Sunday, January 6, 2013


Cleopatra, The Exhibition, at the California ScienCenter in Los Angeles is winding down after a very successful run. I was fortunate to get tickets for last Thursday, apparently the last days are sold out, even the gift shop had hardly anything left and there were no exhibition catalogs.

The exhibition is titled Cleopatra, even though there are no statues of her or any items that had belonged to her. The Romans destroyed everything pertaining to her after her defeat. There is one papyrus roll that she signed, in Greek, and is touted as an item touched by her hands. However, it is a very informative exhibition, the objects on view date from her lifetime, or around it, give or take a few centuries. The statue above is a statue of a queen, 3rd c. B.C. The masterful carving of the statue, the style of clothing and the type of knot on the shawl are details associated with Aphrodite.

There were coins, however, depicting her. The bronze coin above dates from her reign (51-30 B.C.)
She was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, a family of Greek origin that ruled Egypt after Alexander the Great's death. They spoke Greek and refused to speak Egyptian. Cleopatra, however, learned to speak Egyptian, one of the seven languages she spoke. Apparently she was not the ravishing beauty she has been depicted in more recent art and literature but seduced men, Caesar and Mark Antony among them, with her charm and intelligence.

Above is one of two sphinxes that guarded the temple of Isis at Cleopatra's palace. The head of this one resembles Cleopatra's father, King Ptolemy XII, who was also known as Auletes, "the flute player".

 Above is a Hemhem crown,  a triple rush crown set on spiraling ram's horns with a cobra in the middle.
Hemhem means "scream" or a "war cry".

One of the more striking statues is this one of Sarapis. He was a Ptolemaic invention, merging both Egyptian and Greek gods. The statue is from Canopus. Pilgrims traveled there from across the Mediterranean and spent the night sleeping outside Sarapis' temple, the Sarapeum, searching cures which were revealed in dreams interpreted by priests in the morning.

The immense wealth of the Egyptian pharaohs inspired awe and envy throughout the ancient world. As pharaoh, Cleopatra received a percentage of the assets of her subjects. Her lifestyle was opulent and luxurious. She ate and drank from plates and goblets made of pure gold, dressed herself in finest silks and adorned herself with magnificent jewelry, perhaps similar to the ones seen above and below.

Gold Bracelet with Lion Heads, 3rd c. B.C. Found at Bubastis, eastern Nile Delta, 1905.

Shown were also utilitarian items, such as the bronze ewer and the incense vessel, both from the Ptolemaic Period.

What a charming expression on this Gilded Mask. It is gypsum, glass, gold and limestone, 1st c. A.D.

The only description on this object was "Osiris-Canopus, Marble, 1st-2nd c. A.D., Canopus".
Osiris was the god of the afterlife, the underworld and the dead.
I liked it's reflections on the back wall. The exhibition was very crowded , the light level very low and it was virtually impossible to get decent pictures. Photography was allowed, without flash.

This Piece of Statue in granite from the Roman Period is a favorite of mine. I love the serenity and dignity of his expression.

This figure shows a Ptolemaic royal standing in a pose commonly seen in ancient Egyptian sculpture.
Interesting that the wall paintings and hieroglyphics show figures with head and legs from profile and the the torso from front, in very stylized, stiff postures but the statues are very realistic.

Cleopatra's palace was situated on Antirrhodus island in the great port of Alexandria. This statue of a temple priest with a jar representing the god Osiris stood before the temple of Isis at the palace. 

The exhibition certainly revived my interest in ancient Egypt and it's art and culture. Now I can't wait to go there.