Al-Ahram Weekly Online   9 - 15 December 2010
Issue No. 1026
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

In celebration of Coptic art

An exhibition showing the splendour of Coptic art and the Copts' contribution to Egypt's heritage is the highlight of the Coptic Museum centenary exhibition, says Nevine El-Aref

The first ever locally curated exhibition on Coptic art was unveiled to the public yesterday, when the open courtyard of the Amir Taz palace in the district of Al-Khalifa hosted dozens of Islamic and Coptic religious leaders, official guests, journalists and photographers at the grand opening of the Coptic Art Revealed exhibition.

On show are 205 artefacts from the Coptic Period that have been especially selected to celebrate the centennial of the Coptic Art Museum. The museum was founded in 1910 by an influential Copt, Marcus Pasha Simaika, who established it next to the famous Hanging Church in Old Cairo. The Coptic Art Museum was renovated by the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and reopened in 2006.

Culture Minister Farouk Hosni said Coptic Art Revealed was the first locally- curated exhibition on Coptic art. It focuses on the splendours of the Coptic era and highlights the Copts' outstanding contribution to Egypt's diverse and rich heritage. The exhibition includes several painted icons by renowned artists as well as beautiful textiles; illuminated manuscripts; an excerpt from the famous Nagaa Hammadi scrolls; stone and wooden friezes with intricate Coptic designs and splendid objects for daily use.

"To illuminate the Egypt of Late Antiquity, the SCA is going to send the exhibition to other cities in Egypt and abroad," SCA Secretary-General Zahi Hawass said. He told Al-Ahram Weekly that the exhibition was divided into eight sections, each relating a themes: the Holy Family in Egypt; the survival of old religions; the early years of Christianity; the Desert Fathers and the establishment of the first monasteries; sacred spaces; biblical stories; the Coptic liturgy and objects of daily life.

The exhibition, Hawass continued, shows the geographical setting of the Coptic era by displaying a map where important religious and economic centres throughout the eastern Mediterranean region were located. Renowned monasteries and towns in Egypt during the Late Antiquity Period are also shown on the map.

Nadja Tomoum, the exhibition's creator and director, said that objects displayed were carefully selected from several museum collections in Egypt. They included treasures from the Coptic Museum's storage department and significant artworks from its permanent display, as well as pieces from the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation in Fustat and the Museum of Islamic Art in Bab Al-Khalq. Items from the National Museum, the Graeco- Roman Museum and the Museum of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria were also selected, as well as others from the Beni Sweif and Arish museums.

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