In 2024, the NGV will partner with the British Museum to present Pharaoh, a landmark exhibition that celebrates three thousand years of ancient Egyptian art and culture. Through more than 500 works, including monumental sculpture, architecture, temple statuary, exquisite jewellery, papyri, coffins and a rich array of funerary objects, the exhibition will unpack the phenomenon of pharaoh, those all-powerful kings claiming a divine origin.
The exhibition comprises seven thematic sections that explore the pharaoh’s roles and duties, including as the high priest officiating in temples, the head of the country’s administration, the leader of the army and the head of the royal family. The pharaohs were responsible for protecting Egypt against its enemies and ensuring universal order; they ruled the Two Lands – Upper and Lower Egypt – from the 1st Dynasty (c. 3000 BCE) until the Roman conquest in 30 BCE.
From imagery on rings, bracelets and personal treasures, to statues and monuments of colossal scale, the pharaohs presented an idealised image of themselves as invincible warriors and fervent worshippers of the gods, who held a unique position as intermediaries between these divine beings and the rest of humanity. Nevertheless, behind these idealised representations the reality of kingship was much more complex. Not all the pharaohs were male, or even Egyptian. Despite the king’s supreme status as ruler over all, Egypt was periodically wracked by civil war, conquered by foreign powers and even ruled by competing kings. Through a carefully curated selection of exceptional works, Pharaoh will explore the realities, mythologies and iconographies of kingship in ancient Egypt.
Melbourne Winter Masterpieces 2024 – Pharaoh Exhibition
14 June – 6 October 2024
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne