Chapter 13: Scientific Reports Sent to Museums
"Where one man fails in an experiment, another succeeds.
What is unknown in one age, is clarified in the next."
Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)
As the Mansoors received the reports of the scientists, they sent them to most American and many European museum directors, curators of ancient art, and Egyptologists, as well as other scientists and libraries. Many acknowledged receipt. When Cooney received one of the first reports, he replied, "I have read the report carefully but find nothing in it to induce me to change my opinion." When he was bombarded with the rest of the reports, he refrained from answering the Mansoors. One would think that logic would compel any truthful and dedicated scholar of Egyptology to stop and reflect about the validity of the scientific reports, if only for the sake of Truth, Egyptology and the benefit of the museums. Cooney, instead, turned sour and stubbornly held to his original point of view. His reputation and "expertise" were now at stake. In later years, he declared to all who questioned him about the Tell-el-Amarna Collection, "In view of the fact that this collection has caused me so much trouble, I refuse to comment on it any longer."
Edmond saw Perry Rathbone, Director of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and was told that the Boston Museum could do nothing for him. Numerous letters were sent to Young asking for a re-examination of the sculptures. Some of them were requests by presidents of universities and some directors of art museums. All remained unanswered.
Edgard went to see Dr. Murray Pease, Director of the Research Laboratory of the Metropolitan Museum, with two sculptures from the Collection. Dr. Pease had read all the scientific reports, was familiar with the research methods of the investigating scientists, had corresponded with Dr. Stross, commenting favorably on the results of the examinations, and had accepted the fact that the sculptures were authentic. Writing to Stross on March 17, 1960, Dr. Pease said, "We have been fascinated by your article in 'Analytical Chemistry' for March, and I wish to extend my hearty compliments on an extremely able presentation. I was particularly interested in the specific subject since I am already familiar with the reports by Young and De Ment. I presume you have seen the latter, since it refers to the same objects. These pieces have certainly received the full treatment."
When Pease and one of his assistants had briefly examined the two sculptures brought by Edgard, they became convinced more than ever of the genuineness of the Collection. But permission had to be obtained from Mr. James Rorimer, then Director of the Metropolitan, for a complete scientific analysis in the laboratory of the museum. Pease telephoned Rorimer in Edgard's presence, but Rorimer refused to allow such an examination. He told Pease that W. J. Young had already written a report on nine sculptures of the Collection and had concluded that they were "of fairly modern origin." Regretfully, Pease told Edgard that under such circumstances he could not keep the sculptures for study in the Metropolitan's laboratory. This obstruction, coming from the Director of one of the leading museums of the world, was highly detrimental to the museum's interest, to Egyptology, and to the public in general.
Between the years 1960 and 1965, no stones were left unturned. The Mansoor brothers continued to travel, at great expense, to most parts of the United States and several countries in Europe. They always carried some of the Amarna sculptures and all the scientific reports obtained. But museum directors and curators did not listen. The more the Mansoors sought understanding, the more they (directors and curators) held hands with Young and Cooney, who were now joined by Egyptologists Von Bothmer and Hans Wolfgang Muller in their negative efforts and attitude. To them, the sculptures did not "conform" to the art of Tell-el-Amarna, but they could never substantiate their opinions. When they saw the scientific reports (it is assumed that they read them, perhaps only to judge how deeply their reputation as "experts" was at stake), most were dumbfounded at their conclusions and many tried to say, as Sherman Lee, Director of the Cleveland Art Museum, said at a later date, "Judgment of authenticity in matters of art is often incapable of scientific proof."
This was a shock! If these persons really thought so, why do the leading museums of the world have research laboratories? Young was examining numerous artifacts for "scientific proof.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York, seeing that the eye of the "art expert" could fool him, had consented to have its Greek bronze horse examined by a team of scientists. Was it not science that finally authenticated this bronze? If the results of scientific analysis are considered final in matters relating to the authenticity of art objects, why could they not be similarly considered in regard to the Mansoor Amarna Collection? The case of this Collection was, however, different. It belonged to stubborn persons who have dared for twenty years to oppose the will and authority of certain strategically located individuals in museums and in the field of Egyptology.
To many museum officials, this subject was stale. Why should anyone be concerned with it now? Some were afraid, others lacked sufficient knowledge, others sought to keep away from the problem to preserve their sacred positions, and the ones who were responsible for the incalculable damage done to the world of arts were adamant in their refusal to re-examine the sculptures in the light of the scientific facts.
Many of these museum individuals were now becoming older, were on the verge of retirement, so why should they expose themselves by admitting to a mistake?
With all these considerations, the image of any Mansoor in many museums had become the image of the devil in person; they were dangerous people!
In this confusion, some directors of museums told the Mansoors to seek the opinions of other well-known Egyptologists. First, they had been told that they needed, more than anything else, scientific proof authenticating the sculptures. They had gone to work and obtained it. Now they had to seek the opinions of Egyptologists again. The museum people wondered when the Mansoors would stop bothering them.
Copyright © 1995 Christine Mansoor
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