Organized by students in the Fall 2023 History of Art I Honors class, Incarnations of the Treasures of Tutankhamun is an exhibition of hand-crafted objects by craft artist R.J. Olivieri. Each piece is a recreation of an Ancient Egyptian artifact and most are inspired by original treasures from King Tutankhamun’s tomb. History of Art I Honors students researched every piece, wrote labels, and installed this new exhibition on display in the Colvard Student Art Gallery from November 6th until November 16th, 2023.
In 1922, the world was stunned when archaeologist Howard Carter and a team of researchers opened the inner burial chamber of King Tutankhamun’s tomb. “King Tut,” as he is nicknamed, was an Egyptian pharaoh who died early in his rule at the age of 18 years old. The young king’s tomb contained numerous artworks and artifacts. The most famous object is King Tut’s solid gold funerary mask, which is still a recognizable icon of Ancient Egypt.
In the late 1970s, many of King Tut’s objects came to the United States as part of a travelling exhibition titled “Treasures of Tutankhamun.” Millions of Americans went to the exhibition. The exhibition made an impact on the art and culture of America in the 1970s and still fuels a fascination with Ancient Egypt today. One of the many Ancient Egypt enthusiasts living in the 1970s was R.J. Olivieri, father of Ralph Olivieri, retired Operations Manager for the MSU TV Center. R.J. Olivieri transformed his love of Egypt into a studio practice crafting hand-made replicas of objects from King Tut’s tomb. Working from photographs and using common materials such as wood, enamel paint, and stone, Olivieri payed close attention to every detail. Over the course of several years, Olivieri created 20 striking pieces. In 1979, Olivieri’s creations went on display at the Louisiana State Exhibit Building at the Louisiana State Fair Grounds in Shreveport. According to The Shreveport Journal, over 50,000 visitors viewed Olivieri’s replicas.
The world once again celebrates King Tutankhamun on the 100th anniversary of the unsealing of his tomb. Starting in 2022 and throughout 2023, events, exhibitions, and immersive experiences around the globe introduce new audiences to the legendary boy king. With support from the Department of Art Galleries, the exhibition Incarnations of the Treasures of Tutankhamun brings the celebration of King Tut to Mississippi State University giving students a chance to learn about the art of Ancient Egypt.