Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Melbourne Museum & Tutankhamun Exhibition


I have not been to Melbourne Museum for ages, not since the new building, constructed during the Kennett years, opened in 2000. I remember the occasion vividly as I’d had a tooth extracted in the morning and met friends at the Museum afterwards. I was somewhat dazed by the novocaine, but tottered around the museum, lingering longest at the Pharlap exhibit. In my student days I often visited his mounted hide at the old museum in Latrobe Street, so it was like greeting an old acquaintance.

Anyway that was not why it was so memorable. After leaving the museum on this occasion, I ambled towards home, via Smith Street in order to drop into the Smith Street TAB outlet and cash my winnings from the Melbourne Cup. Brew won that year and paid very handsomely. It was Oaks day, so I decided to reinvest some of my winnings on an Oaks trifecta. Still under the influence of novocaine, I dreamily chose three likely fillies. I stayed to watch the race, and blow me down, my trifecta was a winner, and paid a dividend of $650.00 when outsider Lovelorn romped home. My best win ever on the horses, considering my modest outlay.

Back to the present…

Melbourne today was bright and sunny with a temperature of 22°C, so sandals and tee-shirts were the go, as off I tripped to the museum, arriving in plenty of time for my pre-booked session at 12.30pm.

Today was seniors day, which I deliberately chose as there was less likelihood of school children swarming in droves and cluttering up the exhibition space.  My logic was spot on and my fellow attendees were generally in the older person category.

You have to queue behind a rope until you can enter, and then are presented with a video introduction, briefly outlining the historical period etc. Then the doors are opened and a light shines on a statue of Tutankhamun (something like the picture below).


Christ, I thought, I hope it’s not going to be dark all the way through. But my fears were unjustified, though the lighting in general was subdued, to enhance the atmosphere and highlight the ancient wonders of Egypt on display.

The exhibition, though principally revolving around the boy king, dedicated several rooms to his forebears.  The mummy cases of Queen Tjuyu and Amenhotep III were both on show. In case you don’t know, which I didn’t, these two were Tutakhamun’s  grand parents. Below is the funerary mask of Queen Tjuyu.


Akhenaten and Nefertiti were also covered. There was an exquisite carving of Nefertiti, which unfortunately was not available as a postcard.

After moving through the several rooms dedicated to Tut’s forebears, finally you reach the boy king’s realm. Most of the displays were of the artefacts found in the tomb. I was really taken with a small chair, simply ornamented in ebony and ivory, with lion’s feet (including claws), and a carving of a panther.

I must admit the workmanship on all the artefacts was first class and very beautiful. Below is funerary jar with lion recumbent.


There were about five rooms devoted to Tutankhamun, though it was disappointing that not one of his mummy cases was part of the exhibition.

It took about two hours to work through all the rooms, if you took the time to read the notes on each of the display cases. And as a bonus, I was able to recognise Tutankhamun’s two names in cartouche’s after watching a video lesson that was playing on the wall in one of the rooms.

It was an interesting and fascinating exhibition and I’m glad I took the effort to go, but I think the Art of Vienna show at the Gallery was better overall.


Ann O'Dyne said...

Thanks for the preview - I am going on the 18th with another blogger.

The funerary carving is lovely but why am I now worrying about the poor elephant suppling the ivory?

and Phar Lap ? cannot even think about him with getting emotional.

maybe you should hit-up the novocaine before every wager?

Anne S said...

Ann, regarding the carving on the funerary jar, it is calcite, not ivory. The little chair with lion's feet had strips of ivory and ebony on the back rest.

most of the carvings were in woood or calcite with semi precious stones, so I don't think you'll be much disturbed by thoughts of animal cruelty.

Clare Dudman said...

What a great write-up! Very interesting - and I have to say I do like Ann O'Dyne's recommendation as regards the novocaine - very funny. Amazing win!

Beautiful pieces, and incredible to think they were made so long ago.

The museums over here tend to make their 'special' exhibitions theatrically dark too. I can see why, but I do find it a little tiring. It's a little like going to see a film in the afternoon. My brain has become convinced it is now night, and spends the rest of the day in shock.

Anne S said...

Clare, glad you enjoyed my review.

Apropos my win on the Oaks trifecta, I noticed that a son of Lovelorn, called Bereft, won on Saturday. If I'd studied the form properly, I would surely have a a had a bet on him.

As for novocaine - if only it was available, despite its nasty side effect. The idea is to get oneself into the same state of mind without drugs - occasionally achievable.