Baltimore—The Walters Art Museum presents Egypt’s Mysterious Book of the Faiyum, Sunday, October 6, 2013–Sunday, January 5, 2014. The exhibition will be the first devoted to the Book of the Faiyum, an elaborately illustrated and miraculously well-preserved papyrus from ancient Egypt, measuring almost twenty feet long. For the first time in more than 150 years, major sections owned by the Walters Art Museum and the Morgan Library & Museum, New York, that have been separated since the papyrus was divided and sold in the 19th century will be reunited. The book provides valuable evidence of cultural, intellectual, and religious life in ancient Egypt.
“This exhibition reveals a different side of ancient Egypt, beyond pharaohs, mummies and pyramids,” said Marden Nichols, assistant curator of ancient art. “The hundreds of gods and sacred places represented in the Book of the Faiyum offer a window into local beliefs in a unique ancient Egyptian place.”
The Book of the Faiyum celebrates the crocodile god Sobek and his special relationship with the Faiyum region, an oasis in the desert to the west of the Nile. The centerpiece of the papyrus is a map-like representation of Lake Moeris, the source of prosperity in the Faiyum region and a major habitat for crocodiles. The exhibition brings together a number of rare depictions of the Egyptian crocodile god Sobek, drawn from prestigious museum collections.
Nearly 100 works of ancient Egyptian art, including relief sculptures, statues, and ritual objects, will illuminate the book’s religious context. Over the course of many centuries, ancient Egyptians depicted the gods and myths seen in the Book of the Faiyum countless times. Stories of divine creation and the sun god’s nightly regeneration, featured prominently in the papyrus, frequently appeared in ancient Egyptian art. Yet the complex imagery of the Book of the Faiyum continues to challenge scholars today. The exhibition will encourage visitors to reflect on the mysteries surrounding this papyrus, including why it was made and for whom.
Egypt’s Mysterious Book of the Faiyum will travel to the Roemer- und Pelizaeus-Museum in Hildesheim, Germany.
The exhibition has been generously supported by grants from The Selz Foundation, the Women’s Committee of the Walters Art Museum, Transamerica, the John J. Leidy Foundation and by gifts from Frances and Rick Rockwell, Doug and Tsognie Hamilton/Hamilton Associates, the Peter Bowe and Barbara Stewart Fund, Nancy and Henry Hopkins, Diana and Frederick Elghanayan, and an anonymous donor.