Gallery of Ancient Art

Starting from 2nd of February 2021, the National Museum in Warsaw is pleased to invite you to its new, long-awaited the Gallery of Ancient Art.
The historical artefacts of ancient civilizations of Egypt, the Middle East, Greece and Rome, presented at the exhibition show diversity of the heritage of these culture circles. The exhibition was funded by the European Union.

The museum has begun the new year with a unique attraction for its visitors. After nearly ten years of absence, ancient art returned permanently to the exhibition halls. The conducted renovation and arrangement were completed in December 2020. The new gallery is the result of joint work and involvement of many curators, antiquities researchers, art restorers, employees and subsequent directors of the Museum. The Museum's collection of ancient art is one of the largest and richest in Poland.

Pearls of the collection
The new gallery houses approximately 1,800 historical artefacts of the ancient civilizations of Egypt, the Middle East, Greece and Rome, arranged chronologically. The most interesting are, among others: the sarcophagus and cartonnage of the priest Hor Djehuti with the mummy of an unknown woman, papyrus with the Book of the Dead written in hieroglyphs (almost 10 meters long), ritual false door from the tomb of an Egyptian official named Izi, or a portrait of a young boy that probably comes from the oasis of Fayum (Egypt). Among the most valuable objects, one should mention a golden mask (protoma) in the shape of a bull's head, originating in Iran. The display includes also monumental antique marble sculptures. One of the rooms is devoted to Greek vase painting. Here you can admire, among others, a vessel with the image of the poet Sappho. The presented historical artefacts have undergone thorough conservation, thanks to which they regained their unique splendour. The exhibition shows the ties linking ancient cultures, and also tells about the reception of antiquity in modern times.

Timeless arrangement
The character of the new Gallery of Ancient Art is created by the play of light and shadow. The bright colours of the walls evoke the image of desert sands and Egyptian sun. Illuminated spaces adjoin the gloom of rooms resembling the interiors of ancient tombs and Roman catacombs. One of the rooms is entirely covered with hieroglyphs, the other evokes the character of the interior of a Roman house. The new Gallery of Ancient Art is also about the quality of the materials used in its construction, including natural malachite, from which the decorative elements were made, and marble floors under Greek and Roman statues. Here distant past and modern technology work together. Visitors can use multimedia devices. The exhibition is fully adapted to the needs of people with disabilities. The arrangement design was prepared and implemented by the Nizio Design International studio.

Ancients similar to us
The works of art and everyday objects left behind by the ancients create a story about people similar to us in many ways: following their passions and struggling with weaknesses, family-minded and social, seeking entertainment, power and luxury, busy with work and paying taxes, remembering about duties to the gods and about their dead. - We look at the ancients from centuries later, and it is difficult for us to imagine what they could have in common with us. An attempt to answer the question of what kind of people they were and what was important to them is the newly opened gallery. Items presented at the exhibition, used by the ancients on black and red letter days alike, show us that the civilization conditions in which we live are ever changing, but that human nature and human needs remain unchanged for centuries. - emphasizes Ph.D. Aleksandra Sulikowska-Bełczowska, head of the curatorial team of the Collections of Ancient and East Christian Art of the National Museum in Warsaw (MNW).

The origin of the National Museum in Warsaw collection
Most pieces in the Gallery of Ancient Art are part of the National Museum in Warsaw collection. There are donations from private persons (e.g. Władysław Semerau-Siemianowski) and institutions (UNESCO), as well as works of art purchased by the Museum. Some of the pieces come from collections that after 1945 became part of the collections of the National Museum in Warsaw, including Radziwiłł from Nieborów, Potocki from Jabłonna or Czartoryski from Gołuchów and pre-war German collections, among others from Silesia, Królewiec and Braniewo, formed from purchases on the antique market at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. There are also deposits of the Louvre Museum's collections at the exhibition, some of them have been stored at the National Museum in Warsaw since 1960. Numerous objects come from Polish excavations conducted at a time when the law allowed to obtain some of the finds discovered in the course of archaeological works.

Achievements of Polish archaeologists
The greatest achievements of Polish archaeology are associated with prof. Kazimierz Michałowski (1901–1981), collaborating with the National Museum in Warsaw and the University of Warsaw. This scientist led many archaeological missions in Europe and Africa. The Gallery of Ancient Art houses monuments discovered during excavations conducted by Polish archaeologists in Edfu (1937-1938), Myrmekion ( 1950s), Tell al-Atrib (works started in the 1950s)  and Faras (1961–1964). Medieval relics of Nubian Christian art from these excavations are on display in the Faras Gallery, adjacent to the Gallery of Ancient Art.

European Union support
The Gallery of Ancient Art was closed to visitors in July 2011. The investment, the effect of which is the opening of the new Gallery, was possible thanks to funds received from the European Union. The project "Project „Reorganisation of the permanent exhibition of the Gallery of Ancient Art in the National Museum in Warsaw” implemented within the Measure 8.1 Protection of cultural heritage and development of cultural resources under Priority Axis VIII - Operational Programme Infrastructure and Environment for the period 2014-2020.” The national contribution to the project was provided by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.

The exhibition is complemented by a rich program of scientific, educational and popularising events. We also invite you to visit our social media profiles as well as our new portal Digital MNW.

acting as the curator: Ph.D. Aleksandra Sulikowska-Bełczowska (MNW)