Early Explorers in Egypt and Nubia

This blog is intended
both as an instrument for researchers on early explorers in Egypt and Nubia, providing useful tools in the On-line Resources section (On-line books, Archives, Map Collections, Photo Collections, etc.), and as a place to publish original documentation and research on the subject (i.e. List of travellers, Accounts, Letters, etc.). Anyone who would like to contribute with suggestions or articles is warmly welcomed!

Friday, 31 May 2013

"Pharaoh: Reborn" Exhibition in Bristol (Considerations on Belzoni and Ricci)

20 April to 29 September 2013
Bristol City Museum & Art Galleries

From the website of the Bristol City Council:
"Pharaoh: Reborn showcases some of our incredible watercolours made by Giovanni Belzoni and his team between 1817-1820. They’re the highlight of our extensive Egyptian Archaeology collection. [...] In 1821, the watercolours were exhibited in London and Paris. Huge crowds attended and Sety I’s tomb is now one of the most well known tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Since the tomb’s discovery it’s been severely water damaged and closed to the public. Belzoni’s paintings provide the most complete record of the decoration that once existed".

A bit disappointed to find out that Alessandro Ricci, the real (and sole author) of the original copies, is not mentioned in the presentation of the exhibition. Belzoni discovered the tomb in October 1817; around February 1818 he asked Alessandro Ricci, a young physician and draughtsman from Siena, Italy, to go to Luxor from Cairo and start copying the reliefs. Ricci travelled on the British Consulate boat with a letter for Consul Henry Salt, who was expecting Belzoni:

I sent up the boat, with the intention of going myself by land. I had engaged Signor Ricci, a young man from Italy, who was very clever at drawing, and who with a little practice became perfect in his imitations of the hieroglyphics. He was to begin the drawings of the tomb on his arrival in Thebes[1].

[1] G.B. Belzoni, Narrative of the Operations and Recent Discoveries within Pyramids, Temples, Tombs and Excavations in Egypt and Nubia [John Murray, London 1821], H. Remy, Brussels 1835, p. 232.
From February-March until September Ricci worked in the tomb alone in order to copy as many reliefs as possible. Salt wrote:

Belzoni’s models will be found interesting, and so will the sketches and outlines he takes home, done for him by a young Italian named Ricci – he himself does not draw so well[2].

[2] J.J. Halls, The Life and Correspondence of Henry Salt Esq. FRS & c., Richard Bentley, London 1834, p. 501.
And again:

…I may mention that, during the whole of this year, while engaged in the drawings and models of the tomb, (in which he received every assistance and encouragement we could afford him,) both he and his artist, Mr. Ricci, lived entirely at my expenses, a table for all being kept at my desire by Mr. Beechey, and put down to my charge, to which I was by no means obliged by our contract[3]

[3] J.J. Halls, The Life and Correspondence of Henry Salt, Esq. F.R.S. & His Britannic Majesty’s Late Consul-General in Egypt, Vol. II, Richard Bentley, London 1834, p. 22.

According to Ricci's own account, the drawings were taken by Belzoni, without him knowing, right before both left for an expedition to Berenice. Ricci quit after a quarrel with Belzoni and came back to discover his drawings were missing. When Belzoni came back, Henry Salt himself negotiated a settlement for Ricci, who therefore sold the drawings to the Paduan.

Bristol City Museum hosts the complete series of drawings made by Ricci, and other late (generally less accurate) copies, possibly for the London 1821 exhibition. A receipt for payment, copied by Sarah Belzoni, is also kept at the museum, clearly stating that Ricci got payed for his drawings:

Doctor Ricci received in Cairo previous to his departure 300, received at destination 356 received from Mr S[alt] 2,000 total 2,656. Drawing is 1,400 professional 256[4]

[4] BCM, Diary of Sarah Belzoni.

Belzoni himself wrote William John Bankes about the issue:

I shall take it as a favor if you would request the Doctor Ricci to send me a recept of the sume he resived [sic] in payment for his occupations for me, as well as medical assistance etc. etc. etc.[5]

[5] Dorset History Centre,William John Bankes Correspondence, D/BKL HJ 1/100.

Postcard sold at the Bristol City Museum, gathering in a row the depictions of the four human races according to the ancient Egyptians, followed by a falcon-headed god. The author of the drawing is stated to be Belzoni, while in fact it is Alessandro Ricci (©Bristol City Museum & Art Galleries).

1 comment:

  1. Great and informative blog. Thank you! I am researching tomb copyists, Tracers and Freehand painters.