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Exclusive Interview By Iride Aparicio

Photos: Courtesy of the de Young Museum

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - As the Curator of Ancient Art at the San Francisco Fine Art Museums: the de Young Museum located in Golden Gate Park, and The Museum of the Legion of Honor located in the grounds of Lincoln Park, Renée Dreyfus is the only Curator in the museums who bears the title of George and Judy Marcus Distinguished Curator in Charge, Ancient art, after a generous endowment from the Marcuses. 

With  the August  20 opening  of the exhibition  "Ramses The Great and The Gold of Pharaohs" at the  de Young Museum, which may be the last Egyptian Exhibition we could see  before the  Egyptian Museum in Egypt stops lending their gold artifacts  to the world's museums, Cultural World Bilingual interviewed Curator Dreyfus, with the purpose to give our  readers an idea of what to expect from this exhibition, so magnificent in its contend, that the museum decided to have all the artifacts' labels, Tour guides, videos and information about the exhibition, written and spoken in two languages: English and Spanish.

We start our interview, by asking ANCIENT ART Curator Dreyfus to give our readers her description of ANCIENT ART. "Mi Mission." was her answer. When we ask her why? her response was: "Because that is exactly what I want our visitors to do, to understand Ancient Art."

"As a person, since I was three years old and my parents took me to the Art Museums in New York City, there was always the "ancient world" that interested me. When I got older, I realized that what I wanted to learn was the history of ideas. The history of how we got to where we are today. To do that, I had to learn how life was in ancient times, which is wonderful when you have the writings and you can read the ancient languages. But it is also important to see how the (ancient) people described their lives and their beliefs: How did they believe that the world was like?  how did they believe the next world was like?  how did they believe that they were living "The good life"?  And the answer to this questions , is found in Egyptian Art, because most of what we have  from them now come from their tombs, their shrines, their temples and the artifacts showing their beliefs, their gods, the things they wanted to carry with them in their hope for another life in the after world. All the Egyptian traditions are revealed strongly in Egyptian Ancient Art."

For those unfamiliar with Egyptian History, Ramses II, the focus in the exhibition, was a Pharaoh, that was called by many historians Ramses the Great and The Greatest Pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty (r. 1279-1213 BC)

Art Curator Dreyfus describes us his life as follows:
R.D.  "Ramses II was in his twenties, when he became a king of upper and lower Egypt and he ruled it for about 67 years, and during those years, he fought The Hittites coming from the North, the Nubians coming from the South, the Lubians coming from the West, and also pirates."
"So, he is known as a warrior and as the Pharaoh who built more buildings in Egypt than any other Pharaoh. But Ramses II also brought a golden-age of peace and prosperity to his country, and is seldom recognized as the world's first peace-maker, the first man who created the (world's) first Peace- treaty between Egypt and the Hittites whose homeland was Anatolia, today's Turkey. The treaty ended the war that occurred in Kadesh, today's Syria. (The Battle of Kadesh also written Quadesh, was one of the longest-ever chariot battles ever  fought  in 1274  B.C.E. in Syria, and described as the first world war in some history books) But Ramses ended the long war with a Peace Treaty signed by the kings of both countries, which is very important because this was the first Peace Treaty that we know about."

C.W.B.  "Very interesting. Was that the reason why Ramses II was so revered in Egypt?
R.D. "We don't know, what we know is that there were nine Pharaohs after him that called themselves Ramses in his honor, who followed his traditions, and that  Ramses the II was worshipped as a god in his life time, as all the Pharaohs were, but that he continued being worshiped as a god, even after he died."

C.W.B.  As the soul of this coming exhibition, Curator Dreyfus, what is the message that you want to convey to its visitors?
R.D. "That it is exciting that we know so much about this individual (Ramses II) that we could construct an exhibition on the life of a man who lived around XII hundred B.C. and XIII hundred B.C. using the art of the Egyptian Museum coming from Egypt, knowing that when it goes back to Egypt, there is little chance that Americans will ever see these (Gold Egyptian Artifacts) again because it is getting harder and harder for museums to borrow them. and that this exhibition is kind of a chance of a lifetime for people to learn about the past."

"The title of this exhibition, is "Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs" and the second part of its title:  "Gold of the Pharaohs,"  is because Ramses'  tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, was plundered in ancient times, so, because everything was taken and we have no idea of the great treasures that were there, in  the exhibition we are showing some other Royal jewels that were found in other Royal coffins,  and that the exhibition also includes a dazzling example of Jewelry (See Neferuptah) some which comes before Ramses, and some which comes after Ramses, from tombs of  other Pharaohs who continue his tradition. These will give the public a chance to look at the best Egyptian treasures, and imagine what Ramses tomb may have had."

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C.W.B.  Are other Egyptian objects, aside from jewelry, in the exhibition?
R.D." Yes. We have mommies and animal gold sculptures that were in the burials of Sakkara, and these have never been shown in museums before. "

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"And some of these images will also teach visitors to the exhibition, the importance than animals had for the Egyptians, where many of the Egyptian gods had animals as their images." Thoth, for example, was an ibis (Stork-like wading birds), and as you know the ibis has a long beak which looks like a stylus when you write. so, Thoth was their god of knowledge and their god of writing. These are things that the visitors will learn in the exhibition as well."

Thoth, the Egyptian god of knowledge and Writing

"The exhibition begins and ends with the story of Ramses II and his accomplishments, which were many and impressive. and shows not only why he was a legend in his own time but why he was a legend after his time."

C.W.B. And to end our interview, Curator Dreyful, I would like to ask you, what will a visitor of this Egyptian exhibition, may expected to learn from it that may be relevant to today's life?
R.D. "I love that question. because it is interesting. When they look at a ruler from ancient Egypt. a king, that was also a warrior, a priest, and a great builder, will be interesting for them to also look at our Presidents, our kings in other countries, and how much power do they have? Ask ourselves: Are they facing situations similar to what happened in Ancient Egypt? How are they different? How are they similar? "

C.W.B.  I think that comparing them with the Egyptian all will be different, because the Egyptian vision of the afterlife is very different from the Christian vision of the afterlife.
R.D. "That's correct. According to the Egyptians in the afterlife there is an hour of judgment, and this is really important, because at this time the person's heart is weighted (in a scale) against a feather, which for they Egyptians was your life time on earth, and if your heart is heavier than the feather,, it meant that the person had done bad deeds on earth, so "the devourer" will eat his or her heart. There is nothing like hell, (in their religion) but (if the person was bad) must meet demons, and experience evil until they make it into the next world. And when they get there, life is going to be blissful because you may be called l to do work for the gods, which is the reason why Egyptians, who were very practical, always had a Shabti in their tombs, a little "figure" which they believed becomes you in the afterlife, so when the gods send you to work, the Shabti will do the work."

We will conclude our interview by saying that this Egyptian Exhibition promises to be as spectacular as Tutankhamum, that if you remember, brought egyptomania to S.F. in 2009.

The sale of Tickets for the "Ramses The Great and the Gold of Pharaohs" start today, June 6 and they are available at the de Young website: Ticket prices vary on weekdays and weekends. and we suggest checking the museum health requirements when ordering. The museum will also offer an Immersive virtual reality experience, Ramses & Nefertary: Journey to Osiris.