Museum of Art and History opens Expedition Egypt

The Museum of Art and History in Brussels has launched Expedition Egypt, an exhibition about two centuries of archaeological discoveries.

The exhibition tells the story of Ancient Egypt and how many Egyptian showpieces made their way to Belgium. The story began in the 19th century when diplomatic and industrial Belgium became increasingly interested in Egypt. Leopold II, then Duke of Brabant, brought back many artefacts and sarcophagi from his travels. Afterwards, thousands more objects were added to the collection. Today this archival collection consists of more than 12,000 pieces, of which more than 200 are being displayed to the public for the first time.

"It is primarily an exhibition that deals with 200 years of scientific discipline," says curator Elisabeth Van Caelenberge. "For 99 per cent, we worked with objects from the archival collection. That means that much of the exhibition has never been shown to a wider audience before."

Exhibits include richly decorated sarcophagi from the priestly hideout at Deir el-Bahari, a monumental statue of the goddess Sekhmet, and the Neferrenpet Book of the Dead. The exhibition also casts a new perspective on Belgium's discoveries in Ancient Egypt. For example, the artistic interventions of Sara Sallam, born in Cairo in 1991, show how contemporary Egyptian identity is in stark contrast with how the history of Egyptology was created in our country.

Royal patronage

The exhibition is under the patronage of Queen Mathilde, who visited the show on Thursday. She was accompanied by Egypt's ambassador to Belgium and met a delegation of Belgian experts in Egyptology.

Almost 100 years ago, Queen Elisabeth went on the first of her many visits to Egypt. She had a passion for Egyptology and her trips triggered the birth of Egyptology in Belgium. Queen Mathilde and Princess Elisabeth also visited the country a few weeks ago as a tribute to Queen Elisabeth, after whom the princess is named.

"Queen Elisabeth was so interested in the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922 that she contacted Jean Capart, curator of the Egyptian collection at the Museum of Art and History, to travel to Egypt together," says Van Caelenberghe. They did so the following year.

The exhibition runs until 10 October.


Curator Elisabeth Van Caelenberge and artist Sara Sallam © BELGA PHOTO TIMON RAMBOER

Video shows Queen Mathilde's visit to the Expedition Egypt exhibition © BELGA VIDEO TIMON RAMBOER

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