Emile Brugsch & The Royal Mummies at Bulaq

Posted October 16th, 2016 by Dylan

One of the articles I contributed to Kmt: A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt, appeared in Volume 26, No. 1, Spring 2015, 18-26 (and front cover), and was entitled Emile Brugsch and the Royal Mummies at Bulaq.

The subject was a typograuve derived from a photograph, probably taken in 1881 (and published in an art book of 1894) showing Brugsch in the earliest Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, located at Bulaq, the port of Cairo. The interest in the photograph was in the fact that the coffins to be seen behind Brugsch could be identified as having belonged to mummies discovered in the Royal Cache tomb (TT320) – a discovery then only months old. Amongst the coffins were those of Ahmose I, Seti I, Ramesses II, and Pinudjem I; as well as others inscribed for Senui and Nebseni, the canopic chest of Queen Nodjmet, and the famous coffin of the gazelle belonging to Queen Isiemkheb.

I was first informed of the existence of the art print by Kacper Laube, who has published numerous old photographs on line, with views of rooms in the Bulaq Museum. Since publication of my article in Kmt I have been further contacted by Roger Nogera (from Portugal), and Nacho Ares (from Spain) to alert me to the appearance of a version of the picture in a Spanish publication, La Illustracion Espanola y Americana, of 15th November 1883. Apparently the ‘painting’ from the photograph was made by Marius Michel in 1883 when he was staying in Cairo on a commission to paint portraits of the Khedive’s daughters, and appeared in the Fine Arts Exhibition of Paris (also 1883). The title was apparently: ‘Ne bougeons plus!’ (‘Don’t Move!’).

The print in La Illustracion differs from the one I obtained and published in Kmt, in being a little darker and more ‘contrasty’, and in showing a little more of the view through the doorway to the left, and including an area of shadow (with what looks a bit like decayed wood) in the foreground. The most crucial contribution to research provided by Roger and Nacho’s discovery of the appearance in La Illustracion is that the publication date in 1883, supports my contention that the original photograph did not much post date the clearance of the Royal Cache, in July 1881.