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Cleopatra's Egypt: Age of the Ptolemies

DATES October 7, 1988 through January 2, 1989
  • January 1988: Cleopatra, one of the most famous women in antiquity, will be celebrated at the inaugural event marking the formation of the Museum Council at The Brooklyn Museum on Saturday, February 27, from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. The Council was organized as a new patrons group for younger supporters who wish a more active involvement in the Museum’s collections and programs. Proceeds from the festive benefit evening will be used to support Cleopatra’s Egypt, a major international exhibition organized by The Brooklyn Museum and concentrating on the art from the Ptolemaic Period of Egyptian history, which is scheduled to open in October of 1988.

    Chairman of “The Cleopatra Gala” is Ms. Sky Underwood, who promises that the intensity of the evening’s festivities celebrating the Ptolemies’ ancient and mysterious past will create enough Egyptian heat to melt February’s icy hold on Brooklyn.

    Upon arrival, guests will proceed to the elegant Beaux-Arts Court, which is adjacent to the Museum’s famed collection of Egyptian art. There they will be treated to wine and cocktails, exotic North African hors d’oeuvres and a sumptuous dessert buffet that includes pyramid-shaped cakes covered in edible gold leaf. The Kit McClure Big Band, a sixteen-piece all-women orchestra appropriately attired in Cleopatra costumes, will provide music for dancing until 1 a.m.

    Tickets to “The Cleopatra Gala” are $75 and $125 each. The event is being supported by contributions from Studio Type and Screen, Diamond Art Studios, Brooklyn Brewery and Remember Basil Caterers. To order tickets for the gala, call the Membership Office at (718) 638-5000, ext. 326.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1971 - 1988. 1988, 013. View Original
  • May 1988: Cleopatra’s Egypt: Age of the Ptolemies, the first major exhibition to survey the Ptolemaic Period of Egyptian art (305-30 B.C.), is being organized by The Brooklyn Museum for its premier viewing in New York this October. An international exhibition in both scope and itinerary, it will include the two best-preserved ancient portrait heads of Cleopatra VII as well as heads of Julius Ceasar, Marc Antony, and Augustus -- the Romans with whom she lived, loved, and fought. The panorama of Egyptian art will unfold with an array of masterpieces of stone statuary and relief, gold jewelry, silver vessels, figurines in terracotta and faience, illustrated scenes from the Book of the Dead, and a wealth of objects in glass, bronze, and wood.

    Cleopatra’s Egypt will be shown at The Brooklyn Museum (October 7, 1988 - January 2, 1989); The Detroit Institute of Arts (February 14 - April 30, 1989); and the Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich (June 8 - September 10, 1989) under the auspices of Staatliche Sammlung Äegyptischer Kunst. The exhibition will comprise approximately 150 works drawn from over 40 public and private collections in the United States and Europe.

    The exhibition has received generous support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, a federal agency, and The J.M. Kaplan Fund, Inc.

    After the death of Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) the control of Egypt fell to one of his generals, Ptolemy. A Macedonian Greek by birth, he defeated all rivals and declared himself pharaoh of Egypt in 305 B.C., thereby inaugurating the Ptolemaic Dynasty. His decendants, twelve kings named Ptolemy and a number of queens variously named Arisinoe, Berenike, and Cleopatra, ruled the land for almost 300 years until the death, perhaps from the bite of an asp, of the most famous queen of the period, Cleopatra VII.

    The exhibition and accompanying catalogue will focus attention on this exciting era of Egypt’s history, and demonstrate that Egyptian art during this period was of outstanding quality and inventiveness. Egyptian art emerges as an expression of cultural values which remained steadfast to millennia-old traditions despite the presence of the Ptolemaic Greeks in Alexandria and the advent of Rome’s legions in the first century B.C. The artistic expressions of the Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans, and their respective interaction within the boundaries of Egypt, are fully explored.

    The exhibition counters the popular portrayal of Cleopatra as a sensuous creature of the flesh who lacked political acumen and insight. On the contrary, her personality emerges as that of a skilled and intelligent woman who had a vision -- ultimate domination of the known world (the Mediterranean basin) by Egypt.

    Cleopatra’s Egypt
    is being organized by the Department of Egyptian, Classical, and Ancient Middle Eastern Art. Richard Fazzini, Curator of the Department, is the exhibition’s Director and a contributing author to the catalogue. Robert Steven Bianchi, Associate Curator in the Department, and a leading specialist in Ptolemaic art, is the exhibition’s Curator and the author of the catalogue.

    The scholarly catalogue will contain detailed entries for all the objects as well as introductory essays on the history, art history, society, and religion of Egypt during the period. It also includes essays by Roger S. Bagnall, Professor of Classics and History at Columbia University, Jan Quaegebeur, Professor of Egyptology at the Catholic University of Leuven, and Jean-Claude Goyon, Professor of Egyptology and Director of the Egyptological Institute of the University of Lyon II.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1971 - 1988. 1988, 055-56. View Original 1 . View Original 2
  • September 1988: One of the most important cultural and historical periods in ancient Egyptian history is examined for the first time in a major international traveling exhibition opening at the Brooklyn Museum October 7, 1988. Entitled Cleopatra’s Egypt: Age of the Ptolemies, the exhibition surveys the Ptolemaic period of Egyptian art (305-30 B.C) through 165 works drawn from 40 public and private collections in Europe and the United States. It includes masterpieces of stone statuary and relief, gold jewelry, silver vessels, figurines in terracotta and faience, illustrated scenes from the Book of the Dead, and a wealth of objects in glass, bronze, and wood. The exhibition will remain on view at The Brooklyn Museum through January 2, 1989, before traveling to Detroit and Munich.

    The exhibition was organized by The Brooklyn Museum and has been made possible through the corporate sponsorship of National Westminster Bank USA and with generous support from The J.M. Kaplan Fund, Edward H. Merrin, the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities, the New York State Council on the Arts, and Museum Council of The Brooklyn Museum. In addition, the exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

    After the death of Alexander the Great (323 B.C.) the control of Egypt fell to one of his generals, Ptolemy. A Macedonian Greek by birth, he defeated all rivals and declared himself pharaoh of Egypt in 305 B.C., thereby inaugurating the Ptolemiac dynasty. His descendants, twelve kings named Ptolemy and a number of queens variously named Arisinoe, Berenike, and Cleopatra, ruled the land for almost 300 years until the death, perhaps from the bite of an asp, of the most famous queen of t.he period, Cleopatra VII.

    The members of the Ptolemaic dynasty guided the fortunes of Egypt from their capital city of Alexandria, located on the Mediterranean coast northwest of modern Cairo. There they created works of art in typical Hellenistic Greek styles. The native Egyptians, on the other hand, continued to create art for their officials and priests that remained loyal to their age-old traditions. Whenever the two artistic traditions collided, the Greeks were invariably the borrowers, adapting stylistic features from traditional Egyptian forms and often appropriating as their own such characteristically Egyptian media as faience.

    Egyptian art during this period was of outstanding quality and inventiveness despite the presence of the Ptolemaic Greeks in Alexandria and the advent of Rome’s legions in the first century B.C. Its vitality and innovation can best be seen in the numerous temple and tomb reliefs as well as the funerary monuments called stelae that the Egyptian priests commissioned for themselves. Many of these works are without parallel in earlier periods and exceed in quality all the monuments made for the kings. Typical are the painted and gilded stela of Pakhaas and that of the Lady Taimuthis, who died during the reign of Cleopatra the Great. Her
    remarkable stela contains a posthumous address to her husband enjoining him to “eat, drink, and be merry” while he is still alive! A series of heads of highly placed native Egyptian officials are considered among the most arresting images of man ever created in antiquity and include the masterpieces known as the Brooklyn Green Head, the Boston Green Head, and the Berlin Green Head. They are so called because the signs of age have been deftly etched into these portraitlike images which are made of a typically Egyptian green stone known as schist.

    Also noteworthy are a gemlike cameo glass perfume vase that preserves an Egyptianizing scene of a pharaoh and an obelisk; a silver situla, or sacred pail, found at Pompeii, in Italy, that reveals the fascination the Romans had for things Egyptian; inlays of glass used to decorate shrines; and an array of gold jewelry, often bearing serpent designs as allusions to both the Egyptian goddess Isis and rebirth.

    It is thought that Cleopatra VII (the Great) was herself moved by the richness of Egypt’s artistic tradition. She attempted to elevate Egypt to a position of world domination and based her own reign as pharaoh (51-30 B.C.) on those of earlier Egyptian queens. Intelligent and politically astute, she risked all to achieve her goal, and when her armies were defeated by the Romans she preferred suicide to surrender. Her death was a harbinger of the death of pharaonic Egypt’s culture. The exhibition includes the two best-preserved ancient portrait heads of Cleopatra VII as well as heads of Julius Ceasar, Marc Antony, and Augustus -- the Romans with whom she lived, loved, and fought.

    After its showing at The Brooklyn Museum, the exhibition will travel to The Detroit Institute of Arts (February 14 - April 30, 1989) and the Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich (June 8 - September 10, 1989), under the auspices of Staatliche Sammlung Ägyptischer Kunst, Munich.

    Cleopatra’s Egypt was coordinated by Richard Fazzini, Curator of the Museum’s Department of Egyptian, Classical, and Ancient Middle Eastern Art, the exhibition director, and a contributing author to the exhibition catalogue, and Robert Steven Bianchi, Associate Curator in the Department and a leading specialist in Ptolemaic art, who is the exhibition curator and principal author of the catalogue. Assisting with the exhibition were Donald Spanel and Mary McKercher, Research Associates in the Department.

    The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated scholarly catalogue containing detailed entries for all the objects as well as introductory essays on the history, art history, society, and religion of Egypt during the period by Dr. Bianchi, Roger S. Bagnall, Professor of Classics and History at Columbia University, Jan Quaegebeur, Professor of Egyptology at the Catholic University of Leuven, and Jean-Claude Goyon, Professor of Egyptology and Director of the Egyptological Institute of the University of Lyon II (292 pages; 37 color and 212 black-and-white photographs; $29.50).

    The Museum’s Division of Education has organized a variety of public programs in conjunction with the exhibition. These include gallery talks; a symposium, entitled “Ptolemaic Egypt: Cultures in Conflict,” which will be held on Friday, December 2, and Saturday, December 3; a storytelling program for children on Sunday, October 16 and November 6; and a film series, entitled “The Age of Cleopatra: Hollywood and History” featuring six of Hollywood’s most sensational film spectacles that focus on the great men and women of ancient Egypt on successive Sundays beginning November 13.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1971 - 1988. 1988, 082-85. View Original 1 . View Original 2 . View Original 3 . View Original 4
  • September 1988: In conjunction with The Brooklyn Museum’s international traveling exhibition of Egyptian art, Cleopatra’s Egypt: Age of the Ptolemies (October 7, 1988 - January 2, 1989), the Museum is offering a variety of public programs designed to increase visitors’ enjoyment of this fascinating and timeless subject.

    Six of Hollywood’s most sensational film spectacles on the great men and women of Egypt will be shown at the Museum in a Sunday afternoon film series entitled “Cleopatra’s Egypt: Hollywood and History.” Focusing on the great women and men of ancient Egypt, the series examines Hollywood’s conceptions and misconceptions of history. It begins November 13 and runs through December 18. Highlights of the series include a guest appearance by eminent director Joseph L. Mankiewicz on November 13 and a panel discussion called “Cleopatra on Film: Popular Culture Confronts History” on November 20. Among the participants in the panel discussion will be Donald Albrecht, Curator of Exhibitions, American Museum of the Moving Image; Richard Fazzini, Curator of Egyptian, Classical, and Ancient Middle Eastern Art, The Brooklyn Museum; Paul Huntley, wig designer; and Philip Rosen, Associate Professor and Director of the Screen Studies Program, Clark University. Films are shown in the Lecture Hall on the third floor at 2 p.m. Tickets may be purchased one half hour in advance and are $3.00 for nonmembers, $2.00 for students and seniors, $1.00 for children under 12, and free to Museum members. Museum admission is not included.

    An important international symposium entitled “Ptolemaic Egypt: Cultures in Conflict” will explore the archaeological, historical, political and artistic aspects of the exhibition on December 2 and 3. Noted scholars from the United States and Europe will participate. For registration and fee information call (718) 638-5000, ext. 232.

    Programs of special interest to families visiting the exhibition include a papyrus-making demonstration explaining the history and techniques used to produce this ancient writing paper on Sunday, October 23 at 3 and 4 p.m.; and storytelling hours in the Museum’s Egyptian Galleries on two Sundays, October 16 and November 6 at 3 p.m. For the entire month of October, Arty Facts, The Museum’s Saturday-morning family workshop, will present special activities related to the Cleopatra exhibition.

    Other programs include free gallery talks scheduled every Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. and special group tours of the exhibition, which must be arranged in advance. For more information, visitors may call (718) 638-5000, ext. 232.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1971 - 1988. 1988, 086-87. View Original 1 . View Original 2
  • October 1988: Cleopatra and company come to The Brooklyn Museum in a six-week Hollywood film series dramatizing the life, loves, and legacy of the legendary Egyptian queen. Entitled Cleopatra’s Egypt: Hollywood and History, the series is offered in conjunction with the Museum’s major international exhibition Cleopatra’s Egypt: Age of the Ptolemies (October 7, 1988 - January 2, 1989) and will be presented on Sunday afternoons at 2 p.m. beginning November 13 and running through December 18 in the third floor Lecture Hall.

    Leading off the series on November 13 will be Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s highly acclaimed 1953 version of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, starring MarIon Brando and James Mason. Mr. Mankiewicz, an Academy-award winning director, will be on hand to answer questions following the screening.

    On November 20, Cecil B. DeMille’s lavish 1934 production Cleopatra, starring Claudette Colbert, will be shown. It will be followed by a panel discussion “Cleopatra on Film: Popular Culture Confronts History.” The panelists will be Donald Albrecht, Curator of Exhibitions, the American Museum of the Moving Image; Richard Fazzini, Curator of Egyptian, Classical and Ancient Middle Eastern Art, The Brooklyn Museum; Paul Huntley, wig designer; and Philip Rosen, Associate Professor and Director of the Screen Studies Program, Clark University.

    Other films include the November 27 screening of Alexander the Great, starring Richard Burton as the dynamic, young world conqueror.

    On December 4, Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s 1963 production Cleopatra will be shown, featuring Elizabeth Taylor, along with co-stars Richard Burton and Rex Harrison. Serpent of the Nile, a high-camp version of the Cleopatra story, starring Rhonda Fleming and Raymond Burr will be shown on December 11. The series concludes on December 18 with Vivien Leigh and Claude Rains in Gabriel Pascal’s 1945 film version of the George Bernard Shaw play Caesar and Cleopatra.

    Admission is $3.00 for non-members, $2.00 for students and senior citizens, $1.00 for children under 12, and free to members. Museum admission is not included (suggested contribution: $3.00; students with valid I.D. $1.50; and senior citizens $1.00. Free to members and children under 12 accompanied by an adult). All programs are subject to change without notice.

    The film series is made possible, in part, through the corporate sponsorship of National Westminster Bank, USA, and with generous support from the J.M. Kaplan Fund, Edward H. Merrin, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the Museum Council for The Brooklyn Museum and by support from Film/Video Arts, which is funded by the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1971 - 1988. 1988, 102-103. View Original 1 . View Original 2
Cleopatras Egypt: Age of the Ptolemies