Mummy and coffin
c. 600 B.C.
Human bone, skin and hair, linen, resin
145 x 36 x 23 cm
École des beaux-arts de Montréal bequest
Hetep-Bastet was a wealthy Egyptian woman who lived during the 26th Dynasty of the Pharaohs, around 600 B.C. In 1927, the Cairo Museum gave her mummy and its priceless sarcophagus to Montréal’s École des beaux-arts, which displayed this extraordinary gift in their entrance hall. Probably during the protests of 1968, Hetep-Bastet was hurled to the ground by a student who had smashed her glass case, also damaging her wooden coffin. With no resources to repair them, the damaged mummy and the sarcophagus were stored in a vault in the building until they were transferred to UQAM in 1969, when it was founded and merged with the École des beaux-arts. But the treasures would have to wait until the late 1990s for their restoration.
This is only a small piece of the dramatic destiny of Hetep-Bastet, who, in the years that followed, became an object of insatiable study for Egyptologists, an exceptional source of scientific advances, the muse of a documentary film, and the star of exhibitions on ancient Egypt and contemporary art. Visitors will be able to discover Hetep-Bastet’s many incarnations on Montréal Museums Day, more than 2600 years after her birth.
One of the mummy’s last public appearance dates back to 2008. It was loaned to the Canadian Museum of Civilization for the exhibition Tombs of Eternity: The Afterlife in Ancient Egypt, where it was displayed alongside 200 artifacts from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and other ancient Egyptian artifacts from Canadian collections. The mummy was on view in Montréal in 2003 at the Galerie de l’UQAM, for the exhibition Sarkis. 2600 ans après 10 minutes 44 secondes. The Armenian-born artist mounted an installation on the theme of death, featuring various objects, including the remains of Hetep-Bastet. In 2016, the gallery showcased the mummy once again in Hetep-Bastet, A Famous Mummy in Montréal, an exhibition shown as part of Montréal Museums Day.