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<v Vincent Price>Images. Images, yes. <v Vincent Price>But more, much more. <v Vincent Price>Each one a symbol, a quest of the soul. <v Vincent Price>Uncovered piece by piece. <v Vincent Price>Each one a part of the mystical hold for those willing to <v Vincent Price>search. <v Vincent Price>The Rambova Egyptian collection is treasured not only for its antiquity, <v Vincent Price>but also for its symbolic meaning. <v Vincent Price>For Natacha Rambova was a searcher.
<v Vincent Price>Even as a child, she was captivating. <v Vincent Price>Born in 1897 in Salt Lake City, Utah, she was christened <v Vincent Price>Winifred Kimball Shaughnessy, the daughter of Mrs. Winifred Shaughnessy <v Vincent Price>Hudnut. <v Vincent Price>Her stepfather, Richard Hudnut being the wealthy perfumer and her <v Vincent Price>mother, a world traveler and collector. <v Vincent Price>Young Winifred grew up with a worldwide appreciation for fine art. <v Vincent Price>Her artistic talents led her into the Russian ballet of Theodore Koslov. <v Vincent Price>There she changed her name to Natacha Rambova <v Vincent Price>a name more fitting her exotic personality. <v Vincent Price>The name she chose to literally forage into the arts and sciences in <v Vincent Price>search of nutriment for mind and soul. <v Vincent Price>A woman of many talents, she was set and costume designer, humanitarian, <v Vincent Price>research director for motion pictures. <v Vincent Price>But by the general public, Natacha Rambova was better known as the <v Vincent Price>fascinating wife of Rudolph Valentino, Hollywood's most
<v Vincent Price>lasting worshiped and legendary star. <v Vincent Price>He was so completely captivated by her, he described her as no <v Vincent Price>ordinary woman, but rather like the reincarnation of some mighty <v Vincent Price>goddess of the past. <v Vincent Price>Oddly enough, she did possess a striking resemblance to Nephertiti, <v Vincent Price>the Egyptian queen, whom history describes as one of its most dramatic <v Vincent Price>beauties, so beautiful that modern-day reproductions of her famous <v Vincent Price>portrait had such as this one, are still in demand. <v Vincent Price>Natacha did seem to have more rapport with the past than the present. <v Vincent Price>She understood and felt more comfortable with the mystical rather than the mundane. <v Vincent Price>In a letter she wrote, My interest in mythology and legend began <v Vincent Price>as a child as I never read any other kind of book. <v Vincent Price>And when asked to create sets for a certain screenplay, she explained her refusal
<v Vincent Price>by saying it was a modern story and modern stories have always <v Vincent Price>bored me. <v Vincent Price>In the 1940s and early 50s, she went on two expeditions to Egypt, <v Vincent Price>the country where for centuries symbolism had been the breath of life. <v Vincent Price>She became a dedicated research scholar and assisted in the translation and recording <v Vincent Price>of texts from ancient Egyptian tombs, including Ramses the 6th <v Vincent Price>and the shrines of Tutankhamun. <v Vincent Price>And as she worked and traveled, she grew intensely interested in comparative religion <v Vincent Price>and symbolism and became a respected Egyptologist in her own <v Vincent Price>right. <v Vincent Price>We approach the Rambova collection. <v Vincent Price>through several of the beautiful galleries of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.
<v Vincent Price>Natacha donated her collection to the University of Utah. <v Vincent Price>The state of her birth and its permanent home is here at the museum. <v Vincent Price>Among so many other beautiful pieces of art as <v Vincent Price>the boy king, Tutankhamen continues to weave his dazzling <v Vincent Price>spell over the minds and hearts of the 20th century. <v Vincent Price>We must remember Natacha was a searcher, and her collection must <v Vincent Price>be viewed with an entirely different perspective. <v Vincent Price>She was not searching for treasures of silver and gold, but for treasures <v Vincent Price>of truth. <v Vincent Price>And since, according to an ancient text, truth does not come into <v Vincent Price>the world naked but clothed in types and images. <v Vincent Price>We must look at her collection through her eyes and see each object as <v Vincent Price>what she called a symbolic piece, essential to the reconstruction <v Vincent Price>of religious patterns of Egyptian thought.
<v Vincent Price>In 1956 from Egypt, she wrote, I feel that we <v Vincent Price>shall eventually be able to support and prove the contentions of the <v Vincent Price>classical world concerning the great wisdom that was Egypt, <v Vincent Price>when re-assemble, this imagery shows an insight and knowledge <v Vincent Price>of the inner workings of man's nature. <v Vincent Price>Now come spill evening on and twilight. <v Vincent Price>Gray had in her sober livery all things clad. <v Vincent Price>Those words of Milton's aptly set the mood for embarking into the nether <v Vincent Price>regions of Egyptian symbolism. <v Vincent Price>At death, this is the type of vessel that carried the deceased across <v Vincent Price>the Nile to the burying ground always in the west where the sun dies <v Vincent Price>each night. The Egyptians believed in a literal life after death
<v Vincent Price>and a model funerary barge or boat was essential for survival <v Vincent Price>in the afterlife. The barge was believed to carry the soul on <v Vincent Price>the treacherous journey every night along the waters, through the realms <v Vincent Price>of the underworld, where demons and monsters tried to impede progress, <v Vincent Price>and where it is wise to pay tribute to Cyrus, the king of the dead. <v Vincent Price>Solemn oarsman rowed the barge, but the soul is destined to arrive safely <v Vincent Price>in the east by morning if the body has been properly mummified <v Vincent Price>and will rise again with the sun God, the terrors of the night forgotten <v Vincent Price>were bathed in the light of morning. Each new day brings resurrection and rebirth <v Vincent Price>of the car or soul as the mighty sun god Ra journeys <v Vincent Price>across the heavens.
<v Vincent Price>The belief in a literal life after death was so prevalent that all Egyptian <v Vincent Price>graves and tombs were equipped with whatever necessities they could afford <v Vincent Price>and crafted over 5000 years ago. <v Vincent Price>This pottery canoe enabled the deceased to travel all fish <v Vincent Price>in the afterlife. It is protected by the heads of turtles to help <v Vincent Price>it maneuver in the water. <v Vincent Price>Birds and animals were sacred to the ancients and were recognized as being <v Vincent Price>essential to men's ecology countless millennia before that ecology <v Vincent Price>ever became threatened. <v Vincent Price>Noted for their antiquity, these archaic stone and ceramic vessels <v Vincent Price>also date back to prehistoric times, again and <v Vincent Price>again, we see the expanding circles of life that go on forever. <v Vincent Price>This symbol is found in every known ancient culture, like the ripples
<v Vincent Price>of water expanding when a stone is thrown into a pond. <v Vincent Price>There are also mountains and water symbols, as well as bird and animal pictures <v Vincent Price>appearing on these mortuary vessels that would have contained food, oil <v Vincent Price>and other necessities for the afterlife. <v Vincent Price>But eventually all the food in the jars would be gone. <v Vincent Price>How could more food be produced to sustain the soul in the hereafter? <v Vincent Price>Do the ancient Egyptian any symbolic Greek creation of an object <v Vincent Price>Cresson or God was just as real and functional as whatever <v Vincent Price>was symbolized for the life source was fluid and could <v Vincent Price>enter into any shape or mold. <v Vincent Price>Therefore, the people began the practice of having miniature models made of <v Vincent Price>daily activities. They believe the models would actually perform
<v Vincent Price>the necessary tasks in the afterlife. <v Vincent Price>This wooden plows had assured the deceased of someone to plant and harvest <v Vincent Price>his crop of grain. <v Vincent Price>But all this preoccupation of equipping a tomb did not make the ancient <v Vincent Price>Egyptians a gloomy race. <v Vincent Price>Far from it. Their philosophy being that in as much as they <v Vincent Price>were then living in eternity, the time to be happy was now <v Vincent Price>today. And so they were. <v Vincent Price>They were lovers of music and this sistrum was one of their principal instruments <v Vincent Price>here, only the Handel remains of this ancient music maker, but <v Vincent Price>an artist's rendering shows how the sistrum originally looked. <v Vincent Price>It was a metallic instrument. <v Vincent Price>The little metal disc jingled as it was shaken by the handle. <v Vincent Price>Attending an ancient ceremony in honor of the goddess Isis, you could hear
<v Vincent Price>the sistrum in the proceedings. <v Vincent Price>Typically it has the head of the goddess Hathor protector of women depicted <v Vincent Price>towards the top. <v Vincent Price>Although Alabaster is difficult to work with, it was preferred by the craftsmen <v Vincent Price>because of its aesthetic beauty. <v Vincent Price>Similar in shape to some of the pre-dynastic pottery, these large <v Vincent Price>vessels are beautifully polished pieces of alabaster. <v Vincent Price>But now see the diversity of form and uniform quality, which became so <v Vincent Price>popular during the 18th dynasty, approximately fourteen hundred B.C., <v Vincent Price>this was the era when the domestic arts flourished at their highest level. <v Vincent Price>Each shape of jar or bowl, including these smaller ones, indicated <v Vincent Price>a specific purpose, whether it be for unguent oil or cosmetic <v Vincent Price>substance. The Egyptians took very good care of the body,
<v Vincent Price>for it was essential for resurrection. <v Vincent Price>Imagine a young lady delicately dipping each fingertip into one of these tiny <v Vincent Price>jars to faintly tinge each finger with rosy henna. <v Vincent Price>To line in the eyes, a small ivory stick was dipped into a dark <v Vincent Price>powdery substance called kohl. <v Vincent Price>Not only for beauty, but also for protection from the burning <v Vincent Price>Egyptian sun. <v Vincent Price>Lovers of beauty and beautiful things, the ancients were masters <v Vincent Price>of jewelry making using sacred carnelian, amethyst, lapis <v Vincent Price>lazuli and turquoise.
<v Vincent Price>Both men and women wore jewelry as much of it was made into magic symbols <v Vincent Price>to protect them from harm or evil. <v Vincent Price>In later years, they copied their favorite stones by decorative lay painting <v Vincent Price>faience, glazed earthenware pottery, noticed the tiny amulets <v Vincent Price>on this beaded necklace. <v Vincent Price>They are in the shape of the udjat eye, one of the most popular symbols of <v Vincent Price>ancient Egypt. <v Vincent Price>It consists of the eye and eyebrow of a human with the markings <v Vincent Price>of a falcon's eye directly below it. <v Vincent Price>It represents the eye of Horus. <v Vincent Price>Beloved son of Osiris. <v Vincent Price>Horus often took the form of a falcon, since the Falcon flies higher <v Vincent Price>in the heavens than any other bird, and has the keenest eyesight.
<v Vincent Price>For each symbol in the wonderfully complex mythology of this ancient land, <v Vincent Price>there is a story. For the legend of the udjat eye, we are told <v Vincent Price>that when the gods were vying for supremacy, eicked Set <v Vincent Price>murdered his brother Osiris. <v Vincent Price>Consequently, Horus, the valiant son of Osiris, fought with Set <v Vincent Price>to avenge his father's death in the struggle. <v Vincent Price>Set ripped out one of the eyes of Horus, tearing it to shreds. <v Vincent Price>But Thot Lord of wisdom gathered up the fragments, healed the <v Vincent Price>eye and returned it to Horace. <v Vincent Price>Horace then placed it in his dead father's mouth and brought Osiris <v Vincent Price>back to life. <v Vincent Price>Therefore, the symbol of the udjat, I became a potent amulet against <v Vincent Price>sickness and was even thought to bring the dead back to life.
<v Vincent Price>Here, a delicate finger ring made of faience. <v Vincent Price>Amulets by the dozens were found in Egyptian tombs. <v Vincent Price>Different amulets, each with different magical abilities were placed <v Vincent Price>on every layer of linen as the body was wrapped and mummified. <v Vincent Price>Tiny pieces of faience, stone and wood. <v Vincent Price>Yet carefully carved into little figures and accredited with magical <v Vincent Price>powers. <v Vincent Price>But by far the most popular amulet in ancient Egypt was the beetle <v Vincent Price>or scarab. It was the magic symbol of the sun God
<v Vincent Price>for the beetle emerged from the ground each morning as the sun emerged <v Vincent Price>from the night. It was also a symbol of eternal life. <v Vincent Price>But when the beetle died, the soft part disintegrated. <v Vincent Price>But the shell petrified turning stone-like which would, of course, last <v Vincent Price>forever. These tiny soapstone scarabs are no larger <v Vincent Price>than a fingernail. And yet the undersides are intricately carved <v Vincent Price>with all kinds of symbols, bestowing health than longevity to <v Vincent Price>the owner. <v Vincent Price>To the Egyptians, the head was regarded as the center of life <v Vincent Price>and should always be kept above the earth because its preservation <v Vincent Price>was extremely important for existence in the afterlife. <v Vincent Price>Therefore, a headdress was custom made for each individual. <v Vincent Price>A magic incantation attributes the power of resurrection <v Vincent Price>to the headrest.
<v Vincent Price>Since images and statues were real to the Egyptians, <v Vincent Price>no tomb was complete without figures of the gods to assure the departed <v Vincent Price>soul of divine guidance. <v Vincent Price>This ornately painted figure represents the God of Memphis. <v Vincent Price>Capital of Lower Egypt. His name Ptah-Sokar-Osiris is <v Vincent Price>portrayed here in mummiform, wearing a broad collar with falcon heads <v Vincent Price>on each shoulder. <v Vincent Price>The upper register depicts the sky goddess Newt with outstretched <v Vincent Price>wings. In her hands are the ostrich feathers, symbols <v Vincent Price>of truth and of the western realm of the dead. <v Vincent Price>She wears the solar disc symbol of divinity on her head, <v Vincent Price>and the inscription reads. It is I who gave birth to the gods. <v Vincent Price>In the middle register, the women goddesses Isis and Nephthys
<v Vincent Price>give protection to the deceased. <v Vincent Price>And in the lowest register are the four sons of Horus, protectors <v Vincent Price>of the embalmed inner organs. <v Vincent Price>But most important, the figure is hollow for it once contained on <v Vincent Price>a papyrus scroll. The famous Book of the Dead. <v Vincent Price>A very important guide book for the soul containing prayers, magic <v Vincent Price>formulas and the rules of conduct for the afterlife. <v Vincent Price>Carefully wrapped in linen this miniature mummy is shaped like a very small <v Vincent Price>child. Yet when x rayed, it reveals no bone structure. <v Vincent Price>You see, it was customary for the ancients to shape stones or grain into <v Vincent Price>small Osiris effigies like this one, for these effigies were believed <v Vincent Price>to magically aid the deceased in attaining resurrection and <v Vincent Price>eternal life.
<v Vincent Price>Each Osiris effigy had its own small coffinnette carved <v Vincent Price>out of cedarwood. This mummiformed figure as the head of a falcon, <v Vincent Price>like the God Horus. <v Vincent Price>Most of the beautiful artwork has been eroded now by time, <v Vincent Price>but again it was decorated with the religious symbols needed for the nocturnal <v Vincent Price>journey through the shades of the nether world. <v Vincent Price>When asked by Osiris King of the Dead to perform work, these little faience <v Vincent Price>figures, known as shawabtis, were placed in the tomb to act as substitute <v Vincent Price>workers for the deceased. <v Vincent Price>On the right is the shawabti for a scribe named Nepah from the 19th <v Vincent Price>dynasty. He was made by hand about 1000 years <v Vincent Price>before Christ. <v Vincent Price>The hieroglyphic text found painted on the body is from chapter six of the Book <v Vincent Price>of the Dead. It is a prayer to Osiris reading Oh Osiris, as
<v Vincent Price>for the duties of this man and any work which is to be done in the necropolis <v Vincent Price>and which is to be performed by a working man, behold, I am here to <v Vincent Price>do all these things, whether it be plowing the fields, carrying the sand <v Vincent Price>from the east to the west and from west to east. <v Vincent Price>Behold, I am here. <v Vincent Price>I am here. <v Vincent Price>The other figure's name is Senet, a priestly title, meaning <v Vincent Price>one who does the goodwill of Ra the Sun God. <v Vincent Price>Since he is more recent approximately five hundred years before Christ, <v Vincent Price>he is mold made, enabling his type to be produced in much <v Vincent Price>larger numbers. <v Vincent Price>In early times, one shawabti was usually sufficient. <v Vincent Price>But in later years, the normal number was 401. <v Vincent Price>One for each day of the year and a foreman for each 10 shawabti.
<v Vincent Price>On the Shabaka Stone, which is probably the oldest known text in existence <v Vincent Price>now in the British Museum, is written great and mighty is the god Ptah <v Vincent Price>through whose mind and word all the spirits were brought forth. <v Vincent Price>He was the creator of all things the Heavenly Father, the great <v Vincent Price>one, all gods and men were projections of his <v Vincent Price>intellect. This bronze figure of the god Ptah assured the <v Vincent Price>deceased of the deity's divine guidance. <v Vincent Price>Such an exalted God as Ptah was portrayed with a human head. <v Vincent Price>In some myth, the tongue of Ptah magically turned into the God Thot, <v Vincent Price>who was usually depicted as having the head of an ibis, a sacred <v Vincent Price>long-beaked white bird. <v Vincent Price>Remember, it was Thot who healed the eye of Horus. <v Vincent Price>Thot was the Lord of Wisdom and divine scribe of the Gods. <v Vincent Price>And since the gods could inhabit most any form they wished, Thot
<v Vincent Price>also took the form of a certain type of ape, a dog-headed baboon, <v Vincent Price>with the sun disc on his head. <v Vincent Price>Baboons such as this one often appear in sculptures seated upon the shoulders <v Vincent Price>of scribes, as if to represent Thot's divine inspiration. <v Vincent Price>This deitite image could be part of a scribe's Reed brush holder <v Vincent Price>or some kind of writing equipment. <v Vincent Price>Scribes were very important people because anything written or painted <v Vincent Price>also had the magical ability to become real. <v Vincent Price>So for life to continue after death. <v Vincent Price>In much the same way as in mortality, all kinds of daily activities were <v Vincent Price>recorded in pictorials, on slabs of stone. <v Vincent Price>Here the men are carrying the chair of a nobleman. <v Vincent Price>The inscriptions are words actually being spoken by the men, and because <v Vincent Price>of their colloquial nature, are difficult to translate exactly. <v Vincent Price>But they are saying act well because of the important person who is in your
<v Vincent Price>arms and pay attention to the one in front of your feet. <v Vincent Price>This particular fragment of limestone by relief is thought to be a part <v Vincent Price>of a tomb of a noble named ?Neyank Nasoot? <v Vincent Price>Who was buried at the Necropolis of Saqqara, south of Cairo, <v Vincent Price>approximately twenty-three hundred B.C.. <v Vincent Price>Much later, approximately 1350 B.C., the style of art <v Vincent Price>changed greatly due to the pharaoh Akhenaten, the illustrious <v Vincent Price>predecessor to Tutankhamen and husband to Nefertiti. <v Vincent Price>Noticed the attention to detail. <v Vincent Price>He is fashioned here in the manner in which he instructed his craftsmen to portray <v Vincent Price>him. Akhenaten was known as the humanist reformer, the worshiper <v Vincent Price>o f only one God, Aten. <v Vincent Price>And during his reign, art began reflecting more realistic features <v Vincent Price>and human situations.
<v Vincent Price>The ancient Egyptians were the first to discover the art of glass-making. <v Vincent Price>Glass was treasured along with precious jewels. <v Vincent Price>This frail paper thin glassware stems from the Ptolemaic period, really <v Vincent Price>exquisite. The shimmering rainbow colors are nature's work <v Vincent Price>as oxidation over so many years gradually tinted the glass. <v Vincent Price>The tiny vials are for tears. <v Vincent Price>Paid mourners would weep into these small glass vessels, <v Vincent Price>which would then be sealed and buried with the departed. <v Vincent Price>Hundreds of years later, a 19th-century poet wrote all <v Vincent Price>the rarest hues of human life take radiance and rainbows <v Vincent Price>out in tears.
<v Vincent Price>Although we've only been able to show a portion of it, Natacha Rambova collected <v Vincent Price>a myriad of symbolic pieces. <v Vincent Price>And yet what real significance could this array of diversified <v Vincent Price>artifacts possibly hold for the 20th century? <v Vincent Price>In what way can these symbols of lives past enlighten our <v Vincent Price>present lives? <v Vincent Price>Rambo addressed herself to these questions as she continued her <v Vincent Price>work. She wrote Not only do these myths and symbols serve <v Vincent Price>as a fascinating study of the history of abstract religious thought, <v Vincent Price>but they can also supply an ever-growing need of today <v Vincent Price>for men to recover his lost perspective, his veneration <v Vincent Price>of nature, and his sense of oneness with the great divine <v Vincent Price>scheme. <v Vincent Price>We have gained a glimpse into your ancient world, oh, mighty Ptah.
Symbols of Lives Past: the Rambova Collection
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The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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"'Symbols of Lives Past: The Rambova Collection' is a half hour film about the fascinating collection of Egyptian antiquities donated to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts by Natacha Rambova, exotic wife of Rudolph Valentino. She became a research scholar in symbolism and comparative religion. She collected artifacts that, to her, were tangible symbols of man's search for deity and everlasting life. Some of the pieces are very old - 3500 B.C. "The artifacts are of specific interest, not only for their antiquity, but also for their symbolic nature."--1980 Peabody Awards entry form.
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The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
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Duration: 0:28:36
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Chicago: “Symbols of Lives Past: the Rambova Collection,” 1980, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 28, 2022,
MLA: “Symbols of Lives Past: the Rambova Collection.” 1980. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 28, 2022. <>.
APA: Symbols of Lives Past: the Rambova Collection. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from