It may just a coincidence, but there are two exhibits about ancient Egypt taking place right now in Paris. Once upon a time, my family made an annual pilgrimage to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and I was always fascinated by the mummies. I briefly flirted with the idea of becoming an archeologist when I was about 8, but I came to the conclusion that all the good stuff had already been dug up. My interest in mummies remains, however. This weekend, I checked out Le Crépuscule des Pharaons (The Dusk of the Pharaohs) at the musée Jacquemart-André and Toutankhamon: sa tombe et ses trésors at the exhibition grounds at Porte de Versailles.
The first exhibit had no mummies, just sculptures. Édouard Jacquemart and Nélie André were early collectors of Egyptian artifacts and their personal collection of sculptures has been augmented with loans from the great museum collections from around the world for this event. The exhibit focuses on the increasing skill with which Egyptian sculptors represented the human form, particularly the face. The early sculptures have egg shaped skulls with features that lack much individuality. Howver, by the time you get to the Berlin Green head, shown here (about 400 B.C.), the face is fully developed, with expression, wrinkles, and extremely realistic skin folds. The exhibit is on until July 23, 2012.
The second exhibit had mummies – kind of. Everything in the exhibit was a high-quality replica – so the mummies weren’t real, nor was all the gold. The Tut exhibit focuses on the discovery of the intact tomb by Howard Carter in 1922. The audio guide prompts the visitor to move from room to room as the story is told, first through a series of videos, then through recreations of the three rooms in the tomb, and finally a close look at each of the objects that Carter found. The effect is so well-done that I almost forgot I was looking at copies, instead of the real things. The advantage was that I was allowed to take photos, like the one above. I’m quite pleased with my King Tut head. This exhibit closes on september 1, 2012.
One word was common to both exhibits, l’Au-delà (low duhlah) or “the hereafter.” All of this artisanship was to create the right setting for the Pharaohs in the afterworld. Personally, I just want to be cremated and sprinkled over Paris – no fancy tomb or sculptures required.