Chapter 24: Other Events Between 1970 and 1975
I would like to share with the reader an outstanding letter written by a scholar in the field of law. It is an example of the disappointment and frustration of the tragedy of the Mansoor Amarna Collection.
January 19, 1972
Mr. James H.Brown, III
The American Association of Museums
2306 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Dear Mr. Brown:
I recently read two papers, one by Fred H. Stross and W. J. Eisenlord and the other, "Je Cherche un Homme...", by Edmond Mansoor. The story they tell, if true - and I have no reason to doubt their veracity - is shocking.
I must begin by pleading ignorance as to their scientific disclosures, for I have no background in Egyptology or related subjects; nevertheless I do possess a certain expertise in the field of law. In an era when the concept of due process is ever expanding, it is astonishing to read of an ex parte hearing held in the manner of the medieval Star Chamber, which resulted in a judgment so final that even newly discovered evidence, presented by noted scholars, would not be deemed sufficient grounds for a rehearing.
Sir, I am distressed to find the scientific community lagging so far behind the law in its view of fundamental fairness. If in fact the Tell-el-Amarna sculptures are forgeries, then it would be in the best interest of all concerned to once and for all establish that fact beyond any reasonable doubt. If on the other hand they are authentic, then Egyptology, art and the public at large are being deprived of a wealth of knowledge and priceless treasures.
I urge you to take steps to cause those responsible for the cavalier treatment accorded the Mansoor Collection to reevaluate their relentless position. If they are correct in their original estimation, they will put the ghost to rest once and for all. If they were in error, then they - like Mr. Justice Stewart in his concurring opinion in Boy's Market Inc.V. Retail Clerks Union 398 U.S. 235 (1970) at 245 - should manfully own up to it. In short, I urge you to afford the Mansoors the due process that is part of our American heritage, for as Mr. Justice Frankfurter so aptly put it: "Wisdom too often never comes, and so one ought not to reject it merely because it comes late." (Henslee V. Union Planters Bank 335 U.S. 595 at 600).
Leonard D. DuBoff (signed)
Even though the writer of this thought-provoking letter did not get a receptive answer from the American Association of Museums, the Mansoors are forever greatly indebted to him. It goes without saying that the courteous answer of the AAM did not amount to much.
While on a visit in Portland, Oregon, in 1972, Edmond and William met Dr. John R. Howard, President of Lewis and Clark College. The problem of Tell-el-Amarna had been previously reported to him by Mr. Leonard DuBoff, a Professor of Law at the College. Mr. Howard became deeply interested in the sculptures, and like many before him could neither understand nor appreciate the attitude of such persons as Young and Cooney. Consequently, he wrote them to ask for a re-examination of the sculptures in the light of the recent scientific developments and an honest reconsideration of their opinion for the benefit of the art world. But his letters remained unanswered. To Howard, this was a point of weakness and prejudice on the part of Young and Cooney.
Despite the unethical and unscholarly attitude of certain persons strategically located, Howard pledged to help in every way he could to bring about reason. He continued to write. One of his many long letters was addressed to Dr. Froehlich Rainey, Director of the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Rainey answered on February 28, 1973: "It was good to hear from you in your letter of February 1, upon my return....As for the Mansoor Collection, I hardly know what to say. Scientifically we can only authenticate the age of pottery or terra-cotta figurines with our new thermoluminescence process. There is no way to fix the age of bronze or stone object. After twenty-five years as the director of the Museum I have no confidence really in experts who authenticate objects on the basis of style. I find they very often disagree..."
If "There is no way to fix the age of bronze or stone objects," one wonders how the Metropolitan Museum authenticated its bronze horse. Why do museums have laboratories? Stylistically, it had been debated by the "experts." Scientifically, the bronze was found to be ancient. In stone objects, many eminent scientists in various fields of research (Silver, Arnal, Compton, De Ment, Iskandar, Kirk, Berger and others) have proved through relevant tests that there is a definite distinction between new and ancient stone surfaces.
I will repeat here the critical statement of Professor Charles B. Hunt of Johns Hopkins University of Baltimore, Maryland: "Apparently the museum epople are inclined to accept a pronouncement of one of their own kind regardless of evidence cited by geologists, petrologists, mineralogists and geochemists." This has been said of the scientific analyses relating to the Mansoor Tell-el-Amarna Collection.
Another of Dr. Howard's major contributions toward the recognition of the Collection was the Lewis and Clark College sponsorship of an exhibit of a large portion of the Collection in the Portland Art Museum. Slowly, but surely, with the help and encouragement of rational persons and able scholars of Egyptology, the Collection was finding its way into the museums and universities of the United States. In earlier years, several of the sculptures were exhibited, despite the adverse opinions, in the San Diego Fine Arts Gallery, in the De Young Museum of San Francisco, and in the Denver Art Museum. Now they were shown in the Portland Art Museum. San Francisco State University, the University of Utah at Provo, and The Museum of "Civilta Romana" in Rome, Italy, were to receive them later. All these exhibits met with considerable local success, and the sculptures could have been further enjoyed in other major museums of the United States and Europe had it not been for the biased and unscholarly attitude of a few, who unfortunately, are thought to be great "eye stylists" or "art experts."
In March 1974, a conference on Law and the Visual Arts took place at Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Oregon. It was sponsored by the Northwestern Society of International Law, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Oregon Arts Commission, and the Oregon Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. The objectives of this conference were varied and many, but unfortunately, they cannot be discussed here for lack of space. Among the many speakers - directors of museums, curators, scientists and lawyers - who participated in this conference was Dr. Fred Stross. In essence, his lecture was a discussion on the application and use of the physical sciences for the authentication of works of art. He discussed the Tell-el-Amarna Collection as a case in point. The lecture was much applauded.
Dr. Bothmer of the Brooklyn Museum, who had been officially invited to attend this Conference, had accepted. However, when he received the publication describing the conference and its main objectives ("Law and the Visual Arts," edited by Leonard D. DuBoff), he angrily called DuBoff to reprimand him for the publication of a head of Akhenaten from the Mansoor Collection on the front cover of the book. Among other things, he said that DuBoff should have consulted with him before using this picture, and that in any case, the Tell-el-Amarna Collection had been smuggled out of Egypt. Forgeries are of little worth, why should one bother to smuggle them out of any country? If Bothmer could not say something, he burned to say another, just as bad. Thus, our "expert' in the field of Egyptology angrily refused to go to Portland for the Conference.
Why did Bothmer refuse to go? Was it perhaps because the Tell-el-Amarna Collection could be discussed and he would not know what to say? Was it because the Conference was going to be crowded with scientists and lawyers, and perhaps other rational museum officials? It is easy to ramble and shout from afar, protected by one's peers. It is hard to face facts and to have to answer them!
Copyright © 1995 Christine Mansoor
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