Sunday, February 1, 2015
Egyptian Temple in New York
Whenever I go to New York, the first place I visit is the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the first place inside that museum that I visit is the Temple of Dendur. It is a real Egyptian Temple that was a gift from the Egyptian Government to the United States in 1965 and awarded to the museum in 1967. There it was reconstructed in a room in the museum that was added specifically for the temple.
Years ago I read a book called "Making the Mummies Dance" by Thomas Hoving, the somewhat controversial Director of the museum at that time. It's an interesting read that can be summed up by this cover quote from Louis Auchincloss "A fascinating, appalling and ultimately sobering account of genius, toadyism and guile required to amass and house a great public collection of art." One of the many things that I remember from that book is what it took to get the temple awarded to the museum and what it took to build the room it sits in.
Regardless of all that recent history, the history of the temple is of course far grander. It dates back to 15 BC and was built by Egyptian governor Petronius and commissioned by Emperor Augustus of Rome. If those walls could talk, I wonder what tales they would tell.