Passing through Doors in Egypt and Transitioning Realities
In the ancient Egyptian language, “gates of heaven” referred to the doors on a sacred shrine holding the statue of a god. Opening these doors brought the divine world into contact with the human one, an act that enabled the Universe to perpetuate itself by renewing the process of creation. It also allowed humans to glimpse an image of an ineffable reality. Closing the doors was merely the prelude to another, future rebirth; in the meantime, the god returned to the shadowy Beyond, withdrawing his image from human sight.
Egyptians felt that certain places acted, in a way, as replicas of these shrines containing divine statues. These places were therefore endowed with doors — actual or false — which represented the transition between physical and mental realities. This exhibition focuses on four of these realities: the ordered Universe, the Beyond, the tomb chapel, and the temple forecourt. Objects designed to depict these worlds or to be placed within them reflect a complex logic that reveals the intricacy of Egyptian philosophy, far removed from our own rational, Cartesian way of thinking.
Egyptian imagery thus developed a rich visual rhetoric: evocations of the whole through depiction of a part; visual transpositions; overlapping effects; virtual reality; interplay between sound, text, and image; accumulation or synthesis of elements; ellipses; complementarity between two- and three-dimensional figures; and internal dynamics that evoke the equivalent of perpetual motion. This exhibition, featuring masterpieces and other works in French and European collections, offers a new analysis of ancient Egyptians’ visual and mental representations through an exploration of their rhetoric and a few aspects of the civilization that generated it.
as divine sanctuary
The Universe was conceived as an organized structure housing the gods and everything they created, reflecting a multi-faceted, complex creative process.
Nun, “father of the gods.” Nun existed before the world was created. It was a body of water that contained divine entities whose potential had not yet been realized. There was darkness, inertia, and chaos. Egyptian creation tales describe the transition from a formless state to a structured one, thanks the appearance of a solid area on the surface of Nun. This phenomenon triggered a dynamic that culminated in the construction of the Universe by one or several deities, at which point the primordial waters receded to the edge of perceptible reality. These waters continued to surround the created world, threatening to overwhelm it and return it to an inert state. The material and immaterial structure of the Universe thus served as a rampart to prevent this apocalyptic cataclysm.
A division of worlds. The few surviving Egyptian depictions of the Universe divide it into realms that more or less correspond to the nature of their inhabitants: the earth for living beings; the heavens for divine beings; and Duat, the Beyond, for deceased gods and humans. These realms were structurally interdependent, linked by passageways described as gates whether or not they could be crossed. Gods, kings and men worked jointly to insure the perpetuity of these realms, of everything found in them.
Gates of Heaven >
Mummy of a Cat, © 2000 Musée du Louvre / Georges Poncet, Organic materials, H.: 27 cm; W.: 6 cm; D.: 8 cm, Department of Egyptian Antiquities, Musée du Louvre, (N 2678).
Edward Steichen), Marion Morehouse and Helen Lyons, 1926, detail.
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Carlo Saraceni (c. 1580-1620), Venus and Mars, c. 1600, Oil on copper,, detail.
Works of Artists with a Pope as Their Patron
The power, politics and drama that surrounded papal patronage in 16th-century is revealed in an exhibition opening at National Gallery of Canada (NGC). From Raphael to Carracci: The Art of Papal Rome represents an unprecedented survey of art in this period.
Art of Papal Rome >>
of Artists who had the Papal See as Their Patron
The power, politics and drama that surrounded papal patronage in 16th-century Rome will be revealed in a magnificent new exhibition opening at the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) on May 29. From Raphael to Carracci: The Art of Papal Rome represents an unprecedented survey of art in this period.
This large international loan exhibition brings together over 150 exceptional paintings and drawings for the first time by celebrated artists such as Michelangelo, Titian, El Greco, Vasari, Barocci and Annibale Carracci. In addition, pieces by lesser known, but nonetheless superb artists are also included. They too played a significant role in the evolution of Renaissance Rome but have only recently been acknowledged and appreciated for their skill and relevance to art history during this period. Together they illustrate how papal patronage, which was driven by unrivalled ambition and the need to propagate their own belief system, gave rise to one of the richest periods in art history and the lasting legacy of some of the greatest artists in the world.
“An exhibition of this exceptional nature could not have been realized without the generosity and vision of institutional and individual lenders,” said NGC Director, Marc Mayer. “The vast majority of these works have been generously loaned to us by prestigious arts institutions and individual collectors throughout Europe and North America. Given their rarity, the Gallery is privileged to be the sole venue for this exhibition.”
Organized chronologically pope by pope, the exhibition commences with Julius II in 1503 and concludes with Clement VIII in 1606. Through their enlightened patronage they transformed Rome from a banal backwater to the most important and influential centre of the Renaissance and the unrivalled cultural capital of the western world for over three centuries. It shows Rome as an unpredictable European centre, deeply affected by shifting tides of patronage and tensions created between temporal and spiritual worlds.
“Even more than Michelangelo, Raphael exemplifies a new type of artist that developed Rome in this period,” said NGC Deputy Director and exhibition curator, David Franklin. “However, another purpose of this exhibition is to present Raphael’s ideal and elegant style as a source of inspiration to his many talented followers, as well as to portray him as a liberated master who gave birth to a seemingly endless variety of artistic forms. By concluding with the works of Annibale Carracci, we intend to examine more broadly the transitions of style known as High Renaissance, Mannerism and the Early Baroque.”
From Raphael to Carracci: The Art of Papal Rome is also a testament to the increasing strength of the National Gallery’s own collection of European art as this exhibition will feature 25 of its own pieces. Also displayed will be an oil sketch by Cristoforo Roncalli for his Saint Peter’s altarpiece entitled Death of Sapphira — a subject famously treated by Raphael.
Art of Papal Rome >
Raphael (1483-1520), Study for the Figure of Poetry, c. 1509-1510, detail, Black chalk on laid paper, stylus under-drawing, squared in black chalk, 32.7 × 22.7 cm. Royal Collection © 2008 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.