Egyptian antiquities from the Louvre
journey to the Afterlife
At the National Gallery of Australia 17 November 2006 – 25 February 2007
Visit the exhibition website nga.gov.au/Journey (Requires Flash 8)
Ptolemaic Period 332–30 BCE 'Mummy mask' plastered, painted and gilded linen, Department of Egyptian Antiquities, Musée du Louvre, Paris Photograph © Christian Décamps, Musée du Louvre, Paris
This new exhibition is the first the Louvre has sent to Australia in over two decades and features works drawn from the permanent display of Egyptian antiquities at the Musée du Louvre, and others that have never before been on public display.
Egyptian antiquities from the Louvre: journey to the Afterlife draws its narrative from the Book of the Dead, a compilation of spells and incantations to secure protection against the perils of the journey. Descriptions of the Afterlife in the Book of the Dead shape the themes of the exhibition, allowing for an exploration of funerary rites, the Underworld and the soul’s journey as it travels from earthly life to eternity with the gods in the heavenly Field of Reeds.
Having fascinated viewers for thousands of years, Egyptians frequently borrowed and merged shapes in their art. Elements that reflect either reality or abstract concepts were brought together, giving each object a depth that goes beyond its appearance or function. Layers of symbolism, magic, and mystery draw visitors further into an ancient civilisation where the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was thin, and strange animal-headed gods walked the land.
Objects on display date from the time of the construction of the Great Pyramid at Giza around 5000 years ago to the age of Cleopatra, the last Pharaoh. They not only encompass the splendid sculptures of gods and goddesses, kings and priests, sarcophagi and scarabs that so eloquently conjure the age of the pharaohs, but also smaller articles for daily and ritual use that increase our understanding of ancient Egyptian culture and beliefs.
Egyptian antiquities from the Louvre: journey to the Afterlife shows how the elaborate funerary preparations and mummification rituals were only the first step on the path to eternal life. It includes a broad range of subjects and themes in a variety of media and is divided into five sections corresponding to the main aspects of funerary beliefs.
Major sculptural works in stone and bronze, painted chests, and mummy cases are juxtaposed with illustrated manuscripts, low reliefs, amulets, jewellery, ceramics and fine wood carving. The smallest objects in the exhibition are amulets and jewels made from ceramic, carnelian, and other semiprecious stones and used to adorn and protect mummies. An army of more than 200 faïence ushabti figures stands to attention, ready to act as deputies for the deceased in the Afterlife, performing any duties required on behalf of
Egyptian antiquities from the Louvre: journey to the Afterlife is a uniqueopportunity for many Australians to seestriking objects of one of the world’s great civilisations from the collection of the Louvre, one of the world’s great museums.
Ron Radford, Director of the National Gallery of Australia, said ‘visitors will see magnificent stone sarcophagi, exquisitely painted coffins and imposing sculptures of gods, goddesses, pharaohs and sphinxes and wonder at the extraordinary skill of these ancient artists and craftspeople’.
The National Gallery of Australia is delighted to be the first venue to host this exhibition from one of the foremost collections of Egyptian art and antiquities in the world.
Egyptian Antiquities from the Louvre: journey to the Afterlife is organised by Musée du Louvre, Paris, Art Exhibitions Australia and the National Gallery of Australia. The exhibition was curated by; Marc Étienne, Department of Egyptian Antiquities, Musée du Louvre, Paris. Coordinating Curator in Australia; Bronwyn Campbell, National Gallery of Australia.
The exhibition will also travel to the Art Gallery of South Australia from 21 March to 1 July 2007 and the Art Gallery of Western Australia from 21 July to 28 October 2007.