Chapter 35: An Offer to Buy Back Two Amarna Sculptures from the Denver Museum

As I have mentioned before, the Mansoors' files contain literally scores of letters addressed to them by curators and directors of American museums thanking them for the fine acquisitions obtained from the Mansoor Firm, for donations of ancient works of art, for contributions to exhibits of ancient art, and for lectures on ancient history and art. I do not mention the donations to prove that the Mansoors were and still are generous, but rather to establish that they have contributed, and still are contributing to the best of their ability, to the progress of some educational institutions. But what went wrong? Why that constant attack on the Mansoors and their Collection. Is it prejudice? Is it a conspiracy? Why are the museums so reluctant or afraid to find the whole truth?

After Dr. Otto Karl Bach retired as director of the Denver Art Museum, the Mansoors realized that the two Amarna sculptures the museum had acquired in the mid-fifties were withdrawn from public viewing. On June 19, 1984, Edgard wrote to the new Director of the museum:

Also, since you no longer believe in the authenticity of these two sculptures, we would very much like to buy them back from your Museum, and are willing to pay the Museum three times the amount it had paid for them some twenty years ago. I am sure your Museum would be better off getting some money, rather than keep the sculptures hidden for no educational and constructive purpose. Please be kind enough to submit my request to your Museum's Board of Trustees, and let me know of your acceptance as soon as possible.

One can easily deduce that the Mansoors are more than convinced of the authenticity of their Amarnas; otherwise, they would have never made such an offer.

On July 11, 1984, Edgard received an answer from Mr. Lewis W. Story, Interim Director of the Denver Art Museum:

Dear Mr. Mansoor:

I am responding to your letter of June 19, since Mr. Thomas Maytham resigned as Director of the Denver Art Museum in June of 1983. Perhaps you will remember our meeting some years ago when Dr. Otto Karl Bach was Director of the Museum. At this time, you did a lecture for us that I recall with great pleasure.

You are correct in stating that the Nefertiti and Princess heads in our collection are not presently on view. From time to time, objects in our installations are rotated since we have limited space in our galleries, and we anticipate that they will be on display again.

While we are certainly aware of the long controversy over the authenticity of works formerly and presently in your collection of Tell-El-Amarna sculptures, we have no desire to dispose of the pieces we own. Therefore, we are declining your offer to purchase the pieces in our collection.

As a rule, when a museum acquires a forgery, it immediately returns it to the dealer to get a refund. For example, when the Metropolitan Museum discovered that its famous Egyptian bronze cat was a forgery after scientific examinations, it tried to recover the money from the dealer who had sold it to them. Unfortunately for the Metropolitan, the dealer had taken off.

The Denver Art Museum seems to believe that the two Amarna sculptures they own are authentic; otherwise, they would have never turned down the offer to get their money back three-fold, on "controversial" artifacts. And the Mansoors must have been absolutely certain of the authenticity of their Amarnas otherwise, they would have never made such an offer to the Denver Museum.

To the Mansoor family, their Amarna Collection is a sacred legacy. They will always defend and protect it until its final display in one of the world's leading museum.

In "The Denver Art Museum - Guide to the Collection," August 1971, some of the artifacts donated by the Mansoors are illustrated: on page three, item #AN-178, "Scroll From The Book of The Dead" (red and black ink on papyrus), the donation is acknowledged: Gift of M.A. Mansoor Sons". On page four, item #AN-50, the sculptured head of Queen Nefertiti (acquired in the mid-fifties) is illustrated. On page 7, item #An-187, "The Golden Isis" (wood covered with gold leaf, Ptolemaic Period), the donation is acknowledged: "Gift of M.A. Mansoor Sons." On page sixteen, item #An-32, "Bust of Dionysus" (marble, dated First Century A.D.), gift acknowledged: :Gift of M.A. Mansoor Sons". Other art works donated by patrons had similar acknowledgments.

In "The Denver Art Museum - Guide to the Collection," a catalogue published in 1981, on page 157, I noticed the statue of Isis (Ptolemaic Period), which was published in the 1971 catalogue on page seven, with no acknowledgement; the head of Nefertiti was not illustrated, nor the two donations of the papyrus and the bust of Dionysus. Here again, the Mansoor name had to be obliterated. This is most unfair on the part of this museum that owes so much to the Mansoors, who helped in many ways to enrich their collection. In a letter to William, dated January 31, 1950, Dr. Otto Karl Bach, Director, wrote: "The list of gifts from M.A. Mansoor and Sons to the Denver Art Museum is overwhelming. It will enable us to set up a permanent installation of Egyptian art that will be of great value in stimulating appreciation of Egyptian art." Donations by other patrons were acknowledged in both catalogues for their gifts.

How unfortunate it is, that a handful of incompetent and "intellectually dishonest" (Judge Xanthos) Egyptologists were able, for four decades, to influence their colleagues and most directors of the leading American, and a few European museums, to prevent them from trying to discover the truth about this Collection in fairness, in the light of true Egyptological knowledge, and the overwhelming irrefutable evidence of science! Again the Mansoors felt shame for Egyptology.

Some of the individuals who had long been involved with this Collection have passed away. This Collection of art masterpieces, dating from the reign of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, circa 1350 B.C., stands here as a memorial and witness to the superior knowledge of such masters as Drioton, Varille, Gabra, Stevenson Smith, du Bourguet, Nolli, Colonna, and the list goes on, against the incompetence, prejudice, and arrogance of such as Muller, Bothmer, Cooney, and their handful of misinformed, misled, and ignorant followers.

The Mansoors believe in the science of Egyptology and believe also in the physical sciences. They believe in the many subtleties of ancient Egyptian art, that it is not entirely hieratic or rigid. They are far from being the only ones to know this; and they firmly believe that Egyptologists, stylists and "eye experts" can be fooled by their eye and perhaps by their feelings and their fear of making mistakes. They say: "We all make mistakes. Some of us listen to reason, examine the evidence supplied and admit that we made a mistake. Many great art historians, scholars, and connoisseurs have recognized their errors. No one thought that they were less greater for it. Many even explained why they made the mistake. Other stylists become more stubborn and sour, persist in not admitting their errors, and instead continue to propagate falsehoods to save their reputation at the expense of the art lovers of the world and the institutions they are supposed to serve."

In the last forty years (the American museums should have never allowed this ordeal to last that long), the Mansoors have been gathering data to tell the story of their Tell-el-Amarna Collection. They have tried to be faithful reporters of the facts. They have added their personal opinions to those who gave theirs, and at times they used the same language as the perpetrators of the controversy; a controversy that degenerated, I believe, into a conspiracy. Only time and the readers at large will be the judges.

Copyright © 1995 Christine Mansoor

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