The cavernous setting for this hallowed promenade is likely based on Bridgman’s sketches of Ptolemaic temples in Egypt, such as those at Dendera and Philae, and in particular, the temple of Horus at Edfou, one of the best-preserved Greco-Roman temples from this period (The cult of the Apis bull, with all its flowered festivals and ritualistic sacrifices, was in fact centered at Memphis, several hundred miles from this Upper Egyptian scene.) On the columns, Ptolemaic cartouches and hieroglyphs are visible; though most are indecipherable, others in the composition, such as those adorning the garments of the high priest, clearly bear the name of one of the bull’s aspects, the god Osiris. The religious furniture that Bridgman includes recalls various objects in American and European museums and collections: the naos, atop a solar bark and draped with a cloth bearing figures of the goddess Ma’at, resembles descriptions provided to the artist by Samuel Birch, Keeper of Oriental Antiquities at the British Museum. Bridgman’s diligent study of contemporary scholarly publications, including John Gardner Wilkinson’s Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians (1837), may also have supplied him with information for this work, particularly with regard to the canopic chest at left. The presence of this and other distinctly funerary pieces, accurately rendered but incongruous in the scene, are a reminder of the composite nature of even the most persuasive of Bridgman’s Orientalist works.
This catalogue note was written by Emily M. Weeks, Ph.D.
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