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A Former Royal Collection at the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels: King Leopold II’s Egyptian Antiquities

Dorian Vanhulle

The reign of Leopold II (1835-1909; r. 1865-1909) is by far the one that left the greatest mark on Belgium’s history. His endeavours still haunt the minds of many, while the disproportionate urban planning projects he initiated ensure his posterity. This legacy has until now largely overshadowed the study of his younger years. Among his many activities as Prince and Duke of Brabant were several journeys abroad, including two to Egypt. The first one took place between February 2 and March 26, 1855, after which he returned for a second journey from December 9, 1862, to February 19, 1863. During and after these trips, Leopold gradually built up a collection of nearly 200 Egyptian antiquities. These objects, among which true masterpieces, only reached the public domain several years after the king’s death thanks to the tenacity of Egyptologist Jean Capart. This lecture aims to retrace the history of this collection, from its origins until its arrival at the RMAH, focusing on some of its most important pieces.

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