Chapter 17: "Je Cherche un Homme..."

After their father passed away, the Mansoors did not remain idle. They still traveled periodically in the United States and Europe and began to meet newly appointed directors and curators of museums. Though no substantial results ensued, those officials at least showed an attitude considerably different from that of the dissident group. Was this a hopeful sign? It seemed that some were at last beginning to consider the opinions of Drioton, Gabra and the scientists. The Mansoors spared no effort to tell everything they knew about the Collection and never tried to hide any of the negative opinions mentioned in the earlier chapters of this book.

Encouraged by this change of mood, though the struggle was by no means over, and with all the scientific documents that they had obtained, they wrote a booklet titled, after Diogenes, "Je Cherche un Homme..." They were looking for an honest man. Printed in 1971, hundreds of copies were sent to directors and curators of museums, Art and Science institutions and libraries everywhere in Europe and the United States. A few of the sculptured masterpieces of the Collection were illustrated in the booklet, and a few of the documents were reprinted: 1) the Report of Mr. William J. Young; 2) the Report of Professor Leon Silver; 3) a copy of an article by Dr. Fred Stross in the May 1971, issue of "The Vortex" (published by the American  Chemical Society); 4) Dr. Etienne Drioton's Letter of Authentication; and 5) Dr. Harold J. Plenderleith's statement.

Shortly after the first few hundred copies of the booklet were mailed, many responses began to arrive. At last, hundreds of persons, universities, art and science institutions that they had so far been unable to reach were alerted to the problem and to the dilemma they had faced all these years. For months, the answers came. Many were congratulatory letters, many expressed shock, several were hopeful and very encouraging. Others declined to comment. A few indicated their lack of knowledge in the field, but were thankful for the information just the same. One was downright mean and another cutely sarcastic... Sherman Lee, Director of the Cleveland Museum, is the one who wrote the cutely sarcastic letter. The letter that the Mansoors labeled "mean" was written by a certain Philippe Derchain of the "Seminar Für Ägyptologie Der Universität Zu Köln" (University of Cologne, Germany). These two letters epitomize the attitude of the ignorant ones who blindly follow the opinions of their masters.

In the conclusion of "Je Cherche un Homme . . . ", the Mansoors wrote:

If, so far, the irrefutable evidence of science has vindicated this truly magnificent collection of ancient sculptures, so it is hoped that a new school of thought, represented by true knowledge of Egyptology and an impartial understanding of the facts, will do likewise.

It is our strongest conviction that the factual evidence will eventually prevail in the face of the unfavorable but unqualified and undocumented opinions.

It is because of all the reasons cited here that we appeal to all persons of substance and courage, to all leading institutions of arts and sciences in this country and throughout the world, to investigate this problem with fairness, to weigh all the evidence available, to subject, if necessary, any and all of these sculptures to further tests. Only then, the truth will emerge.

Only then, a great and noble collection of sculptures dating from one of the greatest periods of cultural and artistic achievements of pharaonic Egypt will rightfully belong to the world of art.

Je Cherche un Homme . . .

Since it is impossible to include here all the favorable or neutral answers received in response to "Je Cherche un Homme," I have selected few quotations as indicative of the various feelings of the senders.

From the Editor of the Sunday Express, London, England:

Thank you very much for your letter and for sending me a copy of your brochure "Je Cherche un Homme. . . . "

I recall that in 1952 several newspapers here carried reports of the sale in New York of some of your late father's Egyptian treasures.

I hope that as a result of the impressive technical evidence set out in your brochure there will be an end to the controversy about the genuine antiquity of the remaining sculptures in the Mansoor Collection.

Perhaps you will be good enough to let me know in due course what response "Je Cherche un Homme . . . ." brings from the American Museums Associations and from leading Egyptologists.

Yours sincerely,
John Junor (signed)

From Dr. Henry Faul, Chairman, Department of Geology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia:

Many thanks for your booklet "Je Cherche un Homme. . . ". You have assembled a splendid galaxy of expert opinions on the geological side, beginning with Esper S. Larsen, Jr. with whom I had the pleasure of being associated during his later years, and ending with the renowned H. P. Plenderleith. I am also well acquainted with Blackwelder, Hunt, Silver and De Ment . . . .

It would be a pleasure to correspond with you further.

Henry Faul (signed)

From Professor Francis J. Turner, Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of California, Berkeley:

Many thanks for your brochure, "Je Cherche un Homme . . .". It is a fascinating story, even though it is an unfortunate one for you personally, and I think for the history of Egyptian Art. I hope one day that you indeed 'find a man'.

Francis J. Turner (signed)

From Mr. Lawrence J. Majewsky, Chairman, Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University:

From Mr. Richard Lay, Art Correspondent of the Daily Mail, London, England:

From Poland, Professor Dr. S. Barbacki, President of the Poznan "Society of Friends of Art and Sciences", sent the Mansoors a letter on November 15, 1971, in which he says:

I am very sorry indeed not to have written you after having received your letter but as I am not an archaeologist myself I had to seek for assistance. I have asked an eminent Polish archaeologist, Professor Dr. Kazimierz Majewsky, for his opinion in the subject in question. He has, however, returned from his scientific trip only recently, so I am answering your letter with such delay.

Following is Prof. Dr. Majewsky's opinion on the ancient limestone sculptures collection controversy:

"I herewith state that the names of Drioton, Boreux, Gabra and Varille, mentioned on page three (sequel) of the brochure "Je Cherche un Homme. . . ", are well known among the world archaeologists and their opinion in this subject should be regarded as a competent one.

From Oxford, England, Dr. E.T. Hall, a noted scientist wrote:

I am impressed by my friend Dr. Plenderleith having written the letter reprinted in your booklet. I have great respect for his judgment and I am sure he would be in a better position than myself to say what he thinks . . .

When I come to America next, perhaps I could have the opportunity of studying the material myself. From all accounts the sculptures are quite remarkable.

The Two Negative Letters:

Sherman Lee, Director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, where Cooney was Curator of Ancient Art at that time, wrote in part:

. . . though I am not a specialist in Egyptian art, I have long had an amateur interest in it. I find the sculptures stylistically strange and aesthetically uninteresting. This of course, is a matter of taste . . . Judgment of authenticity in matters of art is often incapable of scientific proof.

However, since some others believe in them, I would think you would have no difficulty in placing them in an appropriate environment.

Lee should not have written at all. All his remarks are meaningless, sarcastic, and irresponsible. There is no need to mention here the names of all the connoisseurs who have properly studied the Collection to conclude that they are breathtaking masterpieces of Egyptian art. He had "long had an amateur interest in it"? This is not quite right.

His remark that "judgment of authenticity in matters of art is often incapable of scientific proof" is rather strange, why does he not consult with W.J. Young?

The statements of this letter are unworthy of a director of a great American museum. He has a specialty, Oriental Art. The Mansoors advise him to stay with it. If you know, say 'I know'; if you don't, say 'I don't.' Do not mislead the public and do not allow your behavior to be detrimental to the interest of your museum."

Finally, I conclude this chapter with the "brilliant" or rather awkward letter, written in French, on the letterhead of the University of Cologne, by a professor of Egyptology, Philippe Derchain. Here is the English translation:


I thank you for having sent me your brochure "Je Cherche un Homme..." in which you are trying to defend your collection of sculptures supposedly Amaranian. I will tell you right away that I will not be this man, for, after having looked at the photographs of the objects that you have reproduced, I am convinced that Messrs. Cooney and H.W. Muller are right. In the case of the relief of page fourteen for example, we have here a copy of the celebrated painting of Oxford, the head on the cover is inspired by one of the celebrated colossi, the one on the back cover from one of the not less known heads in Cairo, etc. All these monuments are published, having frequently been reproduced, so that it is fatal that they should serve to inspire a clever forger. The quantity of the monuments of your collection which remind one of others, very well known and authentic, this, prove, to my way of thinking that yours can be nothing but fakes. As H.W. Muller says it very correctly, the connoisseur knows as soon as one deals with modern imitations. I am desolate to have to tell you that the persons that you oppose to Prof. Muller in page thirteen, can in no way be considered as authorities in the matter. Everybody knows as Mr. Cooney told you and as you have printed it in page two, that the Chanoine Drioton, who was an excellent philologist was not an archaeologist and that he very often made mistakes in his expertise on authenticity. No one, in addition, would think of trusting the opinion of the two Egyptian savants that you name afterwards. As to Dr. O. K. Bach of Denver, if he has ever studied Egyptology, it is not in this science that he published much. Not knowing him from his Egyptological works, which are reduced to very little, I consider him in margin with Egyptology, and no matter what his talents as Director of the Denver Museum, I would attribute to his judgment but a limited value, and especially would not grant him any weight in regard to the opinions of Cooney, Muller and Vandier. The petrographic analyses, on the other hand, that you have made, prove nothing. By such means, one can determine the nature of the material and nothing more. An intelligent forger - and yours is to be sure - naturally chooses his stones with care. Nothing prevents him from recuperating antique blocks on the sites to utilize them. The reports that you publish have little weight in regard to the stylistic arguments.

Furthermore, I do not approve at all of the manner in which you suggest that Mr. Cooney is incapable of recognizing an error. He has made no mistakes and I am sure that if he saw your collection for the first time today, his judgment would be the same as in the past. There is then no reason why he should cede to your insistence, which seems to me to be at the limit of dishonesty. The greatest service that you could render to the "world of art," as you seem to desire it from the last paragraph of your brochure, page twenty two, is to throw all this in the sea and rid the market of antiquities of some of the falsifications which encumber it.

With my regrets,
Very sincerely yours
Prof. Dr. Philippe Derchain (signed).

To the Mansoors, that was a bomb!

When this letter was received, the brothers met that evening so that they could read it at leisure. They read it aloud, again and again; no one could describe the explosions of laughter which shook the room. It was impossible! It was incredible that anyone - let alone a professor of Egyptology - could write such a nonsensical letter. Though it was awkward and in very bad taste, the brothers were still laughing to tears. To them, the letter of Sherman Lee seemed like a jewel compared to this arrogant one. One of their first thoughts went to Derchain's students, if indeed he taught Egyptology. They had never heard of the man and had no idea if he was young or old. Was he a student of Muller? Did he study with Cooney? They knew of Egyptologists everywhere, but not of this one. He came out of the woodwork in time to betray his masters, their kowledge and what they stood for.

What to do now with the letter, and how to answer the man? Each one of the brothers wanted to write a letter himself. They showed the letter to Dr. Stross and to many scientists and close associates. All sadly shook their heads. They recommended restraint and patience. The Mansoors decided to send him a firm, but ethical reply. Such a letter could not remain unanswered.

In response to his awkward (provincial) French letter, Edmond wrote him the following letter in the same language. Here is the English translation:

Your letter of August 28 well deserves an answer. You have received our brochure because your name figured on our list of several hundred persons who had to receive it. Naturally, we expected to receive some unfavorable comments, if only from persons who think in matters of Egyptology like Messrs. Cooney and H.W. Muller. You are defending them: It is too bad.

Good note has been taken of all your regrettable comments, and when the opportune moment presents itself, we will consider it our duty and pleasure to reveal them since you have offered them for what they are worth.

It is too late to discuss with you any subject regarding Egyptology or Egyptian art, and I would not know where to start. Having passed a judgment on Egyptian objects after having seen only photos (even though in the case of this brochure much care was taken to present these sculptures in their true character), you have made an error that no serious Egyptologist should make.

As to your allegations that certain of these sculptures are only copies of authentic representations which exist in museums, the facts and the abundance of ancient statues of such or such king prove by themselves that you are sadly in error. Likewise, your determination in declaring that the great number of objects inclines you to think that they are not authentic can only be due to your lack of experience in the study of Egyptian art. I will not even give you any examples; it would be too elementary.

As regards this great and regretted master Dr. Etienne Drioton, you badly fall in repeating Mr. Cooney's wily remark. Yes, sir, the Canon Drioton was a giant of Egyptology. Not only was he one of the greatest Egyptologists of this century, but his knowledge and appreciation of Egyptian art were so superior to those of Messrs. Cooney and Muller that a comparison between his knowledge and that of the others would be impossible to measure.

Your remark about the two Egyptian savants is in very bad taste. Do you know them yourself? As to Dr. Bach of Denver, no one said that he was an Egyptologist. But would you believe, Sir, he understands art and has good taste.

When you speak of scientific analyses, what do you know of them? According to what you say, we should return to the Middle Ages. Yes, Sir, the sciences show continuous progress, and it is not fitting for one to forcefully oppose the scientific opinions unless one knows what he is talking about. Unless, of course, you are afraid of the truth. Perhaps you have heard that from time to time science has proved by logic, reason and with certainty that some so-called expert has been in error. Why shouldn't Egyptology work jointly with science for the common interest?

Sooner or later, the truth will be known. Sooner or later, the stubborn and the prejudiced will have to keep quiet. In a few words, Sir, in your letter you have said nothing and you have proved nothing. And do you think that with such talk you are serving Egyptology? If you had any good arguments to offer, you should have done it logically and according to the principles of decency.

Your letter is unworthy of an Egyptologist.

However, you are right in one thing: You are certainly not the man we are looking for.

With my regrets.

Sincerely yours,
Edmond Mansoor (signed)

Can't these people say something new, constructive, critical - something that one could debate or understand - instead of constantly paraphrasing one another by saying that some of the Mansoor sculptures are only copies of other known representations? What would people think if the Mansoors were to say that the Fresco painting in the Ashmolean Museum is an ancient copy of one of the four representations of two princesses of their Collection? What if they were to say that heads in the Cairo and Berlin Museums are copies inspired by some of theirs? They are all Amarna, they are all stylistically different. They were all carved by different artists. Furthermore, could it be possible that the Berlin relief (Stroll in the Garden - Smenkhkara and his Wife) is an ancient copy of the Mansoor's made by an inexperienced student, since few mistakes are apparent in it? (cf. "In Defence..." Nolli - Colonna, 1968, p. 12, ... left leg...unnatural line...would have "elephantine' proportions...").

Let me for a moment turn the reader's attention to the Greek bronze horse of the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York. (See article by Mr. David L. Shirley, New York Times, December 24, 1972).

We have seen how Muller reacted to the scientific investigation. We have seen how Cooney has dabbled with technical examinations of his own. Neither one is a scientist, but they went ahead just the same and had their say about science, even when a man like Young of The Boston Museum tells them that it is quite important to listen to sound scientific advice.Or perhaps Cooney's and Muller's brand of science is more credible and informative than that of Silver, Plenderleith,  Iskandar, Compton, Arnal and all the others mentioned earlier?

Now we have Derchain with his archaic thinking. He informs us that the Mansoor's "clever forger" can go to an ancient site, pick up an ancient stone (meaning a stone that is already weathered) and take it home and carve it. But what happens to the surface of this weathered stone after this "clever forger" has carved it? Wouldn't the ancient weathered surface disappear with the shaping of the head or the statue and a new surface arise? Can anyone explain what he is talking about? Can any of the dissident Egyptologists suggest anything that could help us understand what goes on in Derchain's mind? After all, they all talk and think alike. They have all repeated similar absurdities over and over again. Besides the dissident group, what do other Egyptologists think of Derchain's observations as couched in his letter?

Derchain suggests that the number of sculptures (monuments?) of the Mansoor Collection, originally one hundred and six, is a proof that they can only be imitations. What sculptor, prior to the 1920's, or at any time, could have carved such a varied number of objects without making one mistake? Besides being an accomplished scientist for all the remarkable work achieved on the surface of the 106 pieces, this genius would have also had to be a master sculptor, a great stylist and a great visionary.

But to "throw all this in the sea," the Mansoors say, "No Derchain, you are a very dangerous adviser. Only the insane destroy great works of art - the mutilation of the Pieta, for instance. Perhaps you can do it, but we cannot."

Regarding Derchain's devious remark about the late Dr. Drioton, "everybody knows as Mr. Cooney told you...the Chanoine Drioton who was an excellent philologist was not an archaeologist," according to the true Egyptologists, that statement is the worst lie and insult any Egyptologist could make to the world of Egyptology. The Mansoors say: "If Derchain does not know who Dr. Drioton was, he should not and cannot be recognized as an Egyptologist. Dr. Drioton was the Dean of the French Egyptologists, he was President-elect of the 'French Egyptological Society' not of the Philological Society, besides being the Director General of the Department of Antiquities of Egypt, he was a Professor of Egyptology at the Sorbonne and the Collège de France where he occupied the Chair of Champolion, the highest honor in Egyptology. He was Professor of Egyptology at the University Fouad 1st of Cairo, Egypt; 'Membre très éminent de la F.E.R.R.E.' (foundation Egyptologique Reine Elizabeth - Belgium); Professor of Egyptology at the Catholic Institute of Paris; Director of the CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) at the Sorbonne; 'Docteur Honoris Causa' of the University of Louvain, Belgium; "Officier de la legion d'honneur,' 'Grand Officier du Tadj d'Iran' and we could go on with his many qualifications, titles, and honors. Furthermore, Dr. Drioton was one of the very few Egyptologists who read and commented on books written by French, German, American, British, Polish, Swiss, Belgian, Dutch, and Russian Egyptologists. Books on art, archaeology, history, excavations, cryptography, scarabs, theater, to sum it up, all branches of Egyptology. Books written by Boreux, Brestead, Cerny, Michalowsky, Varille, Vandier, Weill, Borchardt, Foucart, Maystre, Leclant, Daumas, Von Bissing, Wilson, and many more.

Let it be known that many of Derchain's colleagues - all recognized scholars - wrote obituaries in archaeological reviews and journals in various countries praising Drioton's work as that of "one of the most knowledgeable Egyptologists of his generation" ("un des égyptologues les plus complets de sa génération"- Jacques Vandier).

The obituaries about Dr. Drioton consisted of more than thirty-four thousand words published in newspapers, magazines and journals such as: Le Monde, Bulletin de l'Academie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, La Croix. In "Revue Archaeologique," Paris 1961, Jean Sainte Fare Garnot wrote: "As for his [Drioton's] work in archaeology, it is noticeable by its richness and the quality of its production (Quant à son oeuvre [Drioton's] d'archéologie, elle se recommande par l'abondance et la qualité de la production)."

From the obituary written by Mr. Jacques Vandier (Revue d'Egyptologie, Paris 13,1961):

In Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, London, 1961, J.Cerny wrote:

In Journal de Genève, 20 Juin 1961, No.16,Page 2, Mr. Charles Maystre wrote:

In Chronique d'Egypte, Bruxelles, No.71, 1961, Mr. B.Van de Walle wrote:

Other scholars wrote obituaries such as L. Christiani, M. Colinon, F. Dumas, and C. Picard.

And finally, from Belgium, we quote from Chronique d'Egypte, No. 73, 1962, by Mr. P. Gilbert, Assemblée Générale, 27 Octobre 1961:

If Dr. Drioton was not an authority in Egyptology, why would the University of Liège ask him to "assister à la thèse de Philippe Derchain?" I suppose that Derchain, as a professor of Egyptology was aware of all, or part of the obituaries written about the great master, and that he was also aware of Dr. Drioton's background, since it is written in "Who Was Who in Egyptology" of the "Egypt Exploration Society", London 1972, p.88. Dr. Drioton is listed as "French Egyptologist". From what Mr. Gilbert wrote, I understand that Dr. Drioton must have been instrumental in Derchain's obtaining his Ph.D. Was it then honest on his part to hide the truth? And yet he had the indecent effrontery to write the Mansoors, "your insistence, which seems to me to be at the limit of dishonesty."

Let us for a moment push Derchain's preposterous suggestion to the absurd. If, as Prof. Derchain claims, Dr. Drioton is not an archaeologist and therefore "his opinion on such matters is worthless," then what is your Ph.D. worth Prof. Derchain, since it carries the stamp of approval of Dr. Drioton? How foolish can you get?

Confucius (K'ung Fu Tze, 551 - 479 B. C.) once said: "It is difficult for man to command good principles; it is easy for bad principles to master man."

In the "Bulletin de l'Institut Français d"Archéologie Orientale," Le Caire, 56; 1957, Mlle. Josephe Jacquiot wrote the "Bibliographie de l'Oeuvre Scientifique de M. Etienne Drioton," which consisted of 287 books and articles, among them, a) 37 on "Archéologie," b) 38 on "Histoire de l'Egyptologie et des Fouilles," and c) 33 on "Philologie et Editions de Textes."

According to the "International Who's Who 1960, Drioton is listed as a French Archaeologist, born 1889, Ecole des Hautes Etudes, and Ecole du Louvre, Paris. He was Professor at the Université Catholique de Paris, 1920; he was at the French Institute of Research of Oriental Archaeology, Cairo 1924; Asst. Curator Dept. of Egyptian Antiquities, Musée du Louvre from 1926 to 1936; Director General of the Egyptian Service of Antiquities, Cairo, from 1936 to 1952; Head Curator of the Egyptian Antiquities, Musée du Louvre; Director of Works at the National Centre of Scientific Research, Paris in 1952; Professor at the Collège de France until 1957; Corresponding Member of the "Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres" and "Member of the Belgian Royal Academy." He wrote many publications: 38 on L'Egypte," 40 on "Recueil de cryptographie monumentale," 42 on "Le thêatre Egyptien," 51 on "Une nouvelle source d'information sur la religion égyptienne," and 55 on "La religion égyptienne."

Now, may I ask you Prof. Derchain: What were Cooney's and Muller's qualifications? And what are yours?

Thus, the letter of Prof. Derchain is not worth much - if anything at all, it is definitely a disgrace to him and to everyone sharing any of his valueless assertions or opinions. It is written in neither an ethical nor a scholarly manner. Evidently, Prof. Derchain was attempting to discourage the Mansoors from further discussing their Amarna Collection. If this was his aim, and it very much looks like it, he has failed pitifully.

Here is a Latin maxim for Prof. Derchain.

After the publication of "Je Cherche un Homme...," the Mansoors realized that their Collection had become a really big "problem" to some Egyptologists and museum directors. The Mansoors became "personae non gratae" in certain museum circles. To their distress, they discovered that it was strictly forbidden to think of contradicting any opinion issued by the few Egyptologists of the time who considered themselves "expert art stylists." These few so-called "expert art stylists" had an iron-clad grip on their colleagues who could not oppose them. So, the ugly gossip and rumors began to progress, eventually reaching mammoth proportions as years went by. From bad, they became ignominious!

Mr. Max Friedlander, an art historian, once said: "It is indeed an error to collect a forgery, but it is a sin to stamp a genuine piece with the seal of falsehood." (New York Times, December 24,1972).

Copyright © 1995 Christine Mansoor

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