Erin Petersen

The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt comes to MPM

By - Jul 13th, 2011 04:00 am
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Cleopatra-Milwauke-Public-Museum-Copyright- Franck Goddio- Hilti Foundation

“Statue of a Queen” photo by Christoph Gerigk.

The legend of Cleopatra, Egypt’s last Pharoah and one of history’s most enigmatic figures, has captivated historians, artists and archaeologists for centuries. From her rise to power in Ancient Egypt to her untimely death, the infamous queen has been the subject of countless films, books and studies. Known for her matchless beauty and rapier wit, Cleopatra ascended to power in 51 B.C., ruling  for two decades in Alexandria, the center of culture and commerce in the ancient world.

Beginning in October, Milwaukeeans have a rare opportunity to view ancient artifacts that offer insights into the life and times of the remarkable leader as the Milwaukee Public Museum opens Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt, showcasing of wealth of ancient artifacts that have never been seen before in the U.S. Milwaukee marks the third stop on the exhibition’s tour.

“Cleopatra is one of the most enigmatic figures in history, and this exhibition does a wonderful job of exploring who she really was, and depicting the political upheaval that shaped her life. We’re very pleased to be working with such a stellar team in bringing this exhibit to Milwaukee,” says MPM’s president and CEO Jay Williams.

Organized by National Geographic and Arts & Exhibitions International, the exhibition features items excavated from sites near the former Ptolemaic seat of power as well as artifacts recovered from the Bay of Aboukir. Working in tandem with the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities and the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology (IEASM), archaeologists have discovered nearly 150 artifacts from Cleopatra’s reign.

Headless-Ptolemaic-Queen-Copyright- Franck Goddio- Hilti Foundation

“Statue of Ptolemaic Queen” from the 3rd Century BC. Photo by Christoph Gerigk.

Guided by a free audio tour (narrated in the “voice of Cleopatra” no less), visitors are led through eight galleries, exploring ancient cities, the allure of Cleopatra and the search for her mysterious and long-lost tomb.

The pieces in the exhibition are the fruits of two separate expeditions – one on land and one at sea. Dr. Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s pre-eminent archaeologist and Minister of State for Antiquities, began his search for the queen’s tomb (where she was buried with her lover, Mark Antony) in 2005. Though the location of the tomb still eludes him, coins, statues and shafts have been recovered, leading the team ever-closer to what will be one of history’s greatest discoveries.

Off of Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, French underwater archaeologist and director of IEASM Franck Goddio is bringing pieces of Cleopatra’s legacy to the surface. In expeditions dating back to the early 1990s, Goddio has uncovered Cleopatra’s royal palace and the two ancient cities of Canopus and Heracleion, which until 10 years ago had been lost beneath the sea after a series of earthquakes and tidal waves nearly 2,000 years ago.

These pieces will be shown in conjunction with video and audio from both expeditions, leading visitors on an interactive journey, immersing them into Cleopatra’s life, legacy and the culture of ancient Egypt, which is  juxtaposed against the modern day search to uncover the past and, as Goddio says, “bring history back to life.”

Sphinx-Copyright- Franck Goddio- Hilti Foundation

A Sphinx (Ptolemy XII) from the 1st Century BC. Photo by Jérôme Delafosse.

“Cleopatra’s story of love, power, glamour and tragedy has intrigued us for centuries and has fueled archeologists to continue searching for greater understanding,” said John Norman, president of Arts and Exhibitions International.

“Visitors to this new exhibition will gain insight into her life by discovering objects from Cleopatra’s world, even as efforts continue today to piece together new insights into the life of one of history’s most remarkable leaders.”

Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt opens at the Milwaukee Public Museum on October 14, 2011. Tickets are on sale via the museum website or by phone at (414) 223-4676 or (888)700-9069. All tickets are timed-entry, and special discounts are available for students and large groups.

*All images copyright Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation .

Categories: Art, Life & Leisure

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