Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Egyptian objects before Egyptology

Brooklyn Museum (Tom Hardwick)

My work in the Wilbour Library involves keeping an eye out for books the Library needs, and carrying out archival research into the history of the Egyptian collections in support of the Library’s educational mission. In the Library’s Special Collections I’ve been particularly intrigued by a small group of eighteenth century drawings of Egyptian objects. These were probably made by the German artist Johann Justin Preissler (1698-1771), and provide a rare glimpse into early studies of Egyptian objects.

At the time Preissler made his drawings, Egypt was an inaccessible, mysterious land. Few objects were held in Western museums or collections, and hieroglyphic inscriptions could not be read. Preissler’s drawings are of interest not only because they record objects that may now be lost or damaged, but also because they show how these Egyptian objects appeared to an eighteenth century eye.

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