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 The 2024 Winter Masterpieces exhibition is titled Pharoah and will be highlighted by more than 500 pieces on loan from the British Museum. | Source: The British Museum
The 2024 Winter Masterpieces exhibition is titled Pharoah and will be highlighted by more than 500 pieces on loan from the British Museum. | Source: The British Museum

History in the making: Australia to showcase Ancient Egyptian jewellery

The National Gallery of Victoria has confirmed a blockbuster exhibition next year, showcasing jewellery from Ancient Egypt.

The 2024 Winter Masterpieces exhibition is titled Pharoah and will be highlighted by more than 500 pieces on loan from the British Museum.

Beginning in June, this exhibition will be the largest international loan the London-based museum has ever undertaken.

Dr Marie Vandenbeusch, British Museum curator
Dr Marie Vandenbeusch, British Museum curator
"We’re refining our understanding of that layer [craftsman] of the population, trying to understand what they believed and their connection to all those objects."
Dr Marie Vandenbeusch, British Museum

International touring exhibitions curator Dr Marie Vandenbeusch said that the exhibition paints a vivid picture of life for Egypt’s wealthy elite and the artisans crafting their possessions.

“It’s very dry land [in Egypt], and quite a lot of the tombs were buried in the desert. This gives us access to the bodies of ancient people, but also furniture, clothing and food. You have monumental architecture, and of course, you have writing. It gives us a unique perspective,” she told The Guardian.

“We’re refining our understanding of that layer [craftsman] of the population, trying to understand what they believed and their connection to all those objects.”

For Australian ‘egyptology’ fans, the Australian Museum in Sydney will launch the Ramses and the Gold of the Pharaohs exhibition in November, displaying 181 ‘priceless artefacts’.

Pharaoh, the Winter Masterpieces exhibition, begins on 14 June and concludes on 6 October at the National Gallery of Victoria.

Controversy continues

While the British Museum’s loan to the National Gallery of Victoria will generate excitement locally; internationally, the scandal surrounding the theft of jewellery and gemstones from the institution has continued.

In recent weeks, the British Museum has faced an uphill battle to repair its international reputation as a custodian of priceless jewellery, with a suspected 2,000 items stolen over a 20-year period.

Author Nikki Gemmell recently called for the return of Australian ‘treasures’ held at the museum, suggesting their safety could not be assured. 

“The lack of care, the arrogance, the brushing-off in this sorry tale of greed and neglect is gobsmacking. This is the institution that tells other nations, imperiously, that their precious objects are safer with them than the country of origin,” Gemmell wrote in The Australian.

“Several thousand objects have been stolen from the basement repositories of the museum, over decades. Gems, glassware and jewellery from Greek and Roman times; some of it popping up on eBay for a fraction of what it’s worth, some of it damaged, some melted down. That’s right, lost forever to the host nation, the nation of origin, and the world.”

Vandenbeusch addressed the controversy, suggesting that “there are no contested pieces” in the exhibition that will be on display at the National Gallery of Victoria next year.

Ancient Egyptian jewellery

Copyright: The British Museum

Ivory label with King Den, Abydos, Egypt.

Plaque of Amenemhat IV, probably Byblos, Lebanon.

Statue of Amun-Ra, Thebes, Egypt.

Gold amulet from the pyramid of Queen Amanishakheto, Meroe.

Gold amulet pendant Anubis, Egypt.

Gold pectoral flying hawk, Egypt.

Glazed composition heart scarab chest ornament, Memphis, Egypt.

Glazed composition open-work broad collar necklace, Egypt.

Cowrie-shell bead necklace, Thebes, Egypt.

Ornament of a winged scarab holding a sun-disc, Thebes, Egypt.

Mosaic glass slice ornament, Egypt.

More reading
British Museum’s reputation challenged over jewellery theft
Jewellery and gemstones stolen from British Museum
Sentences handed down for Green Vault jewellery heist
Stolen Cambodian royal jewellery discovered in London
Long-lost jewellery discovered in shark-infested waters
Millions in jewellery mysteriously missing
Digging up jewellery: How ancient artisans help map human history

 











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