Monday, January 26, 2015



Founded by Gregory XVI Cappellari (1831/46) in 1839

Organized according to the instructions of the Italian Egyptologist, Father Luigi Maria Ungarelli, a follower of Jean-François Champollion, the French archaeologist father of Egyptology, the first to decipher the hieroglyphs in 1822

The museum is housed in the Palace of Innocent VIII built in about 1487 by Giacomo da Pietrasanta as the Gregorian Etruscan Museum. The objects come from Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli and from Rome as well as from Syria, Mesopotamia and Palestine. The current exhibition was designed by the French Egyptologist Jean-Claude Grenier

The entrance is in the middle of the SIMONETTI STAIRCASE so called because designed by Michelangelo Simonetti (1724/87)

Room I - Stelae and statues with hieroglyphic inscriptions from 2600 BC to 600 AD


The inscription painted by father Ungarelli on the frame of the room says: “Come and see the room of Egyptian images”

At the center of the room “Throne with part of a statue of Ramses II” 1279/1213 BC in black granite from Heliopolis

“Funerary stele as a fake door” of Ipy-her-seneb-ef, VI Dynasty, about 2300 BC

“Funerary stele as a fake door of Iry” director of the Giza Necropolis connected to the pharaoh Cheops, about 2550/2525 BC, in limestone

“The fake door, which is development of one of the oldest customs of placing the stele framed in a palace façade, would have been used by the soul of the deceased to enter and exit from the real of the dead. In this case, the funerary stele itself is framed in a panel above the lintel of the fake door. Iry, administrator of the pharaonic necropolis of Giza, is shown seated in front of the banquet table” (Web site of the Vatican Museums -

“Commemorative stele of Queen Hatshepsut and Pharaoh Tuthmosis III” about 1475/58 BC. It was made to mark the commemoration of the god Ammon in the sacred precincts of the Temple of Karnak in the city of Thebes

“Scarab” in memory of the excavation of a reservoir during the reign of Amenophis III, about 1380 BC

“Cartouche of Akhenaton” of the Amarna age, fourteenth century BC

“Statue of the priest Udja-Hor-res-ne” about 519 BC in dark green basalt with inscriptions that may refer to the Persian conquest of Egypt by Cambyses of the late sixth century BC during the reign of the last pharaoh of the Saite dynasty

The phases of the Persian conquest have been partially rediscovered thanks to these inscriptions

Udja-Hor-res-he was a priest, an admiral and a doctor and the inscription is autobiographical as well as self-celebrating, remembering his political role during the invasion. Recently his tomb was discovered at Abusir

Room II - 1600 BC/200 AD


Commemorative inscription of Gregory XVI painted by father Ungarelli

“Mask lid of the sarcophagus of the priest Psammetichus” from Memphis, XXVI dynasty, about 600 BC

In the central showcase sarcophagi (coffins and lids) in plastered and painted wood with representations of gods and reproductions of texts of the Book of the Dead, dating to the XXI and XXV dynasty

In the side opposite the entrance there are “Two mummies” and other typical funerary vessels as the “Canopic jars” designed to contain the viscera of the deceased extracted during the mummification of the bodies

Extraordinary “Lady of the Vatican” painted on linen cloth mid-third century AD

It is part of a series of six sheets found in 1899 by Albert Gayet in some old tombs of Severian age (193/235 AD) in the necropolis of Antinoe, the Egyptian city founded in 130 AD by Adrian (117/138) in memory of his lover Antinous, currently corresponding to the village of Sheikh 'Abade (near the Red Sea)

Four of the six canvases are at the Louvre in Paris and the Benakis Museum in Athens, but the Lady of the Vatican is the most precious among the six
They are the oldest extant paintings on canvas in the world
The Lady of the Vatican has been restored and exhibited in 2000 in an air-conditioned showcase
“For the Greeks as well as for the Romans the true great art was painting, rather than sculpture. Greek-Roman art, in the collective imagination of today, is associated mostly to sculpture, as the number of paintings preserved is far lower than that of sculpture” (Eugenio La Rocca)

“Portrait of a Young Man on tablet” one of the about 600 portraits on wood found in the oasis of Fayum 130 km southwest of Cairo

“The Fayum paintings are a testament of the significant degree of sophistication of the Alexandrian school, from which their tradition derives, and show us the degree of accuracy that the artists used to reach in representing nature. It is only fifteen centuries later, in the faces painted by Titian or Rembrandt's self-portraits made using the mirror, that once again the same artistic skill of the anonymous painters of the Fayum is reached. In addition to the Greek tradition of painting which, according to sources, reached its zenith at the time of Apelles in the fourth century BC, there is the Egyptian influence (...). These two influences, the sophistication of the first and the intensity of the second, combined to produce moments of supreme beauty and unsettling intensity, in the paintings that have survived” (Euphrosyne C. Doxiadis)

“Sarcophagus and lid of Dejet-Mut” about 1000 BC from Thebes

“Sarcophagus of wood plastered and painted that belonged to the priestess Djet-Mut called 'wet-nurse of the god Montu', the god of war. Like some others of the same period this sarcophagus preserved at the museum comes from the vast necropolis of Deir el-Bahri, near Thebes, used by members of the upper middle class of Egyptian society” (Web site of the Vatican Museums -

“Mummy of Deir el-Bahri in the sarcophagus” about 1000 BC from Thebes

“The practice of mummification reached its peak among the lower middle class of Egyptian society at the time of the XX-XXI dynasties (1200-950 BC), as evidenced by the one in question belonging to a large group of mummies placed in mass-produced stuccoed and painted coffins, found in the Necropolis of Deir el-Bahri in Thebes. It is a male mummy still wrapped in its linen shroud on which some ornaments remained stuck (on the chest there is a net with beads of paste blue glass)” (Web site of the Vatican Museums -

In the side showcases:

“53 Ushebti figurines of the priest of Amon Djet-Khonsu” XXI dynasty, about 1000 BC

Objects of everyday use: box, head restraints, paddle, fan, sandals and wicker basket, 1300 BC, XX dyn.

“Model of boat” 2000 BC XII dynasty, from Thebes

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