Artscene By Richard Fitzwilliams
Tutankhamun: Treasures Of The Golden Pharaoh
At The SAATCHI GALLERY
At the end of this exhibition we are reminded that after his death Tutankhamun’s memory was erased and any mention of him was destroyed by his successors, as his father was Akhenaten, the sun god worshipper who was regarded as a heretic. It is therefore ironic that because of the fabulous treasures which were discovered in his tomb, by Howard Carter in 1922, he has become the most famous pharaoh of them all.
Tutankhamun’s tomb was prepared so the boy king went on a journey to immortality but it was one beset with dangers. The Gallery will play host to thousands of visitors, the staging here is far better than in the impersonal setting when I saw it in Paris, but it is perilously easy to get lost! However as we enter the exhibition the reproductions of wall murals are extremely colourful, the use of film is informative and, most importantly, the labelling is legible!
We are reminded that Egypt, at the time of Tutankhamun’s decade-long reign which began in 1336 BC, was the world’s foremost power. This warlike theme is stressed as the pharaoh was well equipped to defend himself during his journey in the afterlife, where he was both helped by friendly deities and threatened by malign forces.
The first object we view is his exquisitely decorated fan which shows him hunting ostriches. There is also a gilded wooden statue of him holding a harpoon indicating his alertness and the engravings on his bow case show his prowess as a warrior. There is a fascinating model of him riding a panther, who represents a goddess who protects the sun on its nocturnal journey. There is also a huge mace for use in combat, boomerangs to stun birds and weapons of war.
In the preparations for a rebirth after death, the ceremonial objects in the tomb are both all-important and glorious to behold. These include one of the two wooden Guardian statues of the King which originally flanked the entrance to his tomb as well as a series of necessities which he would need in the afterlife. There is also the elaborate gilded wooden statue shrine featuring him with his half-sister Ankhesenamun whom he married and the gilded, mesmerizingly gorgeous Wooden Hawk with Solar Disk. Climactically the vast statue of the boy king, later appropriated by others, is truly unforgettable.
There are 150 items on show here including symbols of kingship to preserve his status on his travels and these will be the last exhibits from his tomb to leave Egypt before a new Grand Egyptian Museum displays them permanently in Cairo after it opens next year. It is now believed that Tutankhamun was not murdered but died of natural causes. The predominance of gold, synonymous with eternal life, has always been a striking feature of these objects and their beauty and craftmanship have rightly become “such stuff as dreams are made on”.
Gold inlaid Canopic Coffinette of Tutankhamun – dedicated to Imseti and Isis. Credit IMG.
Gilded wood Hawk with Solar Disk. Credit Laboratoriorosso, Viterbo, Italy.