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Pietro della Valle’s Mummies

  • Matteo Burioni (München)
Friday 15 September 2017
Material Agency Forum
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

Christian Antiquities, Egyptian Collectibles, and Preserved Bodies

The Roman patrician Pietro della Valle (1586-1652) made an extensive journey through Turkey, to Persia and India. In Ottoman Egypt, he visited the pyramids and unearthed two mummies and a mummy mask, now in Dresden and Berlin respectively. These mummies were brought back to Baroque Rome in 1626 together with a sizeable collection of objects from the places he visited. He even came to use mummification during his travel. His Eastern Rite Christian wife, which he met in Baghdad and married, died in childbirth; he had her mummified and brought her back to Italy, where he had her buried in the family tomb in Santa Maria in Ara Coeli. Already Johann Wolfgang Goethe was interested in the fantastic life of the Roman Patrician and wrote about him in his West-Östlicher Diwan. The paper will deal with the logistics of travel and collection across three continents, the meaning of the mummies for Christian archaeology and antiquary studies as well as the interest in the preservation of bodies.

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