To showcase the diversity of the gods of the ancient world, to understand the subtle links that tied them to men and to reflect the creativity of those who built their images: these are the guiding principles that led Jean Claude Gandur to gather an archaeological collection comprising today of more than 1’200 objects. The Egyptian documents are at the heart of the collection; they express the evolution of Egyptian art from its origin (4th Millennium BCE, with ivory statues dated from the predynastic period) to the integration of Egypt into the Roman Empire. A majority of the objects dated from a period between the 7th Millennium before our era and the 4th Century CE were born on the Indo-European continent, from the Rhine to India through the eastern side of the Mediterranean Basin. In these lands of conquest, when the gods would meet, they would absorb each other, superimpose one another, or even blend together, behaviours that reflect the capacity of pagan religions to accept and integrate one another, even sometimes creating entirely new deities, and not destroying each others cults.
Two types of objects are at the forefront of our archaeological collection: the bronze statues – Egyptian, Greek and Roman, - all of excellent quality. In this case they are in majority ex-votos, sometimes gods in epiphany, sometimes of worshipers in adoration, to this can be added realia of worship. The amulets are also considered as some of the most remarkable of objects, belonging to one of the most complete collections in the world. Often made out of rare and iridescent materials, in the shape of animals or hybrid beings, they above all, held magical powers, and could attract the grace of the gods – notably the Egyptian god Bes –, would ward off evil and would protect the deceased in their life beyond.
Throughout the collection we come across some very powerful divine personalities that transcend the history of the Mediterranean Basin: for example the “Great goddess”, a nurturing goddess whose idols from the Cyclades are merely prefiguration’s, relating to fertility, protector of women and children, and that are called Hathor or Isis, Astarte, or even Anassa in Cyprus, Aphrodite or Venus in the classical world. We also come across a lion tamer, Heracles who is named as Herclé or Hercules in Italy, or Heracles-Vajrapani in India. Several official portraits outline the religious history of the ancient Mediterranean, among these a majestic Ramses rubs shoulders with Alexander and the Ptolemies, Cleopatra VI and a deified Augustus.
The origins of all the objects correspond to the criteria elaborated by the International Council of Museums (ICOM). Several of these have equally belonged to famous personalities, all of whom were passionate collectors, such as Émile Zola, Pierre Loti, Yves Saint Laurent, and even Eugène Mutiaux a renowned French collector and scholar.