After visiting the sculpture gallery at the British Museum - and having a well deserved coffee and cake - I headed for the upstairs Egyptian rooms. The first room I came to caught me completely by surprise. Here were the wonderfully displayed tomb-chapel paintings of the New Kingdom official Nebamun. Nebamun was a 'scribe and counter of grain'. I had seen these 18th Dynasty scenes so many times in text books on ancient Egypt but to see them in the 'flesh' so to speak was breath taking!
The British Museum acquired the wall paintings (which date to around the reign of Thutmose IV 1400-1390 BC or Amenhotep III 1390-1352 BC) during the 1820s as part of the Salt Collection. There are 11 in total and they are make up some of the most famous scenes from ancient Egypt. Their conservation has taken over 10 years to complete and their display in The Michael Cohen Gallery is the first time they have been put together for public display. You get the impression that you are seeing them as they would look in the tomb with all their colour and vitality. Objects from around the same period are displayed alongside together with a a 3D animation of the tomb chapel.
The two famous scenes of the tomb are of course instantly recognisable - the fishing and fowling scene and the banquet scene. I love these two! Nebanum fishing in the marsh is close to my heart; I completed an essay on it as an undergraduate and enjoyed high marks for my efforts! Nebanum is shown successfully hunting with his family by his side. The attention to detail is beautiful - the plants of the marsh and the creatures are drawn with astonishing detail. The cat securing a bird is exquisite! The hieroglyphs above him state he is 'taking recreation and seeing what is good in the place of eternity'.
The banqueting scene is familiar to anyone really interested in Egyptology. Here Nebanum is depicted enjoying a sumptuous meal surrounded by guests, musicians and dancing girls. It is a party of all parties, designed to be enjoyed for eternity.
I have to applaud the British Museum for the way these scenes are exhibited. There is a simplicity to the display cases which doesn't clutter the paintings with other objects - instead they let the paintings speak for themselves. Other objects are displayed separately so as not to distract from the beauty of their craftsmanship.
This was the room I kept coming back to and the second day of my visit I returned to inspect them once again!