Osbert Sitwell tells a story in Left hand! Right hand! about visiting a country house and sitting on a hall chair which promptly collapses. 'Don't worry, Osbert,' his hostess tells him, 'it was a very old chair.' Indeed it was, as Sitwell later discovers: Egyptian and about 3,000 years old. Fortunately, more 'very old' objects have survived from ancient Egypt than from any comparable period, because the Egyptians set such store by filling the tombs of their pharaohs with chairs, sculpture, jewellery, wall paintings, gold, alabaster, model boats, board games - anything that might come in handy for the after-life in which they so firmly believed.
The magnificently conceived exhibition The Pharaohs, at the Palazzo Grassi, Venice (until 25 May 2003), has hundreds of such artefacts on view, a third of them on loan from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.