New Ramses The Great Exhibit Brings Splendors of Ancient Egypt to San Francisco

Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs at the de Young museum from August 20, 2022–February 12, 2023
Installation view of "Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs". Photo Credit: ROB GREER |

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO –The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco are thrilled to announce the exclusive West Coast presentation of the international touring exhibition Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs. This once-in-a-lifetime installation at the de Young museum will explore the life and accomplishments of one of the most remarkable and celebrated rulers in world history, Ramses II, known today as Ramses the Great. Bringing more than 180 dazzling objects to San Francisco—many newly discovered and having never left Egypt before—the exhibition features exquisite sculpture, precious treasures, and state-of-the-art multimedia productions that will demonstrate the opulence and power of ancient Egyptian civilization.

“We are delighted to share these rarely seen treasures from Egypt’s Golden Age with Bay Area audiences,” said Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs reveals the power and splendor of ancient Egypt, and expands on the history conveyed within our own collection of ancient art. Once the exhibition completes its international tour, these objects will return to Egyptian museums and will likely not travel again for decades.”

Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs focuses on the life of the eminent military officer Ramses II, a crown prince who eventually became one of the longest-ruling kings of Egypt in a 67-year reign. Appropriately known through time as Ramses the Great, he was the third pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty and is regarded as the mightiest and most celebrated pharaoh of the New Kingdom—Egypt’s Golden Age—when it was a wealthy and powerful empire. The exhibition is brought to you in partnership with the Supreme Council of Antiquities of the Arab Republic of Egypt and is produced by World Heritage Exhibitions, a subsidiary of Cityneon Holdings.

“Kings before and after Ramses erected colossal statues of themselves, but none are larger or greater in number than those commissioned by Ramses the Great,” said Renée Dreyfus, George and Judy Marcus Distinguished Curator and Curator in Charge of Ancient Art at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “The temples he erected, statues he commissioned, monuments he inscribed throughout Egypt and Nubia, and funerary temple and royal tomb he built were reminders of his earthly power and closeness to the gods. The proliferation of his name led to it becoming almost a synonym for kingship.”

This exhibition marks the first for Dreyfus under her new title of George and Judy Marcus Distinguished Curator and Curator in Charge of Ancient Art, establishing the Museums’ first-ever staff endowed position. George and Judy Marcus, who have been longtime supporters of the Fine Arts Museums, have generously donated to establish this position and have worked closely with Dreyfus over her remarkable 45-year tenure with the Museums. This endowment will support Dreyfus’s exceptional work in the Ancient Art department, including the Museums’ study and promotion of ancient art, exemplified in exhibitions like Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs. 

Ramses the Great’s tomb is located in the Valley of the Kings, the final resting place of New Kingdom pharaohs for over 500 years. This tomb was plundered in ancient times. Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs includes objects from royal tombs found elsewhere in Egypt to offer an idea of the extraordinary objects that Ramses’s tomb must have included.

“Ramses II is considered to be the greatest king ever to rule Egypt,” says Egypt’s Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Dr Mostafa Waziri. “This exhibition will illuminate the pivotal moments that earned the great pharaoh his place in history, while bringing visitors face-to-face with absolutely stunning Egyptian artifacts. Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs is one of the most remarkable exhibitions to ever tour the globe, and it is a true honor for it to visit the great city of San Francisco and the de Young museum. We encourage patrons from across the region, and the country, to make it a point to come and see this splendid display.”

The first exhibition about Ramses the Great in over 30 years is the first ever to be presented in San Francisco. The installation features the most important trove of works of art and treasures related to Ramses the Great to ever leave Egypt. Royal statues, sarcophagi, spectacular masks, magnificent jewelry, and ornate golden tomb treasures reveal the fabulous wealth of the pharaohs, the astonishing skill of ancient Egyptian tomb builders, and the superb workmanship of Egyptian artists. The grand installation also includes recently discovered animal mummies—including those of small cats, lion cubs, and a mongoose—from the Saqqara necropolis, on view for the first time, as well as fabulous treasures discovered in the royal tombs in Dahshur and Tanis (many of which have never traveled to the United States before).

Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs includes precious objects from several other periods of Egyptian history to present the opulence of Egypt’s ancient civilization and the beauty of its treasures. Many of these precious gold and silver objects come from royal tombs of the Middle Kingdom (Twelfth Dynasty), about 600 to 700 years before Ramses, and of the Twenty-First and Twenty-Second Dynasties, Egypt’s Third Intermediate Period—about 200 to 300 years after him.

Drone photography, immersive video settings, multimedia productions, and photomurals will re-create the life and accomplishments of Ramses, including his monumental building projects and his triumph at the Battle of Kadesh (considered the largest chariot battle ever fought). The exhibition will also offer a VR component, Ramses and Nefertari: Journey to Osiris, which will be installed in the museum’s Piazzoni Murals Room (viewable at extra charge). The immersive VR experience includes cinematic-motion chairs that take visitors on a whirlwind tour of two of Ramses’s most impressive monuments, Abu Simbel and Nefertari’s Tomb.

“This is an opportunity to experience Ancient Egypt like never before,” described World Heritage Exhibitions President, John Norman. “Visitors will not only see priceless historical artifacts but can also transport themselves to Egyptian temples in an electrifying virtual reality journey across the sands of the Sahara Desert. We are, once again, proud to bring these immersive, one-of-a-kind experiences to visitors across the globe.”

The de Young’s presentation of Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs is organized by Renée Dreyfus, George and Judy Marcus Distinguished Curator, and Curator in Charge of Ancient Art, at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The exhibition’s curator is Zahi Hawass, world-renowned Egyptologist and former Egyptian Minister of Antiquities and Secretary-General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities. The exhibition is produced by World Heritage Exhibitions, a subsidiary of Cityneon, in partnership with the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs will be on view at the de Young museum beginning August 20, 2022.

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