The story of the Mansoor Tell-el-Amarna Collection has now been told. Few will know how the Mansoor family felt during all these years; they laughed and they cried. They cried more often than they laughed. They were happy, angry and sad. They have known, touched, studied, and loved these sculptures for many decades. They protected them against destruction, from the Derchains who wanted to "throw them in the sea," from the Wildungs and Eitners who want them hidden from the art-loving public.
The Mansoor brothers have doubted several times throughout the years the authenticity of many other objects they have handled. Their judgment of them proved to be wrong about some and right about others. In certain perplexing cases, when objects seemed doubtful or suspicious, they have relied on the logical scientific fact supplied by eminent researchers in the fields of geology, chemistry, petrology, etc. Their father M. A. Mansoor had done it. All honest antiquarians do it. Museums do it in their own laboratories, and if they don't, why do they have them? The American museums would be cheating the world of Art and Sciences if they maintain a research laboratory for their own gain, fame, or prestige only, since, according to the AAM Directory (1971) these institutions "exist to serve the public."
But the Mansoors have never doubted, and were never able to conceive, that these masterpieces of Egyptian art could be forgeries. Many others, far more learned, never did either, their names are many and have appeared throughout these pages. Now and then, some scientist, or Egyptologist, or whoever it may be, comes out and solemnly announces that there is no known method of scientific analysis which can positively date the surface of limestone. Technically, this may be correct. However, many eminent scientists, in various fields of research, such as De Ment, Iskandar, Silver, Compton, Kirk, etc., have proved through relevant tests that there is a definite distinction between new and ancient stone surfaces. Other investigators have approved of their methods and agreed with the results of their findings. Likewise, there is no known method which can positively date bronze. One wonders, then, how the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York was able to authenticate the Greek bronze horse? Some twenty scientists who have examined the Collection from 1942 to 1986, have found on the surface of the sculptures undeniable evidence of great age which cannot be duplicated in a short time by any forger.
The Mansoors ask the dissident Egyptologists if they know of any Egyptian forgeries displaying the type of surface found on these Sculptures? Do they know of a way in which this patina, can be exactly duplicated on forgeries?
Besides the Boston Museum, no other American museum examined scientifically the Mansoor sculptures (especially The Metropolitan and the Los Angeles Museums when they were asked). Were they afraid that their own scientists would find the objects ancient, thus contradicting the Boston Museum's report? Should the Metropolitan and Los Angeles Museums have agreed to test the Mansoor sculptures, wouldn't it have been for the benefit of all museums?
To return to the limestone, the sum total of the scientific analyses by eminent chemists, geologists, petrologists, mineralogists, and others, should be sufficient evidence in itself to authenticate the Collection. The tests are so diverse and so numerous that if one "assumes" that one of the scientists might have misinterpreted the results of his analysis, logic says that all the others could not possibly be wrong. All their methods of examination have been specifically mentioned in their reports. Furthermore, the sole so-called "scientific" report of W. J. Young, so lacking in substance, reasoning, and scientific data, cannot serve as a basis for such persons as Cooney and his peers to rely upon. Isn't it strange that not one single scientist who read the report of Mr. Young of the Boston Museum had any word of praise for it? And many of these eminent scientists criticized it in strong terms, and, to my knowledge, Mr. Young never answered any of them. His silence was remarkably "eloquent."
The assertion that "judgment of authenticity in matters of art is often incapable of scientific proof" (Sherman Lee, Phillipe Derchain and others) is only a phrase devised by the "stylists" or "eye experts" to defend themselves against the scientific opinion which can prove them wrong. If the stylists and their beliefs are correct, then Wiliam J. Young should have never been in a laboratory in the first place, and all museums should have closed their laboratories and sent home all their scientists. Millions of dollars of taxpayers' and donors' money could be saved. Can an "eye expert," let's say, tell if a painting attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci is genuine or not? Will his feeling prevail over scientific evaluation? That an art critic should persist in his or her own opinion when confronted with the results of scientific tests is comprehensible, however, he or she will never be able to justify his or her stand in factual terms, because when feelings and knowledge are in conflict, the intangible must yield to the tangible.
"Art and science must co-exist in today's museum . . . . The art of the forger is so sophisticated that only the most rigorous application of science can prove him false," stated the Boston Museum of Fine Art. Since such statements are not only true, but also pure common sense, the art lovers cannot and should not accept the illogical thinking of a few Egyptologists who want to impose and dictate their will on the public and place themselves above science. Should a man die while dining in a restaurant and a doctor declares that he died of a heart-attack, and later an autopsy is performed by a coroner who declares that the man swallowed a certain poison mixed with his drink, who are we supposed to believe? The feeling or opinion of a general practitioner, or the scientific facts discovered by the coroner?
One of the most frustrating matters the Mansoors have endured in the last forty years is the way certain Egyptologists have paraphrased each other concerning the value of the scientific evidence. Wheras the Egyptologists who have supported the Collection declare their belief in the scientific reports, those who are condemning it show a total disregard, disbelief, or disdain of the positive findings.
Speaking of Egyptologists, one hardly knows how to describe or even understand them. They are a rare breed. Among them, as in other fields, there are certainly great scholars. There are also those whose judgment, knowledge, and understanding of Egyptian art - and aesthetics in general - leave much to be desired. Consider for example the Egyptologists who have passed judgment on the Tell-el-Amarna sculptures of M.A. Mansoor. In the first group, we have Drioton, Desroches Noblecourt, du Bourguet, Gabra, Varille, Boreux, Colonna, Nolli, and others. In the second group, there are Cooney, Muller, Von Bothmer, and a few others who have preferred not to be identified by Hochfield in ARTnews and by D. Klemm in Zeitung zur Sonderausstellung. We do not know who they are, and we do not know their credentials. They prefer to "remain in the shade" (Nolli, September 1985).
The credentials of the first group are only too well known. All of them have spent years in Egypt, some much longer than others. By their works and scholarly endeavors, they have contributed enormously to our knowledge and understanding of the art of ancient Egypt. All have studied the Mansoor sculptures for many years and have reasonably concluded that they do in fact belong to the Amarna period. Furthermore, their deeds, actions, and behavior prove that they are the scholars of Egyptology on whose opinion one can rely. They did not make rash or unfounded statements. They did not use foul language. They explained facts as true scholars must. Their judgment is strongly justified by the overwhelming verdict of more than twenty eminent scientists in many relevant fields of research.
In the second group, the picture is different. Cooney purchased Amarna-type forgeries of the worst kind. This facte alone should disqualify him as a judge of Amarna or any other Egyptian art. Muller produced a report on the sculptures which is unworthy of an Egyptologist. Bernard Von Bothmer talked and talked to say nothing, he only added to the confusion. Furthermore, all three are in disagreement in respect to the head of Akhenaten of the Hanover Museum. They are afraid of the truth. This is why some of their annonymous followers have uttered some deceiving words to Ms. Hochfield which are not logical statements contributed by worthy Egyptologists. Not one of them has, at any time, been able to substantiate his allegations. No scientific evidence supports their collective opinion. If they want to count Young's report, it is worthless because it is unscientific, it has been declared so by each and every scientist who has read it.
Most of the facts and events relating to the Tell-el-Amarna Collection have been told. Others, definitely damaging to the perpetrators of the controversy and their followers, have been omitted for lack of space. It has been impossible to discuss, explain, or examine in depth the art of Amarna because this book was not intended to do so. However, the discrepancies attributed to the art of this Collection by the dissident Egyptologists can only be due to their misunderstanding and misrepresentation of Egyptian art, particularly that of Tell-el-Amarna. Their ramblings and claims are totally unsubstantiated, and their confusion can be explained by true Egyptologists.
To dispel one more doubt, the declaration made by Baer to Sylvia Hochfield for her distorted article, that 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," is unscientific. Even if the stone had come from America, the Philippines, or Tahiti, and such scientists as Silver from Caltech, Arnal, Compton, Iskandar, and many others tell us that the surface of the carvings is naturally weathered by burial in the sand for hundreds or thousand of years, logic alone would tell us that the sculptures are ancient.
If two of the Mansoor sculptures are today in the Vatican Museum, it is because of two years of study and research by Monsignor Nolli. His findings coincided with those of the true Egyptologists and scientists. When Dr. Desroches Noblecourt accepted a statue for the Louvre Museum it was after more than a year of study.
To evaluate the Mansoor Amarna Collection, there are three vital points to consider:
* The scientific evaluation.
**The artistic/stylistic evaluation.
***The common sense evaluation.
* If one reads the scientific reports pertaining to the Collection in question, there is no doubt that one will agree that all, except Young's, are "models of clarity and scientific reasoning" (Prof. Turner), and that the "splendid galaxy of expert opinion" (Prof. H. Faul) obtained cannot be contested and should never be ignored.
** From the artistic/stylistic point of view, those who confirmed the objects to be genuine have an excellent understanding of the Egyptian art and in particular the art of Amarna. As for those who have been declaring them forgeries during the last thirty or forty years, most have done so (perhaps being prejudiced) from photographs only, and from hearsay and rumors.
*** Common sense, will provide a variety of positive points that should be "very convincing to any intelligent, open-minded individual who takes the trouble" to consider them. Mentioned below are a few.
1) M. A. Mansoor was a reputable antiquary, and, to my knowledge, the only Egyptian antiquities dealer who had the designation of: "By Royal Appointment to H.M. King Farouk." M. A. Mansoor sold ten Amarna sculptures to King Farouk. Is it conceivable he would sell doubtful or fake objects to his King? M. A. Mansoor, then, must have been absolutely certain that his Amarna Collection was authentic.
2) For over forty years, the Mansoors have been fighting uphill a small fraternity (mostly American and German Egyptologists) that is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to contradict or penetrate. If the Mansoors were not so convinced of the genuineness of the Collection, or if they had the slightest doubt about it, they would have never been using their energy on it for almost half a century. Indeed, the controversy over the Collection, created by an inexperienced museum "expert" in Boston, has shattered more than forty of the best years of their lives.
3) The American, Egyptian, and European collectors who have purchased objects from the Mansoor Amarna Collection are all educated people besides being art lovers and connoisseurs. All those who purchased from it after 1949 knew about and read the negative report of the MFA Boston. They also knew about the positive report of the Egyptian Museum experts and, in addition, they were aware of the negative unfounded opinions of certain Egyptologists. Does it make any sense that they would buy objects from the Mansoor Collection for a sizable amount of money unless they were convinced of their authenticity?
4) In 1955, The Denver Art Museum acquired two Amarna heads from the Collection, which were displayed in that institution for twenty-five years until its director Dr. Otto Karl Bach, retired. In the early eighties, the Museum took the two heads down as, it is believed, other American museums pressured them to do so. In June 1984, Edgard wrote a letter to the new director of the Denver Art Museum asking him to sell back - at three times the original price - the two heads, since they were no longer on display. In July 1984, the Museum refused to sell back the two pieces. Why? If the Mansoors offered three times the price, doesn't this mean that they are convinced that the pieces are genuine? And if the Museum refused the offer, isn't this possibly a proof the Museum is confident of the authenticity of the pieces? No museum ever contacted the Mansoors for the return of an ancient artifact acquired from their Firm. Rather, they wrote the Mansoors to thank them for their lectures and gifts.
5) Three sculptures from the Mansoor Collection were offered for sale through Bank of America in 1978, before the donations to the Vatican Museum and the Louvre. If Bank of America, one of the largest banking institutions in the world, was involved in selling sculptures from the Mansoor Collection, it must have weighed all the evidence available and made sure that the sculptures were indeed ancient. After all, Bank of America is not just any bank.
6) The ugly rumor of non-authenticity of the Mansoor sculptures started in the 1940's, and even before, reaching mammoth proportion by 1954 and thereafter. And yet, the Collection has been exhibited at the M.H. de Young Museum in San Francisco in 1954; in the Denver Art Museum, Colorado, in 1957; at the San Diego Art Gallery, California; and at the Museum of Portland, Oregon; in 1975, it was sponsored by the Department of Classics at San Francisco State University, Callifornia; and in the same year at the Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah; the Vatican Museum accepted two sculptures in 1979, they were presented to His Holiness Pope John Paul II, in person; and in 1981, The Louvre Museum accepted a statuette to be part of its Egyptian Art Treasures; in 1986 San Francisco State University held a second exhibit of the Mansoor Collection; The first European exhibit (Italy) was in 1990 at the "Museo della Civilta Romana" co-sponsored by San Francisco State University under the auspices of the "Commune De Roma"; in 1991 San Francisco State University sponsored the third exhibit of the Collection. What would all these events tell an honest, reasonable and logical person? On what basis did these institutions and their scholars sponsor the exhibits and accept the sculptures to be part of their Egyptian Art Collection? What else but scientific evidences and aesthetic studies? And on what basis or foundation do the few negative and anonymous Egyptologists spread their wild tales?
7) If the prestigious law firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher had decided to protect and defend this Collection of ancient art masterpieces, it is because these gentlemen are of sound and logical mind.
As there are good and bad doctors, lawyers, teachers, businessmen, etc., there are good and bad Egyptologists. As we have seen, many of them have the talent, the feeling, the knowledge, and the sensitivity to recognize Egyptian art. Others do not. This book has provided enough evidence to prove that the Mansoor Amarna sculptures are indeed from the time of Akhenaten and Nefertiti.
It is obvious that a few Egyptologists preferred to condemn the Mansoor Collection instead of admitting that they couldn't tell whether it is genuine or not. They did not care about the positive opinion of some of their most prominent colleagues. They never cared about real scientific evidence, refusinf adamantly to consider it. Their false and misleading statements, occasionally inserted in some publications or whispered behind the scenes, are detrimental to the world of art. It is truly sad that through unconsciousness, distortion of the truth, incompetence, or prejudice they are putting a stigma on that unique Collection.
In the Los Angeles Times of Sunday June 7, 1987, an article titled "Fake Artwork," Mr. Robert A. Jones, Times staff writer, quoted Dr. Dietrich Von Bothmer, curator of ancient art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New york: "But no scholar should ever call a real work of art a forgery. That is a crime."
In a letter to the Mansoors, dated August 21, 1986 (an excerpt from that letter is published in "In Defence . . ., " Nolli & Colonna, p. 55), the Rev. Father Pierre du Bourguet, S.J., Conservateur en Chef Honoraire au Département des Antiquités Egyptiennes du Musée du Louvre, and Professor Emeritus of Egyptology at the Institute Catholique de Paris wrote: "There can be no doubt whatsoever about my deep conviction that the objects in your collection are authentic Amarna sculptures. Even though they may be of different artistic value, the style seems to me to be typical of the Amarna period and cannot be the work of a forger. I am not in the least surprised to see my findings totally validated by the impressive body of chemical and geological tests you submitted to me." ("In Defence . . ." p. 55). "Vous ne pouvez pas douter de mon intime conviction de l'authenticité Amarniènne des pièces de votre collection, même si elles peuvent être de valeur artistique inégale mais dont le style est à mes yeux typiquement Amarnien de l'époque, excluant l'oeuvre d'un faussaire, Cet avis, je ne m'en étonne pas, est entièrement corroboré par l'ensemble impressionnant des analyses chimiques et géologiques don vous m'avez montré le détail." (In Defence . . ." p. 55).
In a letter to the Mansoors, dated July 2, 1990, Dr. Desroches Noblecourt wrote: "I have carefully studied certain statues of the princesses and after several months, I agreed to accept one of them for the Department of Egyptian Antiquities of the Louvre Museum, of which I was the Chief Curator. . . . It is evident that this 'extraordinaire' collection poses a problem for a great number of Egyptologists, often working in libraries rather than in museums or in excavations, this collection of sculptures coming from an unknown workshop, would be baffling. . . . But I have told you, and I will repeat it, one does not condemn so easily such an astonishing collection without having seriously studied it, and without taking into consideration the numerous positive scientific reports. . . . " ("J'ai étudié avec soin certain sujets de la série des petites princesses nues, et après de long mois d'observation, j'ai accépté d'en faire entrer un examplaire dans mon Département d'Antiquitiés egyptiennes du Musé du Louvre, dont j'étais, alors, le Conservateur en chef . . . . Il est bien évident que cette extraordinaire collection pose un problème pour un assez grand nombre d'Egyptologues, souvant plus habitués à travailler en bibliothèque que dans un Musée, ou sur un chantier de fouilles, cette série de sculptures provenant d'un atelier inconnu, a de quoi surprendre . . . mais je vous l'ai dit - et je le repète, on ne condamne pas si facilement un ensemble aussi étonnant - déroutant même - sans l'avoir murement étudié . . . et sans tenir compte des nombreuses analyses positives dont il parait être sorti vainqueur").
Again to quote the last paragraph from Dr. Colonna's Catalogue, "Ancient Egypt - An Exhibition of El-Amarna Sculptures and Reliefs of the M. A. Mansoor Collection", San Francisco State University, 1975, p. 41:
Professional and ethical criticism is not based on gossip nor random talk and it is, therefore, high time that such a beautiful collection of fine Egyptian art comes out of the cloud cast on it by the unexplainable behavior of a handful of historians or so-called stylists who have, so far, neither followed the ethical and scholarly procedures of studying the whole Collection nor offered detailed, sound evidences on which they should have based their statements.
The reader should remember what the eminent Egyptologist of the Louvre Museum and special consultant of UNESCO, Dr. Desroches Noblecourt, wrote in her letter dated August 17, 1981: "I had to have a certain determination to confront the verdict of some and the bad faith of others . . . ." And what the Honorable George Xanthos, Judge of the Superior Court, State of California, wrote in the Preface of this book: ". . . And justice demands an end to academic and intellectual dishonesty. Legal process commands that the Mansoor Amarna Collection have a fair, impartial and just hearing based on facts that are supported by scientific evidence and physical study of each piece of this collection."
Are you the reader, the serious Egyptologist, the art lover, the philanthropist and the museum patron pleased with the "status quo" in our museums? Are we going to let the Youngs, the Cooneys, the Wildungs, the Derchains, and their like squander our hard-earned money which they constantly ask us to donate? Are we going to bequeath to them our beloved works of art when we leave this world, and hope that they are cared for properly? All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win, is for honest people to do nothing. If we let them get away with such behavior, then we have accepted the fact that such crimes will happen again.
What more can one say!
Copyright © 1995 Christine Mansoor
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