Egypt unveiled

Image of box

Pharaoh at the National Gallery of Victoria

08 July 2024

In a spectacular celebration of ancient Egyptian art and culture, the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) has opened its doors to "Pharaoh," an extraordinary exhibition that transports visitors through three millennia of history. Launched on June 14, this Melbourne-exclusive presentation is set to captivate audiences until October 6. 

As part of the Victorian Government's Melbourne Winter Masterpieces series, Pharaoh stands as the most extensive ancient Egyptian exhibition ever mounted in Australia. Curated in collaboration with the British Museum, it showcases over 500 objects, many of which are making their Australian debut. This monumental collection represents the largest international exhibition the British Museum has presented in its illustrious 270-year history. 

The exhibition spans from the 1st Dynasty (c.3000 BCE) to the Roman period (3rd century CE), offering a comprehensive journey through the lives, myths, and images of Egypt's successive rulers. Visitors will encounter meticulously crafted examples of art, design, and architecture commissioned by and celebrating some of Egypt's most renowned pharaohs, including Tutankhamun, Ramses II, Queen Nefertari, and Khufu, the builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza. 

Among the exhibition's highlights are spectacular examples of sculpture and statuary that epitomise the iconic image of the pharaoh. A striking green siltstone Head of Thutmose III showcases the timeless representation of Egyptian royalty, while a larger-than-life limestone statue of Ramses II depicts the famous king as a high priest making offerings to the gods. The Seated statue of Pharaoh Sety II, considered the most complete sculpture of a pharaoh in the British Museum's collection, offers visitors a rare glimpse into the exceptional craftsmanship of ancient Egyptian sculptors. 

The grandeur of ancient Egypt is further evoked through monumental architecture, including a limestone wall from an Old Kingdom mastaba tomb standing nearly 2.5 metres high. An enormous granite statue of a lion, weighing approximately three tonnes, bears the cartouche of Tutankhamun, illustrating the importance of dynastic succession in ancient Egyptian culture. 

A unique feature of the exhibition is its comprehensive display of ancient Egyptian jewellery, comprising over 180 pieces. This collection, the largest loan of ancient Egyptian jewellery in the British Museum's history, reveals the sophisticated craftsmanship of Egyptian artisans through exquisite necklaces, amulets, girdles, and rings crafted from precious metals and semi-precious stones. 

The exhibition provides an immersive experience, with a contemporary layout and soundscape that evokes the timelessness of ancient Egypt. To complement the main exhibition, the NGV has curated "Ancient Egypt for Kids," a free exhibition introducing younger audiences to Egyptian art and culture through engaging, hands-on activities. 

As winter well and truly settles over Melbourne, Pharaoh offers visitors a unique opportunity to delve into the mysteries and marvels of ancient Egypt. With its unprecedented scale and scope, this exhibition is a landmark event in Australia's cultural calendar, promising to educate, inspire, and awe visitors of all ages.