Chapter 38: The Third Exhibition of the Mansoor El-Amarna Collection 1991

In November 1991, San Francisco State University had a third Exhibit of the Mansoor El-Amarna Collection. On that occasion, the Honorable Mayor of San Francisco, Art Agnos, sent a letter to the University saying:

On behalf of the people of the City and County of San Francisco, I am pleased to extend our sincere congratulations to the faculty, staff and students of the San Francisco State University Classics Department on the occasion of a special exhibition of the famed Mansoor-El-Amarnan Collection of Ancient Egyptian Sculptures and artifacts.

The people of San Francisco and the Bay area are certain to gain new insight and new appreciation for the artistic and technical achievements of the ancient Egyptian culture which these extraordinary works clearly demonstrate.

Please accept my best wishes for an educationally enriching and successful exhibition of the wonderful Ancient Egyptian works of art of the Mansoor-El-Amarna Collection

Art Agnos (signed)

The Mayor's letter is published in the San Francisco State University's catalogue: "Ancient Egypt Mansoor-el-Amarna Collection" (1991, p.6), by Dr. Andreina Leanza Becker-Colonna, Professor Emerita, Curator Emerita.

Mr. Dennis C. Forbes, Editor Director of "KMT A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt," wrote in the winter 1991-92 issue, a short article in his Editor's report section about the exhibit. Mr. Forbes emphasizes Mr. Aldred's quotation, "If they are genuine, I am not prepared to accept that they are great works of ancient Egyptian art." As I stated before, when Aldred said "If they are genuine," there is an implication that the sculptures could be genuine. And indeed they are genuine! "I am not prepared to accept" is his opinion only, and it is not critical. As I mentioned earlier, it does not mean that his taste or knowledge is better than that of Drioton, Desroches Noblecourt, Varille, Boreux, Colonna, Nolli, and others who have studied the sculptures. Mr. Aldred has never examined the Mansoor Collection. The KMT article is fair. Mr. Forbes was sincere in seeking the truth, for in the last paragraph of his article, he wrote: "Rather than to continue dismissing the Mansoor el-Amarna Collection out of hand and 'off the record' on unspecified stylistic grounds, I would challenge knowledgeable, well-credentialed Egyptologist art-historians to debate on the record why these particular sculptures are either bonafide unique antiquities or else merely audacious antique curiosities. Perhaps I will be able to generate such a debate for Amarna letters 2!"

Please note that KMT is widely circulated in Egyptological circles. Needless to say that Mr. Forbes' challenge to "knowledgeable, well credentialed Egyptologist art-historians" fell on deaf ears. As of this date - January 1994 - no one has accepted this challenge. Are there any "knowledgeable, well credentialed Egyptologist art-historians" out there? If you exist, is this part of your conspiracy of silence?

Dr. Colonna sought the truth. Before exhibiting the Collection in 1975, she thoroughly researched, examined and studied the sculptures stylistically and aesthetically for over two years. She reviewed and understood all scientific reports, only then, she accepted them as authentic works of ancient Egypt. The same with Dr. Desroches Noblecourt and Father Pierre du Bourguet of the Louvre, Monsignor Nolli of the Vatican Museum, Dr. Drioton and Dr. Gabra. Their personal artistic evaluations have confirmed the validity and correctness of the scientific reports concerning the Mansoor Collection.

Letters were sent to KMT regarding the Mansoor sculptures. Some were in favor, few were negative. It is useless to go over the negative ones, their authors have never examined the sculptures. They admitted it in their letters, and yet, like Derchain, Eitner and a few others, they condemned the Collection from photographs only. The reader should remember Dr. Colonna's letter dated September 28, 1985, to Dr. Wildung in which she said: "Since when do responsible and objective art experts judge works of art not from the originals but from photos of them?" It is a fallacy to believe that experts can tell from photographs if an artifact is genuine or not.

In KMT, Summer 1992, page 4, Professor Earl L. Eartman of the University of Akron, Ohio, suspects the Mansoor Amarna Collection on the ground that "it can be seen that Smenkhkare [of the Mansoor Collection] wears sandals that rise vertically from the heel," and that this very interesting type of sandal . . . may well have been quite comfortable." And then he adds, "The problem is, however, that there are no parallels to this type of sandal-shape with a heel support in other representation from ancient Egypt . . . ." For Prof. Ertman's information, the stelae in sunk relief of the Berlin Egyptian Museum (No. 17813) depicting two kings, or a king and a queen, illustrated in the 1973 Catalogue of the Brooklyn Museum "Akhenaten and Nefertiti" (by Cyril Aldred, p. 184, Fig. 114), Mr. Aldred states that the individuals represented are Akhenaten and Smenkhkare. Nicolas Reeves, of the British Museum, states in his book titled "Tutankhamon", that the individuals represent Akhenaten and Nefertiti. Whoever the individual on the right, he or she, is wearing a sandal with a heel support similar to the one worn by Smenkhkare in the Mansoor's relief. Other types are illustrated on page 286 and 342, in "Les Pharaons à la Conquête de l'Art" by Drs. Drioton and Pierre du Bourguet (Desclée De Brouwer, 1965).

Let us suppose for a moment that the writer did not bring to the attention of Prof. Ertman the above mentioned examples. The question would be: Would a scholar condemn a whole collection as a fake because one carving among many has an unusual detail with no similar representation in other known ancient objects? Without even examining one single sculpture of that collection? And through photographs only? And what about the famous Nefertiti bust of the Berlin Museum? No other queen, before or after her, had such a crown! Should one suspect it as a fake? I believe that Prof. Ertman's reasoning concerning the Mansoor Collection leaves much to be desired.

No one can force the dissident Egyptologists and their followers to believe in the authenticity of the Mansoor Amarna Collection, when the time comes they will. In any case, not all Egyptologists have the same capacity of understanding works of arts, and not all of them are gifted the same way. Egyptologists who use common sense and who are in a position to think clearly in matters of pure scientific reasoning will come to the only conclusion that the sculptures are indeed authentic beyond any doubt.

In "The International Review of Ancient Art & Archaeology - MINERVA," of March/April 1992, Volume 3, Number 2, pp. 13, 14, 15, there is an article titled: "Late Egyptian Art" - "A Symposium held in honor of Professor Bernard V. Bothmer." Mr. Stavros Aspropoulos wrote: "Professor Bothmer, obviously moved by the proceedings, explained that he wished to correct in public three errors which he had made in his landmark catalogue 'Egyptian Sculpture of the Late Period.' [Dr. Bothmer is an expert of Egyptian art of the Late Period]. He conceded that the wrap-around garment with the fold going from the left to the right was already in fashion during the latter half of Dynasty XXVII and could, therefore, no longer be considered an innovation of the Persian Period of Dynasty XXVII, as he had long maintained. He compared a bust of an official, now in New York, whose was marked by signs of age . . . to a head in Berlin and suggested that both should be redated to Dynasty XXX, or shortly afterwards. He explained that the colossal head in quartzite, also in New york, might be better regarded as a product of Dynasty XIII and not of Dynasty XXV (Fig. 1), as he had originally suggested . . . ."

The Mansoors admire Dr. Bothmer's courage for recognizing his errors and correcting them publicly, errare humanum est (to err is human), we learn from our mistakes. Now the question is: Did Dr. Bothmer have the courage to correct his mistake concerning the Mansoor Amarna Collection?  No. The Collection is ancient stylistically and aesthetically. It has been declared so by eminent scholars of Egyptology. Scientifically it has been declared ancient too.

The Mansoors remember that in 1947, when Edmond arrived in Boston with some artifacts, including several Amarna sculptures, Dr. William Stevenson Smith declared to the customs authorities that all objects are genuine antiques. Dr. Smith asked the Mansoor brothers to bring the Amarna sculptures to the Boston Museum so that Mr. Dows Dunham and Mr. Bernard Von Bothmer (an assistant curator then) could see them. The Mansoors remember that Bothmer looked at the sculptures, and possibly lacked knowledge in the art of the Amarna period at the time. He has never seen one single piece after 1947, and yet he made a declaration concerning the nonauthenticity of the Mansoor Collection without any explanation, relying probablyon his personal feelings and/or Young's unscientific report, and a mistake of such magnitude concerning a magnificent Collection of Amarna sculptures will remain a dark chapter in Dr. Bothmer's academic achievement.

Copyright © 1995 Christine Mansoor

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