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Aldred, Cyril

Date born:  1914

Place Born:  Fulham (London), United Kingdom

Date died:  1991

Place died:  Edinburgh, Scotland

Egyptologist and art historian. Aldred was the son of Frederick Aldred and Lilian Ethel Underwood (Aldred). After attending the Sloane School, Chelsea, he studied English at King's College, London, and then art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art.  While a student, he met Howard Carter (1874-1939), the archaeologist who discovered the Tutankhamen tomb, in 1933.  He graduated from the Courtauld in 1936. In 1937 he became an assistant keeper (curator) at the Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh the institution he would remain for the rest of his life. He married Jessie Kennedy Morton (b. 1908/9), a masseuse in 1938.  During World War II, Aldrich served in the RAF.  After returning to Edinburgh in 1946, he approached Egyptology as his sole area of endeavor. In 1949, his book Old Kingdom Art in Ancient Egypt appeared.  The simple survey connected the monuments of the major period in Egyptian art and became popular. Volumes on the middle and new kingdoms in 1950 and 1952 appeared.  These publications established his career as an Egyptologist and art historian of synthetic approach. Essays on fine woodwork and furniture appeared in the Oxford History of Technology in 1954 and 1956.  In 1955 he worked as an associate curator for a year in the department of Egyptian art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, under William C. Hayes (q.v.), the curator.  Hayes hoped Aldred might become his successor, but Aldred returned to Scotland in 1956. He was promoted to keeper of art and archaeology in 1961, which he held until his retirement. The book Akhenaten, Pharaoh of Egypt, was published by Aldred in 1968.  Jewels of the Pharaohs appeared in 1971 from Thames and Hudson.  His most significant art-historical writing is the catalog written for the Brooklyn Museum exhibition, "Akhenaten and Nefertiti" in 1973. He retired from the Museum in 1974. Beginning in 1978, Aldred wrote studies for the French L'univers des formes surveys of Egyptian art (other volumes appearing in 1979 and 1980). Though Aldred published his Egyptian Art,1980, another substantial popular survey, a scholarly monograph on Egyptian sculpture never appeared.   His Akhenaten, King of Egypt, 1988, restated much of his 1968 volume with broader evidence. He died at his home in Edinburgh.

Aldred's time in New York brought him a greater interest in the Egyptian sculpture of the Amarna period, the time period of Akhenaten, and the concomitant period of loosening of artistic convention. His 1973 Brooklyn catalog, concentrating on Amarna-era art, organized this problematic time of Egyptian art.

Home Country:  United Kingdom

Sources:   James, Thomas Garnet H. "Cyril Aldred." Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 78 (1992): 258-66;  Waterston, Charles D. "Cyril Aldred." Year Book of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1990-91): 32-4; Goring, Elizabeth, and  Reeves, Charles Nicholas and Ruffle, John, eds. Chief of Seers: Egyptian Studies in Memory of Cyril Aldred. New York: Kegan Paul International, 1997; The Independent July 6, 1991; The Times (London) July 6, 1991;  James, Thomas Garnet H. "Aldred, Cyril (1914-1991)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.

Bibliography:  [collected articles] Ancient Egypt in the Metropolitan Museum Journal, Volumes 1-11 (1968-1976): Articles. [ by Cyril Aldred].  New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1977; The Development of Ancient Egyptian Art: from 3200 to 1315 B. C. 3 vols. London : A. Tiranti, 1952; New Kingdom Art in Ancient Egypt During the Eighteenth Dynasty, 1590 to 1315 B. C. Published: London, A. Tiranti, 1951; Akhenaten and Nefertiti. New York: Brooklyn Museum/Viking Press, 1973; Akhenaten, Pharaoh of Egypt: a New Study. London:  Thames & Hudson, 1968; Egypt to the End of the Old Kingdom. London: Thames and Hudson, 1965; Jewels of the Pharaohs: Egyptian Jewellery of the Dynastic Period. London: Thames and Hudson, 1971; Middle Kingdom Art in Ancient Egypt, 2300-1590 B.C.  London: A. Tiranti, 1950; Old Kingdom Art in Ancient Egypt.  London: A. Tiranti, 1949; The Egyptians. London: Thames and Hudson, 1961; "The Pharaoh Akhenaten: a Problem in Egyptology and Pathology." Bulletin of the History of Medicine 36, no. 4 (July-August 1962):  293-316; L'univers des formes [series]: L'Égypte du crépuscule: de Tanis à Méroé, 1070 av. J.-C.-IVe siècle.  Paris: Gallimard, 1980; L'Empire des conquérants: l'Égypte au Nouvel Empire (1560-1070). Paris: Gallimard, 1979; Le Temps des pyramides: de la préhistoire aux Hyksos, 1560 av. J.-C. Paris: Gallimard, 1978.