Chapter 28: Anatomy of an Absurd Article
Whenever it came to discussing Amarna, the Mansoor brothers had not always been able to see eye to eye as to what to do about it.
This was natural because they had so many difficulties on its account and because tremendous sums of money had been spent on it for thirty years. They were often tired, with their nerves on edge. But they had surrvived and their faith in Amarna remained unshakable.
After so many years of heartaches and indecisions, Providence came to their rescue. They listened to the sound advice of Stross, Colonna, Iskandar, and a few more close associates in this matter. In the end, the Mansoor brothers agreed to go hand in hand regarding the Collection. It was decided to place all their sculptures of Amarna in the care of the Trust Department of Bank of America. They also secured one of the most prestigious law firms on the West Coast, "Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher," in Century City, California, to protect any transactions, should they ensue.
Agreements were made, details were stipulated, and contracts signed. Bank of America was to proceed with the sale of the sculptures entrusted to it. Their new attorneys were to clarify and explain any points, opinions, differences, etc., should any occur in any transaction.
The Mansoor family could now breathe easier.
In early January 1978, Bank of America sent identical letters to most major museums of Europe and America, as well as to other prospective purchasers of Egyptian art, informing them of its intent to sell three sculptures and the anonymity of eventual buyers would be guaranteed.
Shortly afterward, Ms. Sylvia Hochfield, an Associate Editor of "ARTnews," telephoned William from New York. She said that she had heard of their Collection of Amarna sculptures, that she had seen one of Bank of America's letters sent to the museums, and that she was seeking information from the owners of the Collection for an article about it. She added that William was the first person to be contacted for this purpose.
Aware that facts could be misjudged, misrepresented, or slanted depending on the reporting ability and fairness of the writer, William answered that he was not at liberty, nor had the wish to discuss this important problem with any person unknown to him. He added that if she wanted his cooperation for a story on the Collection, she could come to California and ask any question in the presence of his attorneys and a representativeof the Bank's Trust Department. When she answered that she could not contemplate such a trip, William replied that he could do nothing for her, that the Collection had already suffered tremendously from misinterpretation of the facts, and that the Mansoors had no interest in just any kind of publicity. Seeing that she could obtain nothing from William, she called Edmond and Alfred. She also called some executives of the Bank's Trust Department. All, under urging, volunteered only information of a general nature.
Sylvia Hochfield published her article in the 1978 summer issue of "ARTnews".
"The Mansoor Collection: An Insoluble Controversy?" was the title of her dissertation. In eight full pages of twenty-two columns and twenty-four photographs, Ms. Hochfield put the Collection on trial once again. Yet her trial ended in a most unorthodox fashion: a mistrial. For her conclusion was: "It looks as if those of us who are fortunate enough to be outside the controversy will have to be satisfied with our uncertainty."
(Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we have just witnessed a crime. We are not the killers and we do not know who killed who. Therefore, we have to be satisfied with our uncertainty. This court is dismissed.)
Where is the truth? Where is the justice? But, Ms. Hochfield wanted to write a story.
Let us discuss Hochfield's article. For an introduction, she talks of Bank of America and the astronomical prices of the sculptures. "These prices, if there were buyers, would be by far the highest....What startled many museum people is that they were quite familiar with the pieces. It is widely believed in the Egyptological community, that the Mansoor collection of Amarna amassed by a Cairo antiquities dealer...and brought to the United States by his children, consist entirely of forgeries." This is not in accord with facts. To begin with, the collective opinion of Egyptologists can only be subjective. Ms. Hochfield should know that some Egyptologists are "eye experts" and that they have made innumerable mistakes in the past. Furthermore, many Egyptologists do not agree with her Egyptologists, whose opinions are random and undocumented, to say the least. Ms. Hochfield's remark is, therefore, unsubstantiated and misleading.
Names of scientists and their work on the Collection are mentioned casually: "The Mansoor objects have probably undergone more laboratory testing than any other art objects in the world . . . about fifteen scientists . . . overwhelmingly believe the objects are genuine antiquities." This, apparently, is of little importance to this reporter. Harold Plenderleith, with "impeccable art world credentials," is also named. But it did not matter much that "He took note of some seemingly incompatible findings on the part of other scientists, but his conclusion was that the case for the genuineness of the Mansoor objects was 'amply proved.' "
Inaccurately, Ms. Hochfield then says, "Not one of the Egyptologists contacted by ARTnews would comment for the record of the Mansoor Collection.To bring up the subject was to be greeted with uncomfortable silence, strained laughter, a fervent plea not to be quoted on the matter." Hochfield was not satisfied. She adds, "Pushed slightly, they talked vaguely of the possible 'unpleasantness' that might result if they spoke out on the subject, an unpleasantness that was understood not to be unconnected with legal action." The Mansoors were portrayed as persons only seeking to sue anybody at any time. Whoever told her that was not telling the truth. In January 1971, seven years before the Hochfield's article, Edmond, who was in charge of the Collection then, mailed a notarized statement dated January 15, 1971 to the Eastern museums notifying them that the Mansoors had no intention of taking legal action against any institution or their officials in the matter regarding their Collection. (A copy of that statement is in "Defence . . . " Colona and Noli, 1986, p. 47.) The Mansoors have never sued anyone, if they wanted to sue, they had ample opportunities of doing so in the past. No lawsuit will ever settle this matter. None is contemplated by the Mansoors. It is the fervent hope of the writer that, after the reader, the museum trustees, and the true and honest scholars have read the tragic story of that Collection, an investigation, conducted in a scholarly and ethical manner would be opened.
If Cooney or Bothmer did not comment, it is because they had already done so repeatedly. She found Aldred, and few unnamed Egyptologists who were eager enough to come to her rescue. She had said, "Not one of the Egyptologists contacted would comment." Are they not Egyptologists? Cyril Aldred, she said, "was slightly more loquacious." She says, "He declined to discuss the authenticity of the Mansoor objects, but he said, `you can quote me as follows: if they are genuine, I am not prepared to accept that they are great works of ancient Egyptian art'." The Mansoors recognize Mr. Aldred as a true scholar of Egyptology. That he is "not prepared to accept that they are . . . " is his opinion. It does not mean that his taste is better than that of other Egyptologists who have studied the sculptures, and with all due respect, it is not critical. It is not worth much as compared to the opinion of Drs. Drioton, Gabra, Boreux, Varille, and other Egyptologists who have studied their aesthetic beauty for many years. Aldred has never seen the Mansoor Collection. When he said, "If they are genuine," there is the implication that they could indeed be genuine. And indeed they are genuine! They have been recognized by eminent Egyptologists. They have been also authenticated by eminent scientists. To sum it up, what did Aldred say?
Hochfield proceeds: "The only living Egyptologist ARTnews has been able to identify as a supporter of the Mansoor Collection is Andreina Leanza Becker-Colonna of San Francisco State University." First of all, what is this nonsense about "living Egyptologist"? An Egyptologist can be breathing and yet be dead as far as his knowledge of Egyptology is concerned. For Hochfield's information, the Mansoor Collection has countless supporters, Egyptologists and scientists, living and dead. Therefore, her assumption is false and misleading.
Then come her discussions with the bank executives and with Edmond and Alfred. On the third page, she portrays the Mansoors as unable to accept the verdict of the unnamed Egyptologists. The Mansoor brothers ask, "Who are these Egyptologists, and what are their qualifications and credentials? Are they the dissident ones?' If this is the case, I will not discuss their opinions again.
What is remarkable about Ms. Hochfield is that she started her article by declaring that not one Egyptologist wished to comment. Now, throughout her article, she portrays them as great scholars, as infallible, whose word is gospel.
The Egyptologists in favor of the Mansoor Amarna Collection do not know how much Ms. Hochfield knows of the art of Amarna, but she faithfully reported every inaccurate comment passed to her by unnamed Egyptologists, and unnamed scholars. Did these anonymous individuals tell her that they had made mistakes before? Did she know that Cooney had purchased Amarna fakes for the Brooklyn Museum and that they could not even compare favorably with clever forgeries? Did she know that these "Egyptologists" had violently disagreed with one another when it came to passing judgment on the Akhenaten head of the Hanover Museum? Or did she think that because they were comfortably seated in the offices of our great museums that they could not make mistakes?
On page four of her article, Hochfield wrote about M.A. Mansoor, Drioton, Stross, Farouk, etc., and about several other important facts relating to the Collection. These facts are accurately stated because one cannot see how they can otherwise be told or distorted. However, when Ms. Hochfield mentioned the reverend Abbé Drioton, one of the greatest Egyptologists of all time, she mentioned him only as a philologist. Whom did she listen to? Hochfield was reporting neither fact nor truth. She did not give Dr. Drioton the credit he deserves, she did not bother to inquire about him at the Sorbonne, The Louvre, or the Egyptian Museum. She faithfully followed the pattern of "her Egyptologists" of random talk.
In her interviews with the unnamed Egyptologists, she reported, unknowingly, more lies and falsehoods. She writes: "The late William C. Hayes, says Mansoor, examined the sculptures in New York several times, but so far as we know never did formulate an opinion. However, according to a friend and colleague of Hayes (who asked not to be identified), the Metropolitan's curator did not believe the objects were ancient, although he may never have told the Mansoors his opinion." Fortunately for Hochfield and Hayes' "friend and colleague," Hayes is no longer here to testify.
The second man on Cooney's list, the late William Stevenson Smith of the Boston Museum, had an intimate involvement with the objects. "In 1947," writes Edmond Mansoor, "when a part of the collection arrived in Boston, Dr. Smith, in his capacity as Curator of the Department of Egyptian Art of the Boston Museum, was requested by the U.S. Customs Authorities to examine the sculptures as to their antiquity. After having thoroughly examined the objects, he stated that they were Ancient Egyptian antiquities, and the sculptures were allowed free of duty in the United States.
A colleague who knew Smith very well tells this story somewhat differently:
The cigar smoking Irish customs people at the Port of Boston were accustomed to call in people from the museum when they weren't sure whether things that came in under the exemption of objects over a hundred years old were really that old or not." This man says. "It was a great tragedy for Smith, who had known the Mansoor family in Cairo in the ten years he spent there from 1929 to 1939, that he was called in. He shuddered when the first box was opened and he recognized what was in it. But he was a kind man and he couldn't say that these pieces were fake. So he asked them to open another box, and in another box were a few pieces that were undoubtedly original. And so - should I say, as a good Christian, or a good midwesterner? - he said to the customs man: "Of course. These pieces are ancient," and pointed in the open box to an original piece . . . .
Smith was embarrassed for the rest of his life that he had been instrumental in bringing these pieces into the country. On the other hand, it was very difficult for him to stand there in a customs shed on the Boston pier and in front of these young men declare that the pieces were fake. It's a very great problem sometimes, when there are personal loyalties involved. The old man Mansoor had been friendly with Reisner (George Andrew Reisner of the Boston Museum) and all the other great Egyptologists.
I have mentioned Stevenson Smith before. How can Ms. Hochfield - who is reporting - verify the statement of this so-called and unnamed colleague? Unfortunately, Smith, a great scholar of Egyptology, is no longer with us to testify for the truth. Smith, this "good Christian, or a good midwesterner," authenticated the sculptures not "in a customs shed on the Boston pier," but in an office at the Customs House after he had minutely examined them. A "good Christian, or a good midwesterner" must not lie, not even to save "his friends." He would not lie to a federal agency either. But as an able and learned Egyptologist, it did not take him long to realize the importance of the Collection within the range of "styles of Amarna" and accept them as genuine Egyptian antiquities. What Hochfield could not see was that the dissident Egyptologists and their followers were desperately trying to discredit the Collection "Egyptologically," seeing that science had unmasked their vanity and their incompetence. As a good reporter, Ms. Hochfield should report credible facts instead of tales based on hearsay.
Hochfield continues to claim that certain unnamed Egyptologists told her this and that. They all said different absurdities,and this can only help the cause of the sculptures of Amarna, since they are publicly declaring, and without shame, that they do not know what they are talking about. Again from Ms. Hochfield's dissertation:
One Egyptologist pointed out what he regards as an obvious sign of inauthenticity. Some of the reliefs from the Mansoor collection (one is owned by Stross) show two of Akhenaten's daughters seated on cushions, the one in front turning back to chuck her sister under the chin. Egyptologists believe these reliefs were copied from a fragment of wall painting unearthed by Petrie in 1891 and now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. (They think a good many of the Mansoor pieces are copies of genuine ones.) In the wall fragment, however, there is, on the other hand, no context; the figures are isolated. And in one of the specimens, the artist made a mistake.One sister is supposed to be chucking the other under the chin, but the artist misjudged the position of the hand, so that the gesture makes no sense. The hand is floating in front of the chin."
Another Egyptologist said, "The expressions on the Mansoor pieces are so often completely twentieth-century ones. So many of the faces of Akhenaten in the collection seem to be leering at you. I've seen quite a few of the Mansoor pieces, and all of them are copies of known objects. Not one is an original composition. Forgers aren't original. They copy - but they make a lot of mistakes. The proportions of these pieces are all wrong; the set of the crowns on the heads is wrong."
A third scholar said, "What makes these pieces forgeries? It's intangible, hard to put into words, like a perfume. All the well-known Amarna features are employed in an incongruous and unbalanced manner. To someone who's used to looking at Egyptian art, everything is out of place, distorted, just . . . not right."
The anonymous Egyptologists, all of whom had first refused to comment, came back to tell Hochfield that the sculptures "imitated." One of them told her: "The expressions on the Mansoor pieces are so often completely twentieth-century . . . . Many of the faces of Akhenaten in the collection seem to be leering at you." "This one," the Mansoors say, "undoubtedly knows more about twentieth-century art, if he understands art at all, than about the ancient. If he really wants to see an Amarna figure 'leering' at him, we suggest he takes a good look at the 'Stroll in the garden' of Berlin" (cf. Michalowski, fig. 104, p. 250). The Mansoors point to the third scholar, "The odd one who said, 'What makes these pieces forgeries? Its intangible, hard to put into words, like a perfume.' Obviously this gentleman is not and cannot be an expert in Egyptian art. To someone who's used to looking at Egyptian art, he failed to explain in artistic and/or scientific terms what was distorted or out of place, instead he talked of perfume."
The most devastating declaration made in the name of the disident group is that of the Egyptologist who declared that the relief of the two seated princesses is nothing but an imitation of the Ashmolean Museum fresco. It has no "context," he said. He adds that "the artist made a mistake. One sister is supposed to be chucking the other under the chin, but the artist misjudged the position of the hand, so that the gesture makes no sense. The hand is floating in front of the chin." Can this Egyptologist tell us how many reliefs of Amarna "amassed" by Von Bothmer and his colleagues in their famous "Akhenaten and Nefertiti" exhibit have a context? All these profiles are isolated and no strange sandals or other decorations are showing! "The hand is floating in front of the chin." This movement, according to the true connoisseurs who studied the Mansoor reliefs, is a subtle and delightful gesture. The artist caught the hand of one of the youthful princesses on its way to caress the chin of her sister. It is a charming and disarming scene. In a few words, this speaker in the name of the dissident Egyptologists tells us of their total ignorance of the subtleties of Egyptian art. Nor do they understand the mind of the Egyptian artist of Amarna. The sculptures of Amarna in the Berlin, Cairo, and other museums are . . . copies of one another.
As M.A. Mansoor used to say, concerning the Amarna period, "True scholars of Egyptology are supposed to be aware of the facts of ancient Egyptian life, of the mind of the Egyptian artist, especially the artist of the Amarna period, of his freedom in the interpretation and representation of his art."
For the benefit of the unamed Egyptologists, the Mansoors will say that Egyptian art has been hieratic in the sense that it produced the Sphinx, the Pyramids, the great temples, the Colossi of Memnon, the mummies and the mummified cats, and so forth. Every connoisseur of Egyptian art, and not just these unnamed Egyptologists, can tell that all these are a part of the Egyptian cultural heritage.
On the other hand, from the earliest dynasties until the end of the Ptolemaic period, ther have been artists who felt different emotions, who strayed from conventional representations perhaps because they were impelled to do so under the influence of changing times, moods, ideas or environment, and who produced works of art that were "different," and yet so superbly Egyptian as the kneeling statuette of Pepi I, the bust of Ankh-haf, the "reserve" heads, the Horse and Rider, the Colossi of Akhenaten, the unfinished statuette of Akhenaten kissing one of his daughters, the bust of Nefertiti, and the fragment of a relief showing Nefertiti sitting on Akhenaten's lap. Michalowski, noted Egyptologists, comments on the colossal Group of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiyi, "the triple Uraeus is baffling, to say the least," and Roeder mentions that, "It occurs once on the Colossal Group of Amenhotep III and Tiyi from Medinet Habu as insignia of the Queen," and then refers to "Turin 1385 as the only other example." (Kazimierz Michalowski: "Art of Ancient Egypt." Harry N. Abrams. New York, 1968, p. 388). In the Musees Royaux d'Art & d'Histoire, Brussels, Queen Tiyi is shown in a relief with the two Uraeus, one wearing the crown of Upper Egypt, the other, the crown of Lower Egypt (Queen Tiyi from the tomb of Userhat, cat. 56), and a multitude of other arts. Can the few dissident and unnamed Egyptologists tell us in what way any of the Mansoor sculptures are so different from these outstanding and/or unorthodox representations?
An anonymous Egyptologist told Hochfield, "The proportions of these pieces are all wrong." First of all they are not wrong; he is wrong for saying that. In "Art of Ancient Egypt" (Harry N. Abrams, N.Y. fig. 115, p. 264), Mr. Kazimierz Michalowski writes the following: "Thebes. Tomb of Horemheb - King Horemheb Before the Goddess Hathor. The oversized head denotes a continuation of the Amarna style."
The Mansoors ask: "Is it so difficult for these 'expert Egyptologists' to keep an open mind and study these sculptures simply as a 'new form' of the art of Akhenaten?" The subject of Akhenaten's "mutiny" is still under study. "Akhenaten - Pharaoh of Egypt: A New Study" by Cyril Aldred of the Royal Scottish Museum, discusses new thoughts about the "heretic" king and his period. Two articles published in 1971 and 1972, in the National Geographis and in newspapers throughout the United States, by Mr. Ray Winfield Smith, a research archaeologist associated with the University Museum of Philadelphia, continue the research into the lives of Akhenaten and Nefertiti.
The understanding of the art of the period of Akhenaten, whether in Karnak or Tell-el-Amarna, is not yet a closed chapter. Mr. Erik Iversen, in "Legacy of Egypt," editor J.R. Harris (Oxford Clarendon Press, Second Edition 1971), mentions the "Amarna age" and "The Canonical Tradition: . . .Nothing demonstrates with greater clarity the inner stability and balance of Egyptian culture than the fact that for more than two millenia Egyptian artists were able to find complete harmonious expression within a single tradition, without once changing its principles and ideas - with the sole exception of the Amarna age, which cannot be considered here." It is needless to quote here the endless scholarly observations by serious Egyptologists of this age and the past to prove this point. The Mansoors say: "Nowhere can we find any statements on Amarna art and style worthy of mention from the works of Cooney, Bothmer, or Muller. Surely the true scholars of Egyptology and archaeology, the art historians, and all persons familiar with ancient Egyptian art will know what is meant by this last statement."
Finally, Hochfield discusses the scientific problem, and here again tries to create an atmosphere of doubt and uncertainty. She took Edmond's suggestion to give the technical reports to a scientist for scrutiny and chose professor Norbert Baer, Co-Chairman of the Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University. He is an expert on old ivory objects. Hochfield says, "One of Baer's observations on the reports . . . had to do with the many assumptions, sometimes conflicting, the scientists had made. 'Each level of assumption that you must introduce into the examination of the artifact reduces the likliehood of its acceptance as an authentic artifact of the period', he said."
With every due respect to Professor Baer's knowledge of the scientific facts relating to art objects in general, what are these assumptions? Assumptions are occasionally made by scientists and "stylist" after a reasoned technical analysis or a thoroughly stylistic study of a work of art. They are never conclusive in themselves, but they do help the researcher to form an opinion. Dr. Baer probably read many of the reports relating to the Collection and picked up one assumption here, another there, etc., all of course in different contexts and in different analyses made by different scientists. One thing, however, seems very strange: How could he have overlooked the results of so many tests, made by scientists certainly not unknown to him, at least by fame, which pointed to the authenticity of the sculptures?
Therefore, the number of assumptions seemed great to him, when in fact they were individual and few. Did Baer ever make an assumption? If this observation of his is correct, and if "each level of assumption . . . reduces the likliehood of its acceptance as an artifact" is indeed true, what about the thousands of works of art, in all the museums of the world, which have been assumed to be . . . or to represent . . . or by .. . . or . . . , after such a test one can assume . . .. and so forth? The argumentative Baer unknowingly raises a thorny problrem here, which, we are certain, all museums can do without.
Also, "Baer thinks the case for the authenticity of the Mansoor objects would be significantly affected if the precise source of the stone they are made of could be located." How does this work? The Egyptians imported all kinds of materials from the very beginning of their written history. They could have imported some unusual limestone. They could have found it in Sinai, Lybia, Mesopotamia, etc. Does this mean that if some quarry yielding the very kind of limestone used in the sculpturing of these pieces were found, in say, Mesopotamia, that these sculptures would be forgeries and their surfaces new? If such a querry were found somewhere in Egypt, would this be a proof of authenticity of the sculptures? Or vice-versa? I don't know how this works.
These and other remarks, pronounced by a scientist who did not examine the sculptures and which were offered by Baer, who "has a foot in both camps," and were made as a "statement of general principles," were misinterpreted in such a way in Hochfield's article so as to mislead the reader that indeed there is doubt about the scientific findings.
Not only are Hochfield's Egyptologists sure of themselves, but they also say that the scientists have made mistakes while examining the Mansoor sculptures. Here is a long passage of Hochfield's article:
The Egyptologists have not been impressed by the scientific findings. They are so convinced the objects are wrong that they simply assume [here her Egyptologists "assume"] the scientists have misinterpreted the evidence or that their tests were insufficiently sophisticated. They say also that a geologist or an archaeometrist may know a great deal about geology or archaeometry but very little about art objects, specifically Egyptian art objects, and less about the resourcefulness of forgers. Some of the scientists made what the Egyptologists say are absurd assumptions: that the objects might have been exposed on the surface of the desert for a long period of time, for example, or that forgers would use modern tools. Criminologist Kirk, for one, regarded as a significant proof of authenticity the fact that the tool marks he had observed in the patina of the objects he examined had not been made by modern tools, whose marks are easily identified on the worked surface. One Egyptologist commented: 'The scientists can tell if a surface is weathered or not, but they can't tell the difference between true weathering and false weathering because they've never seen false weathering.' (There are many ways to give a stone object a weathered appearance. One of the more odorous, according to Egyptologists, is to immerse it in a cesspool).
Would Professor Baer care to comment on the above paragraph? (By the way, is Dr. Baer the "prominent chemist friend of mine" mentioned by Von Bothmer in his ill-fated letter, which was reprinted in an earlier chapter? William Mansoor is only guessing!) Does he agree with the Egyptologist who said that the scientists cannot "tell the difference between true weathering and false weathering?" Is the Egyptologist who made this statement qualified to make such an assertion? Or how about, "There are many ways to give a stone object a weathered appearance. One of the more odorous, according to Egyptologists, is to immerse it in a cesspool." What will we hear next? Perhaps the few dissident Egyptologists can be fooled by such dirty and smelly weathering, but who can believe that the scientists would? What does Professor Baer think of this remark? Immersing a stone object in a cesspool would discolor a beautiful stone; it would leave on its surface an undesirable residue; it would make it smell bad. It would not alter its surface nor would it erode it; it would not create or form the proper patina on its surface; but it will make it look very sorry. According to the Mansoor brothers, "Many persons dealing with ancient Egyptian works of art are aware that this ugly process was used by the poor, uneducated and simple forgers of Egypt in the early 1900's. They did it supposedly to fool the tourist and pinch a few piasters from him." The brothers added, "Perhaps some of the dissident Egyptologists fell for it. It is too bad!"
Should one laugh or cry at the logic of these anonymous Egyptologists?
Let us ask any one of the dissident Egyptologists who are thought to be "expert" stylists, if they know of any Egyptian forgeries displaying the type of surface found on the Mansoor Amarna sculptures? Can they tell us if they know of a way in which this surface can be exactly duplicated on forgeries? The Mansoors find it difficult to argue with such poor reasoning.
Muller talked of "obtrusiveness"; Bothmer and Cooney made noises; others in their names talked of perfume, cesspool, etc. The world will never again witness so many incompetent, and deceitful Egyptologists, living at the same time. Total disgrace! Total shame!
Will the serious Egyptologists, the world of arts and sciences, the museums and connoisseurs of Egyptian art allow Egyptology to be ruled by illogical and irresponsible remarks such as those? We witness a person being murdered by a few. We are standing there, many in number. We can reach and help prevent the crime, but each of us says, "Why should I interfere?"
According to the Mansoors, Hochfield's article did not do justice to the Collection nor was it written in a spirit of fairness. Biased throughout, it has served only to propagate falsehood and to spread rumors uncontrollably whispered by few misinformed individuals. In Ms. Hochfield, they found a reliable advocate and propagator.
The Mansoors say: "Hochfield, who has edited at least one catalogue for the Brooklyn Museum (Art from the Age of Akhenaten by Richard A. Fazzini, The Brooklyn Museum Press, 1973), should have disqualified herself from writing an article about the Mansoor Collection. All photos published in her article that mention 'Kerop Photo Studio, Cairo', are the property of three museums. They were sent years ago to the Metropolitan, the Brooklyn, and the Boston Museums. We do not have these pictures in our files. Therefore, we believe that Ms. Hochfield might have been somehow encouraged or compelled to write such an article by all, or any of the three museums. If Hochfield had accepted William's suggestion to come to California, we would have gladly given her all the documents we had in our possession for the writing of an unbiased article."
At least two ARTnews readers wrote to Ms. Sylvia Hochfield expressing shock and astonishment at her lack of serious documentation. Possibly other letters were written, none of them were ever reprinted in ARTnews. Why?
The following two letters, mailed to Bank of America by their authors, were handed to the Mansoors.
The first one was written on October 10, 1978, to Ms. Hochfield, Associate Editor, ARTnews, typed on the letterhead of Southwest Virginia Community College, Richlands, Virginia.
Ms. Sylvia Hochfield
Associate Editor, ARTnews
122 East 42nd Street
New York, NY 10017
Dear Ms. Hochfield:
As an engineer-scientist born and raised in Egypt I was quite intrigued by your probing article on the Mansoor collection. I do not presume to be an expert on Egyptology, but my family roots are in the vicinity of Luxor and Kena where antiquities are a way of life.
Two trends seem to emerge from the facts stated in your article. The first is a conflict between two schools of thought in Egyptology, with proponents of the stylistic school maintaining that their judgment is more valid than that of their "scientific archaeology" counterparts. The second, less obvious, trend is that supporting evidence for the Mansoor collection's authenticity seems to come from Egyptologists who have lived, worked, and researched in Egypt proper. Disclaimers come, in the main, from museum curators in the eastern U.S. and northern Europe. I do not like to inject any thoughts that throw a provincial light on the discussion but it is incumbent upon me to comment that the second trend is observable.
Your even-handed exposition of the salient facts was, in my view, somewhat blemished by your reservation of the term "Egyptologist" for the archaeological stylists and not for the scientific archaeologists. It seems to me that the likes of Drs. Drioton, Iskandar and Lucas constitute as much of an "all-star" list of bona fide Egyptologists as the experts assembled by Mr. Cooney to comment on the collection's authenticity. Furthermore, they seem to be in a better position because of their continued presence in Egypt and through their greater involvement with the spectrum of materials found there, to comment intelligently on whether a particular material is to be found in Egypt. Finally, whether or not he is a distinguished philologist, Dr. Drioton has unquestionably amassed on site experience as Director of Egyptian Antiquities (and not of philological studies). Can this be summarily flushed down the drain? Similar comments would apply to the clearly irreproachable qualifications of Drs. Iskandar and Lucas.
It is sad to see the arts and the science divided. It is demoralizing for twentieth century supporters of the arts to turn their backs on the very same sciences they turn to when in need. It is downright ludicrous for anyone to imply in this day and age that it is easier to imitate or forge physico-chemical composition than it is to copy artistic style. Perhaps the most revealing and revulsive comments were made by the Egyptologist who states that "It begins with the eye and it ends with the eye (and that) the only fakes (he respects) are the ones that fool the experts." Perhaps if he permits his eyesight to be improved by the focusing lenses of modern scientific analysis he may end up getting fooled less and respecting himself more.
Thank you for your attention. I hope that cooler, less vain heads will prevail to bring about the "rapprochement" and mutual respect between the archaeological arts and the sciences. The Mansoor Collection controversy may very well prove to be the catalyst for this belated interaction.
Michael N. Bishara, D. Sc.(signed)
Professor and Chairman
Division of Engineering
The second letter was written on the PEPSICO letterhead, Long Island City, N.Y., dated November 16, 1978, it says:
Ms. Sylvia Hochfield
122 E. 42nd Street
New York, NY 10017
Dear Ms. Hochfield:
A few months ago I read your interesting article on the Mansoor Collection in the summer issue of ARTnews and I have managed to review the published material you mention in your article (Je Cherche un Homme . . .", Ms. Becker-Colonna's catalogue on the exhibit made at San Francisco State University, plus all scientific reports, both positive and negative) which I have read thoroughly. The thing that puzzled me the most is that although one particular scientist has been unable to even identify the kind of material that these objects are made out of, some museum directors or curators have been influenced by his report, and have proclaimed that these objects were fakes. This proclamation leaves several unanswered questions in my mind and I'm sure, in the minds of others, such as:
1. Have all the scientific reports issued at a later date been read and understood by these museum curators and directors? I doubt that very strongly. Then, if all these scientific reports were ignored, and if the museum people do not believe in scientific evidence, why do the museums bother to maintain and support their scientific laboratories?
2. Are Mr. William J.Young and Dr. H.W. Muller better qualified than the more than twenty other scientists (whose titles, qualifications and background are very impressive) who have attested to the authenticity of this collection?
3. Is the "unnamed investigator" of the International Foundation for Art Research serious in stating that the head he examined was made of "Artificial Stone"? How about the prominent geologist who disagreed violently with the foundation's "expert"? Who do you think would be right?
On page 55, col. 1, Dr. H.W.Muller states that the Sculptures "exaggerated certain stylistic characteristics . . . that every connoisseur of Egyptian art must consider them as forgeries without hesitation." In the following column, another Egyptologist said: "The expressions on the Mansoor pieces . . . I've seen quite a few of the Mansoor pieces, and all of them are copies of known objects." It seems to me that the Egyptologists rely on their eyes and their feelings when they examine art objects. None of them has been able to give any tangible evidence to support their negative opinion.
In "Je Cherche un Homme . . . ," every scientist has criticized Mr. Young's report. Has Mr. Young ever defended his position or has he ever tried to challenge the other scientists who made the following statements regarding his report:
" . . . His comments are couched in language that in places is meaningless to a scientist." (Dr. Francis J. Turner)
" . . . The data set out in the sole report . . . are, in my opinion, imprecisely expressed and scientifically unsound in a number of respects." (Dr. C. Osborne Hutton)
" . . . The fluorescence tests offer nothing to indicate the pieces are not old, nor does the author state just what is the false condition he refers to . . . yet he somehow concludes that the pieces are of 'fairly modern origin'." (Dr. Robert R. Compton)
" . . . I do not find the report of Mr. Young very convincing. For many of his assertions he has supplied no satisfactory evidence." (Professor Eliot Blackwelder)
" . . . His report is chiefly impressive for its lack of reasoned conclusions . . . cannot be given unqualified acceptance by anyone experienced in the technique." (Dr. Paul L. Kirk)
" . . . It is very clear that Mr. Young: did not fully understand the tool with which he was working, i.e. the ultraviolet lamp . . . did not properly and correctly interpret such results . . . weak, subjective and without meaning as set in its present form . . . erroneous conclusions, . . . inadequate experience and understanding . . . complete inability to interpret the results . . . indicative of lack of carefulness an otherwise competent scientist would rely upon . . . to be completely disregarded in any serious appraisal." (Dr. Jack De Ment)
And this is the scientist that Mr. Cooney relied upon when he wrote: "Mr. William J. Young who is in my opinion the best authority in this country on technical problems connected with works of art."
On page 56, col.1, one Egyptologist commented: "The scientists can tell if a surface is weathered or not, but they can't tell the difference between true weathering and false weathering because they've never seen false weathering." If the scientists can't tell the difference, maybe the Egyptologists can, with all their knowledge of science (or lack of it, as their comments seem to indicate). And then one goes on to read: "There are many ways to give a stone object a weathered appearance. One of the more odorous, according to Egyptologists, is to immerse it in a cesspool." This has got to be the most ridiculous and the most absurd statement ever made by a "scholar." If this process were used today, it might fool the so-called "experts" who rely on their eyes and their feelings, but it will never fool a scientist of the caliber of those who have examined these objects.
Ms. Hochfield, I strongly feel you owe it to your readers to carefully examine these questions because they were unanswered in your article thereby making the article somewhat biased and based more on weak opinion than strong, positive fact. Thank you for your anticipated attention.
John Ragusa (signed)
Senior Research Chemist
cc: J.P. Fitzgerald, Bank of America, Trust Dept.
M. Esterow, ARTnews
Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Cleveland Art Museum
Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
Dr. Colonna was interviewed by the ARTnews correspondent in Rome, Italy. Her interview and comments were never published in any issue of that magazine. Why?
Consequently, I am inclined to believe that Ms. Hochfield is on the side of the few dissident Egyptologists.
The Mansoors, however, are also indebted, in a sense, to Sylvia Hochfield. Her article has brought into the open, for the public to judge, the opinions of a select group of "Egyptologists" who, by trying to save their masters, spared no effort to betray their incompetence in the fields of Egyptian art and science. I suppose that their unbelievable prejudice, and their opinion on the value of sound scientific analyses have revolted other readers besides Drs. Bishara and Ragusa.
The sculptures of Tell-el-Amarna of the Mansoor Collection will survive when the "somewhat biased" article by Sylvia Hochfield will have long been discredited and forgotten. The Collection will remain. In the near future, factual, and far more intelligent articles will be written on this Collection, for the Mansoors believe that there are talented and unbiased writers. They will describe its beauty. They will logically discuss the collective evidence of science. They will examine Young's report and will question his remarkable silence as he was faced with opinions refuting his arguments. They will recognize that the opinions of such masters of Egyptology as Drioton, Gabra, Varille, Boreux, Lansing, Stevenson Smith, Colonna, and later Desroches Noblecourt, du Bourguet, and Nolli are indeed based on sound knowledge of Egyptian art. They will question the random remarks and the illogical point of view of the few Egyptologists who are blinded by their stubbornness and their belief that Egyptian art should only be as they see it, the way they want it to be. There will be the Egyptologists and curators and directors of museums of a younger generation who will challenge the authoritarian views of the few who just could not understand or grasp the true spirit of the art of Tell-el-Amarna.
Copyright © 1995 Christine Mansoor
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