjects in Victorian England. It fired the Victorian imagination as the central focus of arguments about aesthetics, morality, sexuality, and desire—issues that continue to provoke debate. Exposed: The Victorian Nude is the first exhibition to survey the full range of representations of the nude in Victorian art. While the exhibition concentrates mainly on the "high arts" of painting and sculpture, photography, popular illustrations, advertising, and caricature are included to demonstrate the prevalence of the nude in Victorian visual culture and the meaning it held.
    Organization: Exposed: The Victorian Nude has been organized by Tate Britain. Barbara Dayer Gallati, Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture, will coordinate the presentation at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
    Publication: A fully illustrated catalogue will be available.
    Tour: The Brooklyn Museum of Art will be the only North American stop of this exhibition tour.

    The Adventures of Hamza
    November 1, 2002-January 26, 2003
    (Blum Gallery, 1st floor)
    The Adventures of Hamza (or Hamzanama) is a fantastic adventure story about the exploits of Hamza, uncle of the Prophet Muhammad, who traveled throughout the world spreading the doctrines of Islam. The narrative tells of encounters with giants, demons, and dragons; of abductions and hair - raising chases; and of believers, as well as those who resisted Islam. A favorite story for illustration, it was also recited in coffeehouses from Iran to northern India. The greatest illustrated manuscript of the Hamzanama was made in India for the Mughal Emperor Akbar (reigned 1556-1605) when he was still a teenager. It originally contained 1,400 enormous illustrations, about a tenth of which have survived today. This exhibition brings together some 70 of these illustrations from collections all over the world, and places them alongside new translations of the related text passages. Organization: The Adventures of Hamza has been curated by Dr. John W. Seyller and organized by the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, at the Smithsonian Institution. Amy G. Poster, Chair of the Asian Art Department at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, will coordinate the exhibition at the BMA.
    Publication: A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany this exhibition.

    Great Expectations: John Singer Sargent Painting Children
    September 19-November 30, 2003
    (Schapiro Galleries, 4th floor)
    John Singer Sargent is best known for his portraits of society women. This exhibition will assemble some forty depictions of children by Sargent to present an unexpected and revealing examination of his art. Rather than presenting children in the saccharine, sentimentalized fashion of the day, Sargent often captured them in moments of sober contemplation. Portraying his young subjects as psychologically complex individuals, Sargent redefined children's portraiture, which typically treated childhood as a generic age of innocence.
    Organization: This exhibition will be organized by Barbara Dayer Gallati, Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture, at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
    Publication: A fully illustrated color catalogue will accompany this exhibition.

    The Last Expression: Art from Auschwitz
    February 29-May 11, 2003
    The Last Expression: Art from Auschwitz will feature two- and three-dimensional art produced by interned victims of Auschwitz and other camps. Artwork served different functions in the camps—catharsis, documentation, resistance, decoration, and official commissions. This exhibition will present the role of visual arts in concentration camps. The works of Jewish inmates, as well as that of resistance fighters from throughout Europe, will be included in this show.
    Organization: The Last Expression: Art from Auschwitz will be organized by the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University. Marilyn Kushner, Curator of Prints and Drawings, will be managing the project at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1995 - 2003. 2001, 070-077 View Original 1 . View Original 2 . View Original 3 . View Original 4 . View Original 5 . View Original 6 . View Original 7 . View Original 8
Eternal Egypt: Masterworks of Ancient Art from the British Museum