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Winlock, Herbert Eustis

    Full Name: Winlock, Herbert Eustis

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1884

    Date Died: 1950

    Place Born: Washington, DC, USA

    Place Died: Venice, Sarasota, FL, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): Egyptian (ancient) and Egyptology

    Career(s): directors (administrators) and museum directors


    Egyptologist and Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1932-39. Winlock came from a family of astronomers. His father was William Crawford Winlock, assistant secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and who had served at the Naval Academy Observatory in Washington, and his mother and his mother Alice (Broom) Winlock. His grandfather, Joseph Winlock, was first director of the Harvard College Observatory. Winlock developed an interest in Egyptian art at the Smithsonian Institution while his father was assistant secretary of the museum. He attended Western High School in Washgington, D. C. and then Harvard University, receiving a B.A. in 1906 in archaeology and anthropology with “great distinction.” Winlock’s professor at Harvard, Albert M. Lythgoe had recently been appointed the first curator of Egyptian Art at the Metropolitan and invited Winlock to join the staff in the Museum’s expedition. Winlock worked in museum excavations for much of his career at the Metropolitan, rising through the ranks first as assistant curator of Egyptian art in 1909, associate curator in 1922, then director of the excavations in Egypt in 1928 and finally curator of Egyptian Art in 1929. He married the daughter of the dean of the Department of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Helen Chandler, in 1912. During World War I he served in the military (field artillery) rising to the rank of major. His digs included the Oasis of Khargeh, the el Lisht site, near Memphis and most important, the royal tombs at Thebes excavating the periods preceding and following the Middle Kingdom. Beginning in 1923, Winlock excavated the waterway leading from the famous temple of Queen Hatshepsut resulting in discovery of many of the statues of her smashed by her successors. He was instrumental in getting Howard Carter, the discoverer of the Tutanhkamum tomb, reinstated in Egypt after Carter’s row (and banishment) with the authorities. In 1932 Winlock was offered the Directorship of the Metropolitan. Although he much preferred to be on digs, the hard financial times of the Depression made these excursions ever more tenuous. He accepted the position in addition to his curator duties in the Egyptian Department. A casual personality and politically conservative, Winlock oversaw the development of the museum without overhauling it as his successors would. In 1937 he suffered a stroke while descending the stairs of the Met, from which he never fully recovered. He remained director at the Metropolitan for two more years, presiding over the opening of the Cloisters branch museum (developed by future director James Rorimer, in 1938. He retired in 1939 as director emeritus. While on vacation in Florida in 1950 he suffered a fatal heart attack. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Winlock was a greater Egyptologist than a museum director. His reconstruction the succession of the rulers of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom and identification of their monuments at Thebes was an important contribution to the field. His discovery of the statue fragments of Queen Hatshepsut in Thebes which had been smashed and discarded by her stepson and successor, Thutmose III, were augmented by his painstaking reconstruction of the pieces, in some cases uniting them with previously discovered fragments in other museums. Winlock’s career as an Egyptian archaeologist was part of the great era of American museum-sponsored expeditions. During this same period George Andrew Reisner led digs for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and Harvard University, and Henry Breasted, Jr. for the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. British Egyptologist Arthur P. B. Weigall (1880-1934) termed him the “best of his generation” of Egyptologists.

    Selected Bibliography

    Excavations at Deir el Bahri, 1911-1931. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1942; Models of Daily Life in Ancient Egypt from the Tomb of Meket-Re’ at Thebes. Cambridge: Metropolitan Museum of Art and Harvard University Press, 1955; The Monastery of Epiphanius at Thebes. New York: 1926; The Rise and Fall of the Middle Kingdom in Thebes. New York: Macmillan, 1947; The Temple of Ramesses I at Abydos. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1937; The Treasure of Three Egyptian Princesses. New York: Department of Egyptian Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1948.


    Dictionary of American Biography, Supplement 4: 1946-1950; Tomkins, Calvin. Merchants and Masterpieces: The Story of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1970, pp. 140, 226-232.


    "Winlock, Herbert Eustis." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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