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Il Gigante del Nilo

Il Gigante del Nilo

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Apr 16 2024 18:30 - 20:00



The story of Giovanni Battista Belzoni

A talk by Eleni Vassilika and Marco Zatterin

Tuesday 16 April, 6.30pm

"It seemed to me that he was smiling at the idea of being transported to London," Giovanni Battista Belzoni noted in 1816, once the recovery of the gigantic head of Ramses II was completed, dragged by improvised machineries for five miles across the scorching valley of West Thebes.

In fact, the Young Memnon is still there, dominating the sculptures section of the British Museum, the most beautiful and admired piece of the extraordinary British collection.

We are able to admire it thanks to Giovanni Battista Belzoni, the son of a barber from Padua, who started his career as an actor and inventor of water and fire machines for English theatres, and then became the father of modern Egiptology and a great communicator of the Pharaonic era.

Between 1815 and 1819, while digging along the Nile, he put together the Egyptian collection that now shines in the British Museum. Moreover, he opened the Abu Simbel temple and Chefren’s pyramid, discovered the burial site of Sethi I (the most extraordinary in the Kings Valley), wrote a best seller about his journey from Cairo and toward Nubia, organized the first ever Egypt exhibition in Piccadilly and later in Paris.

Paduan, "Roman" by self-definition, he was an Italian who became great thanks to the English. Too often forgotten, he is often mistakenly criticized as a looter, but without him the course of Egyptology would have been very different.

Two centuries after his death in Africa in 1823, Belzoni is back in the UK to tell his story, here at ICI London, thanks to Marco Zatterin.

Marco Zatterin, journalist and writer. Deputy editor of La Stampa. For a quarter of a century he has been studying Belzoni on whom he has published: Il Gigante del Nilo (Mondadori 2000, Il Mulino 2008, Osca Storia 2019) and "Gli amici geniali" (L'Erma di Bretschneider, with Silvia Einaudi). She edited the Italian edition of Sarah Belzoni's travel diary (L'Erma di Bretschneider, 2020).


Italian Cultural Institute London


Italian Cultural Institute, 39 Belgrave Square, SW1X 8NX London


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