The Irish Pasha

By Louise Foxcroft

The astonishing private and public lives of a maverick Edwardian Egyptologist

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Fitzwilliam Museum Event, 6-8pm, Wednesday 4th March

Hello - here's a reminder and taster for the fast approaching talk at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Theo Gayer-Anderson will talk about his grandfather's route to the East and his house in Cairo looking over the Ibn Tulun Mosque, the Beit-al-Kretlyia, now the Gayer-Anderson Museum. I'll be reading from The Irish Pasha, focussing mainly on his collecting: a large proportion of the Egyptian antiquities he amassed were presented to the Fitzwilliam Museum in 1943 -  there are over 7500 objects of all periods, but particularly Amarna period artefacts including fragments of sculpture and faience flowers. Many are now on display in the 'Gayer-Anderson room', now Gallery 20, where drinks will be served after the event. We look forward to seeing you there.

"Gayer-Anderson's friend Stephen Spender wrote of him that his ‘strongest incentive was the beauty which [he] prized above all other values in this life’. The obsessive urge to collect that had gripped him from an early age was perhaps a substitute for intimacy, and a way of bringing order to a chaotic interior world. It allowed him to step outside his personal history and upbringing, to stop time and overcome his horror of aging and decay. Collecting beauty preserved at least something from the fragility of existence and provided meaning for it.

The adoration that Gayer-Anderson lavished upon his collection held, he acknowledged, a consuming expression of sexual power for him. Freud argued that the impulse to collect is an anally retentive instinct connected with loss in childhood. Muensterberger says, in Collecting: An unruly passion, that it is a response to the trauma of aloneness, a need-driven and compulsive compensatory behaviour that draws on fetish culture and is phallic in the need to complete - the collector collects because of his incomplete development. Orhan Pamuk considers it to be a universal reaction to some trauma or trouble, that getting attached to things, caring for them, categorizing them, and producing a timeless but coherent story and a relationship with them, does little but reveal the collector’s personal wounds."

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