The Eckley Brinton Coxe Junior Egyptian Wing

Originally Published in 1926

View PDF

On May the eighteenth a reception was held at the Museum where a large number of invited guests inspected the collections in the halls of the Eckley Brinton Coxe Junior Memorial Wing, the latest addition to the Museum. On the following day the new wing was open to the public. Mr. Coxe, in whose memory the wing was named, was President of the Museum from 1910 to 1916. He was one of its chief benefactors during his lifetime and at his death he left a sum of half a million dollars to promote Egyptian research. Many of the objects now installed and for the first time shown were found by the expeditions maintained in Egypt under this foundation.

The rooms are adapted in their design and construction to the purpose that they serve. In colour and proportion they harmonize with the exhibits that have been installed. Moreover, the dignity and worth of these exhibits are not thrown away on the architecture of their housing, which meets them on their own level and joins with them in a common service of refinement. The ready response of the various objects, individually and collectively, to the architectural support and sympathetic setting lifts the whole exhibition to a high plane of excellence and creates an atmosphere of enjoyment.

There are twelve rooms in the wing. Of these, eight are devoted to Egypt, one to Ur of the Chaldees, one to Beisan the Palestinian City, one to Persian Art and one to Arabic Art as it occurred in Arabia, Egypt and Syria, and as adopted by the Turks in Asia Minor.

The room devoted to Ur contains collections dug up by the Joint Expedition of the University Museum and the British Museum working in lower Mesopotamia and the Beisan room contains the objects obtained by the Museum’s expedition excavating at that ancient site in Palestine.

Part of an exhibit showing a plaque on the wall between two mirroed lion, a large vase in front
Museum Object Number: E3958
Image Number: 31006a

The Tablet

The Memorial Tablet to Eckley Brinton Coxe Junior is placed on the wall of the principal lateral gallery on the main floor, where its central position indicates its purpose of uniting all of the Egyptian and related galleries comprising the wing and extending to both floors.

The tablet which is of bronze gilt is supported by two red granite lions, reproductions of two superb and singular sculptures in the Egyptian Section of the British Museum. One of these is by Thothmes III and the other by Tutankhamen, the names of these rulers being written in hieroglyphics, one on each lion. These lions are, with one exception, the only reproductions in the exhibition.

The large alabaster vase in the center bears the name of Kha-Sekhem, a king of the Second Dynasty.

View of the hall with statues spread throughout, in the foreground two statues of a seated Sekhmet

Museum Object Numbers: E2047 / E2048
Image Number: 140761, 31008

The Main Egyptian Hall

This hall is devoted to sculpture as represented by objects not too large and heavy for the upper Boor, together with several examples of mummy cases which, properly enough, come within the class of sculpture, whatever the material. Of outstanding interest in this room are several statues and portrait heads of kings and officials, representing Egyptian portraiture at its best during the earlier and some of the later periods. Bronze figures of the gods, of sacred animals and of pharaohs are among the objects in the cases.

It will be noticed that the use of glass cases is reduced as much as possible.

The sphinx displayed amongst massive columns
Museum Object Numbers: E12326 / E636 / E13558A / E13558B
Image Number: 31025

The Lower Hall of Large Sculptures

The weight of these sculptures required the firmer foundations of the lower floor, although the height of the ceiling required that the columns and pylons be set up in divided parts instead of as complete units. The limestone columns, doorways, pylons and other architectural features to which this hall is chiefly devoted, were rescued during the excavations conducted by the Eckley Brinton Coxe Junior Expedition at Memphis. They are from the Throne room of the Palace of Merenptah and from other parts of the same extensive and complicated edifice. In an adjoining room a model to scale of this Throne room is shown.

Two partials columns with a mounted statue between them, dramatically lit
Museum Object Numbers: E13575 / E15727
Image Number: 31023, 31024

The Merenptah Pylon

Here are shown the lower parts of the limestone Pylon that stood in front of the Palace of Merenptah, excavated by the Eckley Brinton Coxe Junior Expedition. The structure formed a passage or entrance through the high wall of brick that entirely surrounded the Palace, a large and complex structure with many rooms, galleries and courts.

The statue in the foreground is that of Pharaoh Rameses III.

A reconstructed doorway between two massive columns

A Doorway From the Throne Room

The Throne room of Merenptah at Memphis had seven entrances, all of the doorways having limestone jambs and lintels. These were decorated with hieroglyphic inscriptions and a winged sun disk. The latter was done in gold leaf with parts inlaid in blue enamel. The inscriptions and border lines were all inlaid with blue enamel, the lines and figures being sunken to a depth of about half an inch and the carving filled with the blue inlay. The example shown here is one of the best preserved of these doorways.

The substance in which these sculptures were submerged for ages till the excavations of the Museum laid them bare was black Nile mud. This was saturated for several months every year with Nile water and consequently the blue inlay has lost much of its colour and the white limestone is much stained.

In the foreground of the picture are seen the lower sections of two columns that stood before the great Pylon shown in the last picture.

View of inside the model throne room showing columns and ramp

Model of the Throne Room From the Palace of King Merenptah

The restoration of this tenth scale model was made from the ground plans and drawings obtained by the Museum’s Expedition at Memphis, and from the columns, doorways and windows in the Museum’s possession. This room was deep in the interior of the Palace, surrounded by courts, corridors, halls and chambers.

There are six columns in the Throne room, with lotus capitals, each decorated with thirty two cartouches in gold leaf, the hieroglyphics being painted in pale blue. The lotus petals encircle the base and a ceremonial decoration of King Merenptah before the God Ptah forms the collar in the centre, the whole being joined by four bands of hieroglyphic inscriptions, giving the names and titles of the king.

These hieroglyphics also adorn the seven doorways, the lintels displaying massive winged sun disks in gold. The dais, on which originally stood the chair of state, the two flights of steps leading to it, the ramp and a panel on the floor leading to the main doorway are covered with painted reliefs of the bound captives of the king’s vanquished enemies—ten different nations and tribes in all. On the floor between the columns are painted miniature fish ponds, the whole surrounded by marsh scenes with aquatic plants and wild ducks in flight.

Directly behind the throne the wall is decorated by a large ceremonial scene of the king offering the triple golden sceptre to Ptah, the God of Memphis; above is shown the young Merenptah being purified by Amon and Horus before two groups of deities. On the west wall is a processional, the king being borne in his palanquin by slaves, accompanied by his hunting leopards and preceded by musicians and dancing girls. Higher is a double row of hieroglyphics, being the triumphal song of Merenptah after his victory over the Libyans. The roof is upheld by two gigantic beams, originally cedar of Lebanon, resting upon the rows of columns. The ceiling is painted a brilliant blue powdered with golden stars.

One of the original columns may be seen in the large hall nearby, together with doorways and windows. The decorations on the walls and on the floors are restorations according to information acquired in the excavations and after known Egyptian methods. The columns when found had all fallen and were broken in many pieces, partly by the heat of the burning ceiling when the palace was destroyed. The conjectural restorations in colour are true to the traditions of art and of royal architecture in Egypt during the nineteenth dynasty.

The sphinx on a pedestal

Museum Object Number: E12326
Image Number: 31030

The Sphinx

This red granite sphinx from Memphis was found by Petrie a few years ago in his excavation of the Temple of Ptah adjoining the Palace of Merenptah. The face has been destroyed by exposure to the weather, the drifting sand and perhaps the effect of fire. It occupies a central position in the hall of large sculptures. The features of this sphinx were those of Rameses II.

Reconstruction of a tomb with a statue at the end
Museum Object Numbers: E15729

The Tomb of Ra-Ka-Pou

This tomb was excavated at Sakkara in 1903 by the Egyptian Government under Mr. Quibell. It was presented to the Museum in the following year by Mr. John Wanamaker. The exhibition rooms of the Egyptian Section have not heretofore been large enough for its accommodation, wherefore it has till now been installed in the basement, where it has been accessible to visitors enquiring especially for it. Hereafter it will be accessible to all visitors. Ra-ka-pou was an official in Thebes during the Old Empire.

The statue placed in the interior is a copy of the wooden statue in the Cairo Museum knows as Sheik El Beled. It is placed in this position to indicate the appearance of the statue of Ra-ka-pou that has disappeared. The limestone walls of the tomb are covered with scenes representing the meats, game, fruit, cakes and other viands that the mourners would wish the deceased to have for his journey or that he might require.

A limestone head with vertical lines of hair carved in, tip of nose missing
Museum Object Number: E14305

An Old Empire Portrait

This limestone head is from a polychrome statue and was found at Sakkara, the necropolis of the ancient capital, Memphis. It is workmanship of the Fifth Dynasty and an excellent example of the art of that great period that is represented also by other portraits in the collection. The portrait shows a man, probably a prominent official and a person of importance. It is a little over life size.

Head of a king wearing the Blue Crown, tip of nose broken off
Museum Object Number: E14303

Head of a King

Colossal in size, this crowned head, superbly carved from yellow quartzite is among the great pieces of the collection. The style and execution appear to be those of the Eighteenth Dynasty, to which period this masterpiece may with reasonable assurance be referred.

Statue of a seated dog with a collar detail

The Dog

Carved in white limestone, the animal here shown measures 22 inches high. Round his neck is a collar picked out in relief and painted in red and blue. From this collar depends in front the cartouche of Thothmes III painted on the white stone in blue and red.

“The Dog, though a very favorite animal of the Egyptians, appears never to have been regarded as a god, although great respect was paid to the animal in the city of Cynopolis; on the other hand Herodotus tells us (166) that in whatsoever house a cat dies of a natural death, all the family shave their eyebrows only; but if a dog die, they shave the whole body and head. . . . All persons bury their dogs in sacred vaults within their own city.’ If any wine, or corn, or any other necessary of life happened to be in a house when a dog died its use was prohibited; and when the body had been embalmed it was buried in a tomb amid the greatest manifestations of grief by those to whom it belonged. If we accept the statement of Diodorus (1.85) that a dog was the guardian of the bodies of Osiris and Isis, and that dogs guided Isis in her search for the body of Osiris, and protected her from savage beasts, we should be obliged to admit that the dog played a part in Egyptian mythology; but there is no reason for doing so, because it is clear that Diodorus, like many modern writers, confounded the dog with the jackal. The dog, like the jackal, may have been sacred to Anubis, but the mythological and religious texts of all periods prove that it was the jackal-god who ministered to Osiris, and who acted as guide not only to him but to every other Osiris in the Underworld.”

The Gods of the Egyptians, by Sir E. A. Wallis Budge, Vol. II, page 366.

Tall, thin statue of a seated cat
Museum Object Number: E14284

The Cat

This bronze figure, 20 inches high, has turned a deep green in colour except the eyes that are of gold.

“The Cat was sacred to Bast, the goddess of Bubastis, and was regarded as her incarnation; its cult is very ancient, and as a personification of the Sun-god the animal played a prominent part in Egyptian mythology. Thus in the xviith Chapter of the BOOK OF THE DEAD mention is made of a Cat which took up its position by the Persea tree in Heliopolis on the night when the foes of Osiris were destroyed . . . and the vignette depicits the Cat in the act of cutting off the head of the serpent of darkness. In the cxxvth Chapter the deceased says (line 11) in the usually received text, ‘I have heard the mighty word which the Ass spake unto the Cat in the House of Hapt-re,’ but what that word was is not stated. The Ass and the Cat are forms of the Sun-god, and it is probable that the deceased learned from them the words which would enable him, like them, to vanquish the powers of darkness. From a stele reproduced by Signor Lanzone, we find that prayers were offered to two cats by the two women who dedicated it, but whether these represented two forms of the Cat-god, or two pet animals only is not clear. . . . The monuments and inscriptions contain abundant evidence that the greatest reverence was paid to the cat throughout Egypt, even as classical writers say. According to Diodorus (i.83) the Egyptians fed their cats on bread and milk and slices of Nile fish, and they called the animals to their meals by special sounds. When a cat died its master had it placed in a linen sheet and taken to the embalmers, who treated the body with spices and drugs, and then laid it in a specially prepared case. Whosoever killed a cat, wittingly or unwittingly, was condemned to die, and an instance is cited by Diodorus in which a certain Roman who had killed a cat was attacked in his house by the infuriated populace and was slain.”

The Gods of the Egyptians, by Sir E. A. Wallis Budge, Vol. II, page 363.

Upper corner of a page of the book of the dead showinga cat using a knife on a snake, some seated figures, and columns of hieroglyphs
In this passage from the BOOK OF THE DEAD the Cat is seen cutting off the head of the Serpent of Darkness on the night when the foes of Osiris were destroyed. The Papyrus from which the illustration is taken is that known as the Papyrus of Hunefer and is in the British Museum. A reproduction of it is shown in this Museum.

Cite This Article

"The Eckley Brinton Coxe Junior Egyptian Wing." The Museum Journal XVII, no. 2 (June, 1926): 101-127. Accessed April 18, 2024. https://www.penn.museum/sites/journal/1377/


This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

Report problems and issues to digitalmedia@pennmuseum.org.