The Egyptian Antiques of Brazil’s Masp Museum

The São Paulo Art Museum (Masp) has in its collection Egyptian archaeological items. The Masp has 22 Egyptian antiques, among them statues of gods, vases and fragments of items that are part of the history of the Arab country.

The objects were donated by Pietro Maria Bardi, who ran the museum for 40 years – from its establishment to the early 1990s -, and by his wife, architect Lina Bo Bardi, who designed the building of the museum.

Bardi was a specialist in art and acquired various small Egyptian items. According to the Masp registry, however, it is not known whether they were part of official archaeological excavations. The objects were donated to the museum in 1976.

The Masp has 8,000 items in its collection, and exhibition is rotating. The Egyptian items are currently not being shown to the public, but they have been exhibited various times since the 1970’s.

The Egyptian objects that are in the Masp collection are connected to the religious life of the former residents of the region. Most are from the period of around 1070 before Christ to the Roman Period.

One of them is a sculpture of a baboon, dated from 664 b.C. to 525 b.C., made out of polished diorite, a kind of granite rock. The object represents a sitting monkey, with his hands on his knees and tail lying beside his body.

The baboon, in reality, represents god Thot, who was to the ancient Egyptians, the god of the intellectual world. The Egyptians used to show their gods as animals. This was the so-called animalist art.

According to a study developed by the Masp, the sculpture was made at workshops connected to the Palace at the request of a high employee and then placed at a sanctuary dedicated to god Thot in Egypt.

Another Egyptian item at the Masp is the fragment of a tomb, originally from Thebes, dated from 1401 b.C. to 1391 b.C., that is 18 centimeters high and 15.5 cm wide.

The fragment made out of stucco, a kind of mortar, has a tempera painting in which a masculine figure is offering two drinking vases. The figure may be that of a cleric, according to the Masp.

Funeral statues are also included in the collection. They were placed on Egyptian tombs and showed images of the deceased in activities performed during his life. They served, in the Egyptian believe, to protect the deceased from compulsory labor in the world of the dead.

One of the Masp statues, in limestone, shows a mummified and bearded human figure, with a pickaxe in his left hand, a hoe in the right and a basket hanging from his shoulder. It is dated 712 b.C. to 332 b.C.

The objects also include an amulet representing god Horus, the god of youth and vigor, represented by a naked boy, a reliquary, also of Horus, an amulet of the sacred bull Apis, one of the ancient gods worshiped in Egypt, a human head in granite, of which there are not many references, a statue representing goddess Bastet, a feline goddess that protected fertility and the home.

There are also other items like a cultural vase, used as a container for liquids that was left close to tombs to quench the thirst of the dead, and part of a sistrum, an ancient musical instrument, similar to a rattle, that is still used by Egyptian and Ethiopian Copts.

According to information supplied by the Masp, for the time being there are no forecasts for exhibition of the Egyptian items. Bardi, who donated the items, was one of the founders of the museum, in 1947, together with Assis Chateaubriand, then owner of Diários Associados, a national communications network.

Bardi, who was Italian, was a journalist and an art critic in his country of origin. In Italy, he was the owner of Galleria dell’Esame and the director of Galleria d’Arte di Roma.

Bardi moved to Brazil in 1946, soon after marrying Lina, his second wife. Bardi published his 50th book in 1992, entitled "History of Masp" and withdrew from the museum in 1996, due to sickness. He passed away in 1999.

Anba – www.anba.com.br

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