The Collection of the Dahesh Museum of Art

at The Patty and Jay Baker Museum of Art in Naples, FL, through May 18, 2014. 

CharlesThéodore Frère (French, 1814-1888)
Along the Nile at Gyzeh

When Napoleon Bonaparte’s armies occupied Egypt in 1798, they were accompanied by scientists, historians, and archaeologists. The European world developed a fascination with Egyptian art, architecture, and culture.  Well into the 20th century and to the present day, European artists have expressed their admiration in their interpretations of the allure of the ancient and modern cultures of the Nile.

Ernst Karl Eugen Koerner (German 1846-1927)
The Temple of Karnak: The Great Hypostyle Hall, 1890

Koerner traveled to Egypt in 1873-74, and painted the huge columns of the temple, placing the human figures to illustrate the vast size of the columns.

The Dahesh Museum of New York City is devoted to collecting academic art of the 19th and 20th centuries.  Organizing many exhibitions for museums and contributing loans to other exhibitions around the world is the mission of the Dahesh.  This exhibition is co-curated by Director of Exhibitions David Farmer and Associate Curator Alia Nour; it is intended to survey “…the West’s fascination with Egypt and its diverse visual representations from 1798 until 1890.”

Lawrence Alma Tadema (British,born in the Netherlands, 1836-1912)
Joseph, Overseer of Pharaoh’s Granaries, 1874

This painting by Alma Tadema was exhibited at London’s Royal Academy in 1874. The Old Testament’s Joseph is seated on the throne accompanied by a scribe counting the grain. Alma Tadema based the ancient Egyptian decoration and accoutrements in his picture on actual artifacts. Behind the throne is a painting now in the British Museum from the tomb of Nebamun.

The Baker Museum exhibition includes more than 90 works from the Dahesh Museum, the Mervat Zahid Cultural Foundation, and a private collection.  In the words of the description, “With its broad themes and rich imagery, this exhibition demonstrates that the West’s visions of Egypt were fostered by many factors — not only political interest, but also new scientific and technological advances, methods of transportation, and communications, as well as Romanticism, and the changing art market.”

Karl Wilhelm Gentz (German, 1822-1890)
The Snake Charmer, 1872

Gentz contrasts the dangerous performance with the noble ruins of the Temple of Madinet Habu in Thebes.

Edwin Longsden Long (British, 1829-1891)
Love’s Labour Lost, 1885
Edwin Long was another artist who used the holdings of various museums and the work of scholars to create the details of his paintings.  Here many objects are based on the works of British Egyptologist John Gardner Wilkinson. When the painting was shown at the Royal Academy, a poem by the artists son, Maurice St. Clair, was included.

“When like an opening bud the flower of Youth
Unfolds its petals to the light of Truth,
Then mimic toys and tales of wondorous lore,
By puppets acted, charm not as before.
Amusement wearies out her skill in vain,
And calls the aid of music magic strain;
But happy childhood’s limit passed for e’er
Youth rashly craves reality and care.”

In the painting, the young noblewoman has outgrown the antics of her servants.The central figure, presumably a noble Egyptian girl, has become and adult and is no longer interested in the childish entertainment of her servants.

Hermann David Solomon Corrodi (Italian, 1844-1905)
The Ambush near Gizeh

Corrodi’s work can be found in many collections including the Royal Collection, acquired by Queen Victoria and King George V. 

If you are in the vicinity of Naples in the next few weeks, don’t miss these colorful and evocative paintings at the Baker Museum.

 Rediscovering Egypt: The Collection of the Dahesh Museum of Art, is on view at
the Baker Museum, Artis,
Naples, Florida, through May 18, 2014.


  1. This exhibition looks fascinating! I wonder if it includes anything by David Roberts? I'm very fond of the wonderful record which he made of Egypt in the early nineteenth century; it's fascinating to compare his paintings of the temples etc. with the way they are today (some were still mostly buried by sand).

  2. One of my very selfish thoughts about the current situation in the Middle 'east is that I will not live long enough to go there and see it for myself. Especially Egypt. So fascinating — ever since I saw those Mummy Cases as a child in a museum. And to think, Louisa, that it all started with that rascal, Napoleon! Why don't you do a guest blog for us on your collection of books????

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