Dictionary of Art and Artists


that Changed the World


  Lascaux Caves Manesse illuminated Massys Callot Friedrich Picasso
  Tutankhamen's tomb Lorenzetti Grunewald Rembrandt Constable Matisse
  Europa and Minotaur Karlstein Castle Baldung Claude Lorrain Delacroix Marc
  Banquet Tomb Limbourg brothers Altdorfer Velazquez Turner Kandinsky
  Pompeii Van Eyck Cranach Vermeer Ingres Monet
  Birth of Christianity Della Francesca Holbein Rigaud Manet Chirico
  Hagia Sophia Uccello Titian Watteau Burne-Jones Modigliani
  Book of Kells Mantegna Bruegel Canaletto Seurat Chagall
  St Benedict Botticelli Vicentino Boucher Van Gogh Kahlo
  Bayeux Tapestry Anonymous Arcimboldo Fragonard Toulouse-Lautrec Dali
  Donizo manuscript Durer El Greco Gainsborough Munch Ernst
  Liber Scivias Bosch Theodore de Bry John Trumbull Cezanne Hopper
  Carmina Burana Da Vinci Caravaggio David Gauguin Bacon
  Falcon Book Michelangelo Rubens Gros Degas Warhol
  Giotto Raphael Brouwer Goya Klimt  

From Lascaux to Warhol

Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth,
passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius,
but never abandoned.

William Butler Yeats




The Pharaoh's Curse

Tutankhamen's tomb



Have finally made a marvellous discovery in the Valley -
- Magnificent grave with unbroken seals -
- Covered up again until you arrive -
stop -

Telegram sent by Howard Carter to Lord Carnarvon, 6 November 1922


Howard Carter and an Egyptian assistant examine Tutankhamen's coffin

A triumphant moment:
Howard Carter opening the golden shrine, 1922



"The most beautiful riling that has ever been found m Fgypt".
The throne discovered in
Tutankhamen's tomb

After six years of intense excavation work in the Valley of the Kings, the archaeologist Howard Carter had finally stumbled on the entrance to a tomb. 1 he tomb of Tutankhamen? He did not know for certain, but he sent the above telegram to his patron, Lord George Edward Carnarvon, imploring him to come to Egypt as quickly as possible. Carter recovered the tomb and awaited Lord Carnarvon's arrival — a period of almost three weeks in which Carter was sleepless with excitement.

Carter and Carnarvon experienced one of the greatest triumphs in the history of archaeology: after they had cleared the last of the sixteen steps leading into the tomb, the two were standing in front of a walled-up entrance — bearing the royal emblem of Tutankhamen! This was only the beginning. When Carter and Carnarvon found a second walled-up entrance, they took a crowbar and knocked a hole m the 3,000 year-old masonry. Through it, they gazed at things that left them speechless. The flickering light of a candle illuminated the most important treasures ever discovered in Egypt. Among them was a gold throne with a brilliantly coloured back — a present to the young Pharaoh from his wife. Carter described the chair as "the most beautiful thing that has ever been found in Egypt". These objects captured the world's attention and sparked a lasting interest in Egyptian art. It was as if a tale from A Thousand and One Nights had come true, and Carter summarised his find in this way: "The most remarkable thing Tutankhamen did in the eighteen years of his reign was to die and be buried."

The press gave the story extensive coverage. It also invented another story — on something it called the "Pharaoh's Curse", which was apparently deadly to anyone who disturbed the rest of the dead king. It is true that Lord Carnarvon and his wife died shortly after the tomb's discovery, as well as a number of others who had been present when it was opened. And by 1930 the only living member of the original excavation team was Howard Carter, who seemed indifferent to the rumour that these deaths were the result of an ancient malediction. After all, they had never encountered an inscription recording the "Pharaoh's Curse". Upon investigation into this series of deaths, it was discovered that quite a few were press swindles invented to keep newspaper circulation high. Yet there is something to the legend. Science has revealed that by opening these tombs, people are exposed to an infectious mould which is present in decaying bodies. This may have something to do with the mysterious series of deaths that followed the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb.

Anonymous, Egyptian
Tutankhamen Anointed by His Wife
1355-1342 BC

Detail from the back of Tutankhamen's throne
Carved wood and gold, inlaid with Egyptian
faience, enamel, semiprecious, stones and silver
104 x 53 X 64.5 cm
From the tomb in the Valley of the Kings Egyptian Museum, Cairo


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