A major exhibition on ancient Egypt at the Basilica Palladiana: 200 artifacts from the Egyptian Museum and the Louvre

The Basilica Palladiana in Vicenza hosts a major exhibition on ancient Egypt: about 200 artifacts from the Egyptian Museum to tell the story of the ancient village that housed the makers of the monumental tombs of the pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings and Queens.

From December 22, 2022 to May 7, 2023, the Basilica Palladiana in Vicenza is hosting the exhibition The Makers of Eternal Egypt. Scribes, Craftsmen and Workers in the Service of the Pharaoh, curated by the Egyptian Museum of Turin, and under the coordination of director Christian Greco, Corinna Rossi and curators Cédric Gobeil and Paolo Marini worked with the curatorial team. Colossal statues, ornate tombs and sarcophagi, painted bas-reliefs and stelae, papyrus scrolls and millennia-old artifacts, some two hundred artifacts from the Egyptian Museum through which the community of Deir el-Medina, theancient village that housed the makers of the monumental tombs of the pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings and Queens, is to be told.

The itinerary leads the audience to discoverancient Egypt and its imagery through the material expressions of a complex and articulated world: from the tools of daily use to the pomp and sacredness of the pharaohs. Over the centuries, their tombs have preserved the objects, memory and splendor of this ancient civilization thousands of years old. The exact location of the royal burials was secret, known only to the priests, in order to guard and protect the remains and great wealth of the rulers during their journey to the afterlife. For this reason, the workers and their families lived isolated from the rest of society in a small village, now known as Deir el-Medina, nestled among the rocky hills a short distance from the royal necropolis on the opposite bank of the Nile from Thebes. Thanks to the ingenuity and work of the inhabitants of Deir el-Medina, the very idea we have of ancient Egypt was shaped. The exhibition then takes visitors on an ideal journey, from the Palladian Basilica, at the center of Vicenza today, to the monumental Thebes of 3300 years ago, and then across the Nile to the small village of Deir el-Medina, to discover the city of the dead and a fantastic afterlife, created by the patient and expert work of the men in the service of the pharaoh.

The itinerary unfolds inside the Palladian Basilica among a wide selection of about two hundred artifacts from the Egyptian Museum and a group of about twenty works on loan from the Louvre in Paris, from the smallest or most precious objects to sarcophagi and monumental statues. A series of multimedia installations accompany the visitors’ experience, breaking and expanding the boundaries of material culture: objects physically present are virtually reunited with their history and original context, now lost.

The exhibition is divided into interconnected themes. The space under the vault of the Basilica is divided into two large sections: a first part illustrating the earthly life and creation of these millennia-old masterpieces, and a second dedicated to life after death.

The first stop on the journey is Thebes, the monumental city that expanded on the east bank of the Nile, home of the great temples and capital of the New Kingdom for nearly three centuries. Here one encounters large sculptural groups of rulers and monumental statues of deities with attributes from the animal world.

While the eastern bank welcomed the city of the living, the opposite bank, where the sun sets, housed the vast city of the dead: all the tombs, places of worship dedicated to the dead and, above all, the great funerary temples of the pharaohs. The exhibition route moves, therefore, to the western shore to the hidden village of Deir el-Medina, protected by the goddess-serpent Meretseger and located at the foot of the great pyramidal mountain, in whose belly the tombs of the Valley of the Kings were excavated. The exhibition recounts in detail the construction process of the pharaoh’s tomb, whose long and demanding construction combined different skills and spheres: symbolic aspects and technical issues, religious worship and organization of labor. In addition to tools and implements, one can admire the papyri that conveyed the wisdom of these men, with plans and descriptions of buildings and design studies.

This focus is followed by an in-depth look at the daily life of the workers, craftsmen and scribes who inhabited those places, devoting themselves to the creation and preparation of the sumptuous tombs of the rulers. The scenes painted on the walls of the tombs and the artifacts unearthed represent the pieces of a complex mosaic, giving us insight into the way of life of these men, made up of craftsmanship and technique handed down, but also of colors, prayers and songs, as evidenced by the decorated stelae and ostraka (fragments of vases or stone chips), as well as some very rare musical instruments, from both the Egyptian Museum and the Louvre. Other objects, such as the decorative element of a carved and painted wooden sedan chair, testify to the affluence and luxury in which some members of the Deir el-Medina community lived. After exploring aspects of the earthly world, visitors are greeted by the anthropoid sarcophagus of Khonsuirdis and cross the threshold of the second part of the exhibition, devoted to the journey of the deceased into the afterlife. Here they are led along a path that tells the story of the preparation of body and soul for eternal life, from the making of the splendid painted sarcophagi to the composition of the funerary accoutrements. A selection of objects from Queen Nefertari’s rich burial trousseau is accompanied by fascinating turquoise faience artifacts, such as the Louvre bowl or Pharaoh Seti I’s ushabti, the little servants who were supposed to ease her labors in the afterlife.

The path leads to the find that, perhaps more than others, inspires deep reflection on the life-death dichotomy: the mummy with sarcophagus of Tariri. As a final counterpoint, this material journey into the realm of the dead culminates in the immersive immaterial experience that tells the story of the burial of the scribe Butehamon and the deceased’s final journey. Visitors walk through a videomapping installation built on the 3D-printed reproduction of his great sarcophagus, which reveals the secrets it contained and brings to life the tale of this incredible find.

For info: exhibitionsinbasilica.it

Hours: Daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Mondays.

A major exhibition on ancient Egypt at the Basilica Palladiana: 200 artifacts from the Egyptian Museum and the Louvre
A major exhibition on ancient Egypt at the Basilica Palladiana: 200 artifacts from the Egyptian Museum and the Louvre

Warning: the translation into English of the original Italian article was created using automatic tools. We undertake to review all articles, but we do not guarantee the total absence of inaccuracies in the translation due to the program. You can find the original by clicking on the ITA button. If you find any mistake,please contact us.