About the collection

The acquisition of Egyptian antiquities by Hungarian collectors gained importance in the nineteenth century. The first Hungarian museum to acquire Egyptian artefacts was the Hungarian National Museum, established in 1802, whose Egyptian collection derived from donations. From the second half of the nineteenth century Egyptian artefacts were also donated to the Museum of Applied Arts (founded in 1872 and hosted by the Hungarian National Museum from 1873 until 1877, when it was made a separate institution) and to the Museum of Ethnography (originally founded as a department of the Hungarian National Museum in 1872, which separated from it in 1898 and gained its organisational independence in 1948). In 1907, Fülöp Back, a Hungarian entrepreneur in Egypt, had already financed archaeological excavations in Middle Egypt (Kom el-Akhmar and Gamhud), which were led by Polish Egyptologist Tadeusz Smoleński. Back donated a considerable part of the finds (relief fragments from a Ptolemaic temple and funerary objects from a Graeco-Roman cemetery) to the Hungarian National Museum.

The idea of combining Egyptian antiquities from Hungarian collections into one single collection was initiated by Ede Mahler, founder of Hungarian Egyptology, in 1902. His plan was realised only in 1934, when as a result of Act VIII of 1934 regulating museums’ collecting activities, the Egyptian Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts was established through the transfer of artefacts owned by the Hungarian National Museum, the Museum of Ethnography and the Museum of Applied Arts. This new collection – then part of the Collection of Antiquities, from which it became separate in 1957 – comprised of approximately 1,200 artefacts.

The Collection of Egyptian Antiquities today comprises approximately 3,500 objects, and is considered as the most significant Egyptian collection in Central-East Europe, apart from the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. A fair number of pieces and object groups are included in the collection, that are regarded as outstanding for their scientific importance or for their artistic quality. Scholarly research has been carried out on these highlights of the collection since 1947, and their results have been published in the Bulletin du Musée Hongrois des Beaux-Arts.

In the last few years, the Department of Egyptian Antiquities started a systematic and complex study of the collection with the intention to meet the criteria of modern museology. As a first step of this complex research programme, the research team published the representative catalogue of our highlights (‘Egyptian Artefacts of the Museum of Fine Arts Budapest’). Also as part of the research, two international conferences were held in the Museum: Art and Society. Ancient and Modern Contexts of Egyptian Art in 2010 and Burial and Mortuary Practices in Late Period and Graeco-Roman Egypt in 2014.

In the last years, research was also carried out on special groups of objects in the Collection. The first result of this project was the catalogue ‘Coffins and Coffin Fragments of the Third Intermediate Period’ published by Éva Liptay. With the scientific supervision of Katalin Anna Kóthay as chief researcher, and with the support of the Hungarian Scientific Research Fund, a complex research programme on the Budapest Gamhud Collection started in 2013. The present online catalogue series, which is intended to publish the corpus of wooden, stone and bronze figures of the Collection, is a next step in the research program, aiming at creating an open-access, easily searchable database of the involved object groups.