On Monday November 4, 2019, P&P-member dr. Athena Van der Perre will give a lecture at the Twelfth International Congress of Egyptologists - ICE XII which will be hosted in Cairo, Egypt from 3-8 November 2019. The title of her lecture will be “A quoi servent les égyptologues?”: Jean Capart and the collection of the Cinquantenaire Museum (Brussels).
Before the Cinquantenaire Museum (the current Art & History Museum) was introduced as “One of Belgium’s Best Kept Secrets”, it was known all over the world, and Brussels was even occasionally introduced as the capital of Egyptology. Renowned Egyptologists would spend their holidays in Brussels, just to get a guided tour in the museum with the Belgian Egyptologist Jean Capart, or to consult the magnificent library housed in the museum. In the interbellum, Capart had turned Brussels into an international centre of Egyptological research. Among his realisations were the creation of the Fondation Égyptologique Reine Elisabeth, the initiation of the first Belgian excavations in Egypt and the foundation of a monograph series and a journal.
Capart was not only a great scholar, as the first curator of the Egyptian department he also managed to enlarge the Brussels collection in a monumental way. Between 1900 and 1947, thousands of artefacts entered the museum, making it the largest Egyptological collection of Belgium. Some of the masterpieces were lucky finds, such as the relief of queen Tiye, while others required a lot of effort and negotiations, e.g. the mastaba of Neferirtenef.
This paper will focus on the origin of the Egyptian collection created by Jean Capart, by reconstructing its archaeological history. The research was conducted within the framework of the EOS Project “Pyramids & Progress. Belgian Expansionism and the Making of Egyptology, 1830-1952”.