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The Life and Deeds of Luigi Vassalli: Painter, Patriot and Egyptologist

April 7, 2019 @ 3:00 pm EDT

ARCE-NC Egyptology
Room 20 Barrows Hall, UC Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720 United States

The American Research Center in Egypt, Northern California Chapter, and the Near Eastern Studies Department, University of California, Berkeley, invite you to attend a lecture by Dr. Francesco Tiradritti, Director, Italian Archaeological Mission to Luxor:

The Life and Deeds of Luigi Vassalli: Painter, Patriot and Egyptologist

Sunday, April 7, 3 pm
Room 20 Barrows Hall
UC Berkeley Campus

(Near the intersection
of Bancroft Way
and Barrow Lane)

About the Lecture:

Luigi Vassalli was born in 1812 in Milan. In 1828 he enrolled at the Brera Academy and around this period he joined the Mazzinian activism but after a failed conspiracy he was sentenced to death, only to be pardoned but exiled. He moved in several places across Europe and later he traveled to Egypt where he began working for the local government.

In 1848 Vassalli returned to his homeland to join the revolutionary movements against the Austrian Empire, but after the failure he returned to Egypt where he became a portrait painter and an archaeological guide for wealthy foreigners. Around 1858 he was appointed Inspector of excavations by the French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette, who was Director of Antiquities at this time. Vassalli assisted in excavations at Giza and Saqqara until 1860, when he returned home to give his contribution to the Expedition of the Thousand led by Giuseppe Garibaldi. After the victory he was appointed First Class Conservator at the Naples National Archaeological Museum; however, the office was soon abolished by the still pro-Borbonic museum management and Vassalli again came back to Cairo.

In Egypt he made several archaeological explorations in many sites such as Tanis, Saqqara, Dendera and Edfu from 1861 to 1868. He sent many mummy remains to the Museo Civico di Storia Naturale of Milan and in 1871 he made around 150 casts from monuments exhibited in the Bulaq Museum which he brought to Florence with him. During his short stay here the Italian government asked him to inspect many Egyptian collections in Italy, after which he returned to his duties in Cairo.

Still in 1871, along with Mariette he discovered the mastaba of Nefermaat at Meidum, which is well known for the famous scene commonly referred as the “Meidum geese”. Vassalli carefully removed the whole scene from the tomb wall and reassembled it inside the Bulaq Museum. This fact sparked a controversy over a century later in 2015, when the Egyptologist Francesco Tiradritti suggested that the Meidum geese scene is a 19th-century forgery possibly made by Vassalli himself, a claim disputed by Egyptian authorities, among them Zahi Hawass.

After Mariette’s death in 1881, Vassalli became interim director until the installation of Gaston Maspero. He retired in 1884 and returned to Milan and then to Rome, where he committed suicide on June 13, 1887.


About the Speaker:

Dr. Francesco Tiradritti is an Egyptologist and a journalist. Since 1996 he has been director of the Italian Archaeological Mission to Luxor, which has worked in the Funerary Complex of Harwa (TT 37) and Akhamunru (TT 404) since 1995. He has taken part in excavations in Italy (Vivara, Toppo d’Aguzzo, Volterra), the Sudan (Gebel Barkal, Mussawwarat Es-Sufra) and Egypt (Tomb of Sheshonq in Luxor and Gebelein). He taught Egyptology and Islamic Archaeology and Art History at the “Kore” University of Enna (Italy) from 2012 to 2017. He held the chair of Egyptology in Naples (Istituto Universitario “Suor Orsola Benincasa”) at the University of Foggia and of Turin. In 2004-2005 he held the “Dorothy K. Hohenberg” Chair of Excellence in Art History at the University of Memphis (Tennessee), and in 2013 he was Scholar at the Getty Research Institute of Los Angeles. He worked for thirteen years as consulting Egyptologist at the City Archaeological Collections of Milano. He was member in the commission for the feasibility study of the Grand Egyptian Museum (Giza) and in that for the renovation project of the Egyptian Museum in Turin. He has organized twenty-one exhibitions on aspects of the ancient Egyptian civilization in Italy, Europe and Egypt. He is author of Egyptian Wall Painting” (2008) and “Ancient Egypt: Art, Architecture and History” (2002). He is an editor of “Egyptian Treasures of the Egyptian Museum of Cairo” (1999, translated in fourteen languages), and the author of several scientific publications on Egyptology and Sudanese archaeology.

Sources: ; ; .

Parking is available in U.C. lots after 5 p.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends for a fee. Ticket dispensing machines accept either $5 bills or $1 bills, and debit or credit cards. The Underhill lot can be entered from Channing way off College Avenue. Parking is also available in lots along Bancroft, and on the circle drive in front of the Valley Life Sciences building.

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April 7, 2019
3:00 pm EDT
Event Category:


ARCE-NC Egyptology
Room 20 Barrows Hall, UC Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720 United States


Glenn Meyer
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