Chapter 34: The Mansoor El-Amarna Exhibition of Rome 1990
On October 12, 1990, Dr. Richard L. Trapp, Chair, Department of Classics and Classical Archaeology, San Francisco State University, informed the Mansoors that his office had received an official communication from the "Comune di Roma," dated July 6, 1990, N.15107, which stated that "permission has been granted to put at the disposal of the Mansoor-Amarna Corporation an exhibit area for the Mansoor Collection of sculptures and reliefs of the Amarna period . . . .The opening of the exhibit has been set for November 15, 1990 and will continue to December 15, 1990. Invitations will be mailed out from the Comune di Roma and its Mayor, Franco Ferraro."
The exhibit held at the "Museo della Civilta Romana" was co-sponsored by San Francisco State University under the auspices of the "Comune di Roma" and the superintendence of the Antiquities of Rome. It was very well received and attended by dignitaries, scholars, and the community in general. Several Roman newspapers covered the event.
On December 5, 1990, Prof. Dr. Dietrich Wildung (formerly from Munich, now the Director of the Berlin Egyptian Museum) wrote to Dr. Richard L. Trapp, at San Francisco State University, the following:
The critical remarks on the authenticity of the objects in the Mansoor Amarna collection known to the scientific world thanks to the careful publication of Dr. Becker-Colonna apparently had an astonishing effect: an exhibition in the EUR at Rome.
I wonder which new arguments were found to defend the assumption these pieces were genuine ancient Egyptian works of art. This exhibition is once more an attempt to prove the authenticity of the pieces not by scientific reasoning, but by a public show to be mentioned later on in sales brochures - as it happened with the donations ('acquisitions') to the Vatican and the Louvre. The Trustees of the British Museum and the former Director of the Ägyptisches museum Berlin had good reasons to refuse such a donation.
I deeply regret that through this exhibition the public gets a wrong idea of what Egyptian Art is like.
On January 22, 1991, Dr. Trapp answered Dr. Wildung:
Thank you for your letter regarding The Mansoor-Amarna Collection and the exhibition in the EUR at Rome.
Co-sponsorship of the exhibit by San Francisco State University was based upon the scientific, artistic, and archaeological evidence of authenticity provided by Dr. Fred H. Stross of the University of California, Berkeley, Monsignor Gianfranco Nolli, of the Vatican Museum, Pierre Du Bourguet, S.J. of the Musée du Louvre. Professor Andreina L. Becker-Colonna Emereita Professor of San Francisco State University has contributed her report of the evidence from a first-hand analysis of the artifacts and has presented all the documentation, pro and con, in the publication, In Defence of the Mansoor-Amarna Collection (Rome, 1986).
I would be very happy to receive any new evidence that you have found that might contradict the current reports of authenticity.
Thank you again.
On January 30, 1991, the Honorable George Xanthos, Judge of The Superior Court, State of California, wrote the following to Dr. Wildung:
Dr. Professor Wildung:
Your letter of December 5, 1990, addressed to Dr. Trapp of San Francisco State University has come to my attention and it has caused me great concern.
As an art lover, I associated myself with the Mansoor Amarna Collection and in fact loaned my name and title to this prestigious collection. Doing so was, of course, of great concern to me and before doing so I thoroughly researched all available authorities on the authenticity of this collection. This included reading the extensive literature; the scientific journals and findings of eminent scientists; and finally as a last step, personal meetings with scholars, such as Madame Noblecourt, Fr. du Bourguet, both from the Louvre, as well as Monsignor Nolli of the Vatican Museum and Dr. Colonna of San Francisco State University.
Of course, I also read the challenges to the authenticity of the collection from Young and Muller of Germany. These I obviously disregarded since their findings were subsequently discredited and hence are without merit.
Now to my concern. After reading your letter, I believe that I may have been mislead. I can only assume that you have physically studied these pieces and made an extensive intellectual study and analysis of them in order to write the letter to Dr. Trapp.
Accordingly, I would like to have the reports of your studies so I may review them in order to justify my abandoning my support of the collection.
Obviously your letter comes as a great shock. I relied heavily on the findings of Drioton, Noblecourt, Gabra, du Bourguet, Colonna and Nolli since they physically studied these pieces while they were in their possession. I can only assume from the tenor of your letter that you are of the opinion that these people are either totally unqualified or frauds. If that is true, then I believe that I should no longer lend the prestige of my office to this collection. Please let me have your written studies and copies of any scientific reports you have made including X-rays, spectrographic studies and photographs that you relied on to come to your conclusions. If there is any cost involved by all means please let me know and I will remit promptly.
At present, I intend this correspondence to be kept confidential between you and me until I satisfy myself of the correctness of your findings.
You are correct. If in fact your exhaustive studies refute the authenticity of this collection, then the scientists and Egyptologists who have authenticated this collection should be exposed, which I will personally undertake on the basis of your exhaustive studies of this collection.
Dr. Wildung, this is a matter of great importance to me and I would appreciate an early reply.
Very truly yours
George Xanthos (signed)
To this day, neither Dr. Trapp nor the Honorable Judge Xanthos have received an answer to their letters. Could a respected director of one of the most famous museums in the world, the Berlin Egyptian Museum, be so unethical as not to acknowledge receipt of these letters? As we have seen, now and earlier, it is always easy for the members of this negative consortium to talk and dictate.
In his ill-conceived letter, Dr. Wildung claimed that the Rome 1990 exhibition of the Mansoor-Amarna Collection "is once more an attempt to prove the authenticity of the pieces not by scientific reasoning . . . ." Does Dr. Wildung mean that the noted scientists who have examined the Amarna Collection have not used "scientific reasoning?" If so, I quote again for his information what Professor Francis J. Turner wrote in 1960, to the Mansoors: "Certain of the reports submitted by you - notably those by R.R. Compton (1958), R.E. Arnal (1959), P.L. Kirk (1959), and L.T. Silver (1959) - are models of clarity and scientific reasoning. The methods used are clearly stated, the evidence so obtained is set out in detail, and conclusions are stated without ambiguity. These consultants are scientists highly skilled in applying special techniques in investigating minerals and stones." That was written thirty years before Wildung's letter.
Dr. Wildung also stated that "the Trustees of the British Museum and the former Director of the Ägyptisches Museum of Berlin had good reasons to refuse such a donation." (As if such an act determines the non-authenticity of the Collection. If so, what about the acceptance of donations to the Louvre, the Vatican Museums and San Francisco State University?)
Concerning the British Museum, the Trustees were bothered by the publicity that surrounded the Collection and had been frightened off by the adverse opinions and the controversy in general. This is the reason they declined the donation.
As for a donation to the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, this is news to the Mansoors. Maybe this is another ugly rumor being spread to discredit the Mansoor Collection like the one concerning Bank of America.
Dr. Wildung wonders in his letter, "Which new arguments were found to defend the assumption these pieces were genuine ancient Egyptian works of art?" There is no assumption here. There is scientific reasoning at its best by highly qualified Egyptologists and scientists. There are no new arguments either, and what has been stated long before Dr. Wildung's letter by eminent scholars - Egyptologists as well as scientists - is ample proof that the Mansoor-Amarna objects are indeed "genuine ancient Egyptian works of art."
As for the conclusion of this letter, Wildung says: "I deeply regret that through this exhibition [in Rome] the public gets a wrong idea of what Egyptian art is like." Quite the contrary; according to giants in Egyptology, through exhibitions of the Mansoor-Amarna sculptures, the public gets an excellent idea not only of what Egyptian art is like, but, also and mostly, of what Amarna Art is really like. Egyptologists and connoisseurs deeply regret and deplore the fact that through prejudice, rumors, letters, unfair and unfounded statements, the public may get a wrong idea of the Mansoor Collection.
In his letter to Dr. Colonna, dated May 14, 1985, Wildung said: "Today in the Egyptian art milieu exists an overall understanding that the Mansoor objects are not antique." It is evident to the writer that Dr. Wildung and some of his "art milieu" discussed the Mansoor Collection during some kind of secret meetings (contrary to academic ethics and moral principles), then "publicized" their remarkable verdict of non-authenticity, based on photographs only, which is wrong. He also wrote: "During an exhibit in Munich, Hamburg and Brussels we publicized this position and it looks upon us as our duty to prevent anything which would give the Mansoor pieces a pseudo-legitimation." Did Wildung impose himself on the world of Egyptology as the "International leading Egyptologist"? It is evident that the Mansoor Collection is genuine, which should be "very convincing to any intelligent, open-minded individual who takes the trouble to read the reports" (Dr. Fred H. Stross)
It was unfair for Dr. Wildung to "see [himself] forced to reject" Dr. Colonna's report on "A Group of Portraits of the Amarna Princesses" during the Fourth International Egyptian Conference, and to consider it his "duty to prevent anything which would give the Mansoor pieces a pseudo-legitimation." Was he afraid that Dr. Colonna would gain to her side some or many of the Egyptologists attending the conference? Actually, by opressing or suppressing and rejecting Dr. Colonna's report, Dr. Wildung has deprived those Egyptologists of a wealth of information concerning "one of the most extraordinary 'trouvailles' of our time" (Dr. Colonna). Instead of studying the Collection, it is evident that Wildung and a few of his strange colleagues are still hammering at it, doing their utmost to destroy it for no valid reason. Is it fair to condemn anyone or anything without seeing, without considering the evidence, and before hearing the defense? "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" (Prof. Leonard D. DuBoff).
Dr. Wildung had no courage to write Dr. Colonna, instead he bypassed her by writing directly to Dr. Trapp. What was his aim? What did he hope to accomplish? Did he forget that she wrote him in her letter dated September 28, 1985?: "At this time I invite you, Dr. Wildung, whom I know as a scholar, objective and honest in his professional dealings." Is this how an "honest" man deals in his "professional dealings"?
Copyright © 1995 Christine Mansoor
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