Ramses and the Gold of the Pharaohs exhibition: Egyptian treasures to discover in Paris

Ramses and the Gold of the Pharaohs exhibition: Egyptian treasures to discover in Paris

Ramses II or Psusennes I? To which of these pharaohs is the exhibition at the Grande Halle de La Villette, in Paris, actually dedicated? Because contrary to what its title suggests, few pieces dating from the famous “sun king” of the 19th dynasty who reigned over Egypt between 1305 and 1213 BC are presented to the public. By paying the entrance fee – €24 – visitors should be aware that they are going to see above all what the subtitle of the poster indicates: the gold of the pharaohs.

Because if Ramses II built enormously and had many monuments painted to his glory, many other sovereigns succeeded him for even more than a millennium… Diverting, recovering his objects, reusing the blocks of stone and the sculptures of its capital, Pi-Ramses (current Qantir), in the Nile delta, now silted up, to build another royal city: Tanis. While in the Valley of the Kings, in Upper Egypt, his tomb was plundered at the end of the 20th Dynasty. A “relief coffin” had to be made for him, moved three times to other graves, then a hiding place, in order to preserve him! The very one which is presented as one of the “nails” of the exhibition, in a very beautiful cedar wood and on which inscriptions relate all these movements.

Sumptuous jewelry

So much so that unlike Tutankhamun, the great Ramses did not leave a funerary treasure. On the other hand, in the necropolis of Tanis, in 1940, a French archaeologist discovered a fabulous set of precious objects, but belonging to obscure pharaohs, including Psusennes I. Never mind! The private promoters of this exhibition brought the two together. The thread of the exhibition therefore proves to be inconsistent, the showcases floating in huge rooms, poorly “furnished” by “American-style” audiovisuals. But an interesting model of the temple of Abou Simbel makes it possible to apprehend the role of builder of Ramsès II. Its warlike and diplomatic impact is also well explained. And we will admire without hesitation the very beautiful pieces – especially sumptuous jewels and royal statues – sometimes never before leaving Egypt.

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