Chapter 23: Another European Trip
In the summer of 1974, William flew to Europe again. In Rome, he met his sister Elvira, the nun, and together they went to see Monsignor Nolli in his office in the Vatican. He gave them the statue of Akhenaten in white limestone that the Mansoors had left for repair. The technician of his laboratory had put it together and he had done the finest job.
He told them a story. It was not a fairy tale. It had happened in his office, but he had not wished to write the Mansoors about it. He wanted to tell them personally. Following is a summary of this event:
The Egyptian Egyptologist, Fakhry, one of the dissident group, was traveling in Europe and he had stopped in the Vatican to pay his respects to Nolli. By coincidence, the head of Akhenaten in white limestone, which Alfred and William had left in Nolli's care the previous year, was on his desk, facing Fakhry as he spoke. The other two sculptures were hidden. Nolli had no intention of discussing the Mansoor sculptures with Fakhry and said that he had forgotten to remove the head of Akhenaten as he had been preoccupied with several pending matters.
When Fakhry saw the head, his eyes bulged. He asked if he could see it and Nolli handed it over to him. Fakhry became ecstatic. He started to rave about it, saying what a magnificent portrait of Akhenaten it was, that it was one of the finest he had ever seen, etc. Nolli was pleased and nodded in assent. Then Fakhry asked if the head belonged to the Vatican, or if they were buying it. Nolli answered that it had been left by someone who wanted him to study it. Fakhry looked at the head again with his 'expert' eye. Again he said it was just fabulous and again Nolli agreed. Nolli then asked him what he thought of the head, if it was genuine or not. Again, Fakhry held it in his hands and observed it with thhe look of a great connoisseur. Nolli watched him and waited.
In a moment, Fakhri exploded, "Of course it is genuine. There is no doubt about it. Look at this face, these features and this likeness. Look at its beauty. Look at this surface!" Nolli agreed. He was pensive. Fakhry looked at the head again. Thoughts, perhaps, were playing in his mind. "Yes," he said, "this is an authentic piece, but one must be careful about these Amarna things. You know there is an Egyptian family in California that owns a whole collection of these Amarna forgeries." Nolli looked him deep in the eyes. Fakhry became uneasy. There was a short moment of silence. Then Nolli told him that this head belonged to this California family.
Fakhry was still holding the sculpture. All of a sudden it seemed to burn his hands. He put it slowly on the desk and said, "Of course, this head is genuine, but the other pieces they have are not." Nolli said no more. Embarrassed, Fakhry quickly changed the subject.
Nolli suspected that Fakhry did not know. If he said it was genuine, it was only because he had to say something. This was the Fakhry who once told Edmond in Berkeley, "We have discussed your Collection with Cooney, Von Bothmer and Muller and we have decided that it is not ancient." So much for the "Birds of a feather" (as William calls them), when they are together, they are able to decide for all of us, and they are able to support one another.
Nolli then said that he had examined all three sculptures for long periods of time during the past year and that from this study he was convinced of the authenticity of the Collection. Naturally, he said that he assumed that the rest of the sculptures were like the ones he had seen, and that he did not doubt that they were. For certainty's sake, he had also given them to the scientists and technicians of the Vatican's Museum for a scientific analysis, and that the result of this analysis coincided perfectly with the findings of numerous other scientists as stated in their reports.
William and Sister Elvira saw Nolli a few more times, then departed. The three sculptures returned with William to California.
Copyright © 1995 Christine Mansoor
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