Chapter 25: An Exhibition of El-Amarna Sculptures and Reliefs of the M. A. Mansoor Collection

After having thoroughly studied all the sculptures remaining in the Tell-el-Amarna Collection for a period of more than two years, Dr. Andreina Leanza Becker-Colonna, Professor Emeritus at San Francisco State University, Curator of Egyptian Antiquities and of the Egyptian Sutro Collection at San Francisco State University, Lecturer on History of Art and Archaeology at the University of California Extension in San Francisco for more than twenty-five years, was now prepared to exhibit the Collection and publish her preliminary study of it. Being also a member of the Archaeological Institute of America, the American Research Center in Egypt, the Egypt Exploration Society of England, and the International Association of Egyptologists, she was admirably qualified for this noble project.

The exhibit took place in June-July 1975, in the Library of San Francisco State University, and was sponsored by its Department of Classical Archaeology and by the Marie Stauffer Sigall Foundation. A beautiful, scholarly forty-five page catalog illustrating the sculptures was written by Dr. Colonna and mailed to the four corners of the world. It was also made available at the exhibit.

This booklet, the first comprehensive study by an Egyptologist, of a part of the original Collection, comprises a foreword, maps of Egypt, chronology, genealogy of the Royal Family, Ancient Egypt, a historical outline from the first to the eighteenth dynasty, Hymn to Aton, The El-Amarna artistic reform, The El-Amarna sculptures and reliefs in the M.A.Mansoor Collection, the El-Amarna Collection, list of plates, and selected bibliography.

For lack of space, I have chosen to reproduce only some excerpts from the "Foreword," and "The El-Amarna Sculptures and Reliefs in the M.A. Mansoor Collection."

Excerpts from the "Foreword":

Excerpts From "The El-Amarna Sculptures and Reliefs in the M.A. Mansoor Collection":

Is it fair of me to ask the reader to compare these excerpts with the one page expert opinion of Muller or the ravings of Derchain, even though the reader may not be familiar with the art of Amarna? What tangible facts have Muller or Derchain offered? Doesn't Colonna's study indicate a superior knowledge of the art of Amarna, as well as a greater instinctive appreciation of its diverse styles? There is no point in discussing the dissident Egyptologists because they wrote nothing that one could debate.

After Drioton, Gabra, Varille, Boreux, etc., the Mansoors had found another scholar of Egyptology: Dr. Colonna. Others were to follow and still more will when the Collection will be further studied for its stylistic and aesthetic merit as well as its scientific proofs of authenticity.

Invitations to attend the opening of the exhibit had been sent to Egyptologists, directors and curators of museums, presidents of universities, and many others. Almost all answered to accept or politely decline for one reason or another. But the directors, curators and Egyptologists of the Boston, Brooklyn, Cleveland and some othe Eastern United States museums were not heard from. Incompetence? Yes. Prejudice? yes. Obstruction? Yes. Now, lack of ethics!

Although it was boycotted by some Egyptologists, the exhibition at San Francisco State University was indeed a tremendous success. Most viewers showed positive enthusiasm and admiration - some visiting the Collection more than once.

Dr. Zaki Iskandar, former Chief Chemist of the Cairo Museum Laboratory and former Director General of the Antiquities Department of Egypt, and one of the first scientists to test the sculptures (his report was dated 1950), flew from Cairo to San Francisco, at the invitation of the Department of Classical archaeology, to attend the opening of the Exhibit and to lecture on the Collection and on the application of scientific methods to authenticate ancient works of art. At San Francisco State University and at Stanford University, where he had been invited as a guest lecturer, he told of the many relevant tests used by himself and other scientists to determine the genuine antiquity of the entire Collection.

Several articles on the Collection and the Exhibit appeared in some of the greater San Francisco area newspapers. One of them by Dr. Alfred Frankenstein, the famed syndicated art critic, lauding the great artistic merit of the sculptures. There was also television coverage of the sculptures and radio interviews on the Exhibit by Drs. Colonna and Stross, both stressing their aesthetic and historic importance as well as the nature of the scientific tests used to authenticate them.

In the following four weeks, several meetings were attended by eminent officials of San Francisco State University and scientists in honor of Dr. Colonna and her work.

In Los Angeles, some members of the Mansoor family had the pleasure and honor of attending several meetings which included Dr. Iskandar, Dr. Willard Libby (developer of the carbon 14 test), and Dr. Rainer Berger, Professor of Anthropology, Geography, Geomotry, and Geophysics at UCLA.

These eminent scientists once more discussed the Collection and all scientific documents relating to it and suggested that some of the sculptures be submitted to yet more tests which had just recently been developed to determine the age of works of art. (These and the resulting reports will be presented in a following chapter.) It is interesting and baffling to note that Egyptologists such as Cooney, Bothmer, and Muller never mentioned scientific research on Egyptian works of art. Why? Why are they so terrified by these scientific analyses?

Two other meetings were arranged for Dr. Iskandar in Los Angeles. The first took place in Mr. Stead's office in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Deputy Director received Dr. Iskandar and William very warmly. From the start, Stead informed Iskandar that he had been interested in the sculptures for many years and that he often considered them for acquisition despite the opposition and the pressure exercised on some by voices from the East Coast. Iskandar seized this opportunity to describe Drioton's, Varille's, Gabra's, and Boreux's feelings as well as his own about the Collection. He assured Stead that all possible scientific means available had been used to authenticate it, and that if he wished to acquire important Egyptian antiquities for his museum, he would find nothing greater and more beautiful anywhere. Stead fully shared his opinion but felt obliged to mention all the difficulties that he had so far encountered to fulfill his cherished wish.

The second meeting was scheduled to be with Dr. Ben Johnson, Director of the Museum's Laboratory. Stead escorted Dr. Iskandar and William to the Laboratory, but when they reached it, Johnson had vanished. Stead was annoyed, but Iskandar and William understood. They knew that Johnson had worked with Young and that he did not wish to have his back against the wall discussing the Amarna sculptures with Iskandar. The former Chief Chemist of the Cairo Museum's Laboratory would have been a powerful and convincing opponent. Again, there was obstruction! To counteract Johnson's disappearance, Iskandar was courteously guided by Stead and one of Johnson's assistants on a tour of the Laboratory.

Iskandar's visit to California had been a personal triumph for Dr. Colonna, for her admirable work and for the Amarna Collection.

The eminent Dr. Alfred Frankenstein was a Lecturer at Stanford University, and at the time was one of the leading West Coast art critics. He wrote a two-page article titled "Akhenaten and His Family" in the San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle, Sunday, July 6, 1975 ("This World," pp. 21 & 23).

Immediately after the successful showing of the Collection at San Francisco State University, twenty-seven of the sculptures were shipped by air to Provo, Utah, to be exhibited for more art lovers to enjoy.

The exhibit was sponsored by the Brigham Young University and again by the Marie Stauffer Sigall Foundation. There, the exhibit met with the same success as it had in San Francisco. Here, too, Dr. Colonna appeared on Utah television and was interviewed in connection with the facts relating to the Tell-el-Amarna Collection.

Copyright © 1995 Christine Mansoor

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