Shadow of the Sphinx

Ancient Egypt and Its Influence
June 17 - December 2, 2012


Lead Corporate Sponsor:
Adirondack Financial Services, Corp.

The Arthur Foundation
Dr. and Mrs. Raouf Kodsy and Family

Exhibition Organized with the Collabroration of the
Dahesh Museum of Art, New York City

Members Preview Celebration of the Exhibition Shadow of the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt and its Influence Photos

Mummy Dearest by The Wall Street Journal. Arts & Entertainment

Since the dawn of recorded time, no civilization has mesmerized and influenced the world like Ancient Egypt. This fascinating culture and its impact will be explored in the exhibition, Shadow of the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt and Its Influence.







With the promise to serve the dead in their eternal life, ancient Egyptian artworks have mystified Western artists for centuries. Major historic events mark westerners affair with Egyptian cultureNapoleons campaigns from 1798-1801, the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, and the relocation of the obelisks Cleopatras Needles in London in 1878 and New York Citys Central Park in 1881. When King Tuts tomb was opened in 1922, the obsession with all-things-Egyptian exploded.


From the simple lines of ancient hieroglyphs to gilded mummy masks, Shadow of the Sphinx will present ancient Egyptian works never before brought together from private collections and museums. The exhibition will examine the varied and tremendous inspiration Egyptian artifacts have had on fine and decorative arts for more than 100 years.






Brooch, ca. 1925
United States Diamonds, rubies, sapphires, faience, gold, platinum Vartanian & Sons, Inc.

Aegis Amulet with the Head of a Feline Goddess Late Ptolemaic Period 66430 B.C. Egyptian Faience
Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gift of Helen Miller Gould; 10.130.2055


The Ancient Wold


The ancient tomb relics on view in Shadow of the Sphinx include a sarcophagus that features colorful figures and hieroglyphs, a selection of gilded and linen and plaster mummy masks, a canopic jar, and shabtythe statues that would serve as laborers in the afterlife. These artworks will familiarize visitors with the imagery that permeates Egyptian-inspired paintings, sculpture and decorative arts from the 19th and early 20th centuries.




Coffin, Egyptian, 525 BC-343 BC
wood, plaster, pigment.
Collection of the Michael C. Carlos
Museum Emory University, Atlanta
Photo by Peter Harholdt.

Ernst Karl Eugen Koerner (German, 1846-1927),
The Temple of Karnak, The Great Hypostyle Hall, 1890, oil on canvas.
Collection of the Dahesh Museum of Art.




Mummy Portrait Mask (detail)
Egyptian, Greco-roman period, 332BC-395 AD. Plaster, pigment, gold.
Robert J. Hubbard Collection
Cazenovia Public Library
Cazenovia, New York.
Photograph by Richard Walker.





The numerous scholars and scientists who traveled with Napoleon recorded ancient riches, architecture and culture. The richly illustrated multi-volume book Description de lgypte, printed between 1809 and 1829, helped spark Europes and Americas abiding curiosity of Egyptian culture. Many pages of this rare document will be included in the exhibition, thanks to a generous loan from the Dahesh Museum of Art.


During the 19th century, encounters with exotic cultures usually referred to the Islamic lands in North Africa, including Egypt. Painters traveled to these areas and a stunning array of exotic landscapes, depictions of ancient ruins, city scenes, and portraits from the Dahesh Museum will be lent to the exhibition. Many of the works, such asErnst Karl Eugen Koerner's (German, 1846-1927), The Temple of Karnak, The Great Hypostyle Hall, 1890, captivated viewers with colorful details of renowned ancient ruins. Some artists romanticized ancient figures. Frederick Arthur Bridgemanss histrionic Cleopatra on the Terraces of Philae (1896) epitomizes the wistful versions of history that became incorporated into 19th-century popular culture and 20th-century movies









Baboon Image
Egyptian, Old Kingdom
Collection of
Sands of Time Ancient Art.


Ring, Egyptian, 18th dynasty,
carnelian, faience, and gold.
Collection of
Sands of Time Ancient Art.



Necklace, French, c, 1895,diamonds, rubies, sapphires, demantoid garnets, carnelian, faience, enamel, platinum, gold.The collection of Ronald Kawitzky/D.K. Bressler & Co., Inc.


Jewels of the Nile


The journey of exploration continues as Shadow of the Sphinx presents ancient jewelry and the interpretations it inspired thousands of years later. An ancient broad collar of colorful beads, a silver snake-form bracelet, vivid scarabs, and gold amulets are treasures brought to Europe and America as souvenirs and for museum collections. These precious objects inspired celebrated jewelers to create extraordinary artworks such as the jewels by Tiffany & Co.a gold snake-form bracelet, precious stone necklace, and diamond encrusted pharaohs head-motif broochincluded in Shadow of the Sphinx. Renowned jeweler Cartier likewise made a glamorous Egyptian-style jewelry for their clientele, such as a faence-and-diamond encrusted brooch in the exhibition. The ornate and colorful costume jewelry that will be on view is what graced those of more moderate incomes.


One could ornament herself like an Egyptian queen or decorate a home in Egyptian style. Fine decorative arts were produced with Egyptian motifs, ranging from accurate to imaginative. Included in the exhibition are ornate silver objects in the forms of sphinxes and Egyptian figures, elaborate glassware, gilded furniture, colorful porcelains, and glass and enamel creations by Louis C. Tiffany.




Pair Two-Handled Vases, ca. 1870, French, porcelain, painted and gilded.
Courtesy of Hirchl and Adler Galleries, New York, New York.


Egypt in Popular Culture

The lure of Egypt permeated all the arts, as illustrated by the dynamic graphics of sheet music covers and colorful movie posters featured in Shadow of the Sphinx. From the glamorous Claudette Colbert in Cecil B. DeMilles 1934 version of Cleopatra to the alluring Elizabeth Taylor version of the role in 1963 to the cursed mummies in more recent films, movie posters the eclectic and imaginary version of Egypt presented by Hollywood.

Munson-Williams-Proctor is the only venue for Shadow of the Sphinx, which will be on view through December 2, 2012, in the Museum of Art.
The exhibition is organized with the collaboration of the Dahesh Museum of Art, New York City.


Mantle Garniture (clock and obelisks), ca. 1880, French, made for Tiffany & Co. (New York, New York),
slate, marble, bronze, brass, wood, and glass.
Collection of Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute Museum of Art, Utica, New York.


Cleopatra Move Poster, 1934.
Private Collection







New York State Council on the Arts with the support of
Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

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