Monday, April 2, 2007

Book Note: The Treasures of Coptic Art in the Coptic Museum and Churches of Old Cairo (by Gawdat Gabra and Marianne Eaton-Krauss)

Here's the book on Coptic antiquities I've been waiting for! Paired with Mr. Gabra's other book (put together with Capuani, Meinardus, and Rutschowscaya), Christian Egypt: Coptic Art and Monuments Through Two Millennia (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2002), we finally are getting a close-to-thorough collection of Coptic artifacts and sites published. Both books are coffee table size books, but the information and details within reflect much more knowledge than a simple catalogue. Along with long descriptions of individual items, there are extensive narratives of the history of the region and its art.

Chapters in The Treasures of Coptic Art (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2007) include the first ever to be written as far as I know "History of the Coptic Museum" and a fairly intense overview of "The Churches of Old Cairo." Also: "Pagan Art and Coptic Art," "Pharaonic Elements in Coptic Art and Architecture," "Egyptain Monasticism," "Articles of Daily Life," "Burials," and so on.

There is even a brief chapter on the Nag Hammadi Codices with three beautiful leaves photographed, and a new full-color picture of the leather covers.

The photographs throughout the book are exquisite, down to the fibers of the old textiles in the Coptic Museum. The photographs of the art are better than the originals I remember seeing in person on any of my visits to Old Cairo and the Coptic Museum. The artifacts have been cleaned so that the images are clearly visible.

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