Belgian expansionism and the making of Egyptology, 1830-1952

Dorian Vanhulle: Signs in Sight! An unknown inscription discovered on a statue previously owned by King Leopold II

3D model of the Stacquez Statue by Georges Verly

Leopold II, the second king of the Belgian (1835-1909, r. 1865-1909), travelled twice in Egypt while he was still Prince and Duke of Brabant: once between January 1854 and March 1855, then between December 1862 and February 1863. From these trips and through the contacts he made there, he progressively managed to create a valuable collection of Egyptian antiquities. This collection of around two hundred objects, among which are true masterpieces, made its way to the Royal Museums of Art and History (RMAH, Brussels) in two major phases after the death of the king.

A first group, gathering all the largest pieces such as a 2 m tall siliceous sandstone statue of a hawk-headed god from Karnak (E.5188) and the granite sarcophagus of Yupa (E.5189), treasurer of Ramses II, arrived at the RMAH in 1914. The second group, counting more than one hundred small objects such as bronze statuettes, funerary figurines and the most famous 18th dynasty mummy mask of Brussels (E.6884), has been donated by King Leopold III (1901–1983, r. 1934–1951) in 1935.

In his publication, Hippolyte Stacquez, the personal physician of Leopold II during his second trip, somehow misleads his reader by pretending that he received diverse antiquities during the official visits he made with the Prince:

Je rapportai de Memphis de précieux souvenirs que je dois à la munificence de Mariette-Bey. Deux statuettes en terre cuite ; deux têtes en bel albâtre oriental ; une grande statue bien entière en granit de Syène, représentant une divinité accroupie, tenant en main la clef du Nil ; deux grandes pierres couvertes d’hiéroglyphes. Tous ces objets ont été trouvés dans l’hypogée des bœufs-Apis. J’obtins, de plus, onze vases en terre cuite, provenant des puits à momies de Sakkarah

H. Stacquez, L’Égypte, la Basse Nubie et le Sinaï. Relation d’après des notes tenues pendant le voyage que S.A.R. Mgr le Duc de Brabant fit dans ces contrées, en 1862 et 1863, Liège, 1865, p. 95-96.

It appears that, in fact, almost all of these objects were part of the Royal collection. Almost indeed, since it appears that the physician truly received the pink granite (“granit de Syène”) statue of a seated man (E.2147). This block statue, whose typology is typical of the 19-20th dynasties, has been bought by J. Capart (1877-1947) in 1910 from the son and heir of H. Stacquez. The famous Belgian Egyptologist dedicated only a few words to this object in a brief note, stating that “aucune trace des inscriptions ne permet de déterminer le rang ou le titre du personnage représenté”. The statue is indeed quite damaged. However, we managed to spot faint traces of columns and probable signs at the back of the statue.

Traces of inscriptions on the Stacquez statue
Traces of inscriptions on the Stacquez statue. Picture by dr. Do​​​​rian Vanhulle


We then decided to generate a 3D model, hoping that technology would allow us to see what human eyes could not. And it did! This model allows indeed to recognise several signs and to confirm the presence of an inscription. Obviously, these brand-new data needs to be analysed, but they nevertheless bring back to life a forgotten statue, kept from decades in the storage rooms of the RMAH. 

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to Georges Verly, who kindly proposed his service regarding the photogrammetry and generation of the 3D model. The pictures shown here are the results of his generous contribution to our study of the former royal collection.   

3D model of the Stacquez statue © Georges Verly and dr. Dorian Vanhulle
3D model of the Stacquez statue. Snapshot 1. Picture by Georges Verly and dr. Dorian Vanhulle
3D model of the Stacquez statue © Georges Verly and dr. Dorian Vanhulle
3D model of the Stacquez statue. Snapshot 2. © Picture by Georges Verly and dr. Dorian Vanhulle


dr. Dorian Vanhulle -

Selective bibliography

Stacquez H.J., 1865, L’Égypte, la Basse Nubie et le Sinaï: relation d’après les notes tenues pendant le voyage que Son Altesse Royale Monseigneur le Duc de Brabant fit dans ces contrées entre 1862 et 1863, Liège.

Capart J., 1910, « Statue égyptienne du sérapéum de Memphis », Bulletin des Musées royaux des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels 2/3, p. 15.

Schulz R., 1992, Die Entwicklung und Bedeutung des Kuboiden Statuentypus. Eine Untersuchung zu den sogenannten “Würfelhockern”, 2 vol., pp. 110, pl.18a.

van de Walle B., 1980, « La collection égyptienne depuis ses origines jusqu’à la mort de Jean Capart (1 835-1 947) », in : van de Walle B., Limme L. & De Meulenaere H., La collection égyptienne : les étapes marquantes de son développement, Musées royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, Bruxelles, p. 7-37.

Van Rinsveld B., 2016, « La collection égyptienne du Duc de Brabant et futur Roi Léopold II: archives et relations de voyages, une mise au point de critique historique », Bibliotheca Orientalis 73 (5–6), col. 551–590.

16 Dec 2019 (10:46)