Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Classic: Mansoor Amarna Collection

Here we have the website of the hotly disputed collection of Amarna period sculptures collected by antiques dealer M. A. Mansoor with some scholars considering the collection to be fakes while others are comfortable as feeling the sculptures are genuine.

The video is interesting but it is the museum gallery of images that is for me disturbing as I find all of the trial pieces to be too similar and fresh looking yet without soul and lacking any depth of detail. Not to mention the lack of subjects within these vacant heads and how alike they are to pieces both in Cairo and Berlin found in the house of Thutmosis at Tell el Amarna except with faces reminiscent of the hideous colossal figures of Akhenaten from the Gem Pa Aten at Karnak. That would make most of these pieces from an early period of the kings reign while presumably the works found in the sculpture Thutmosis house which possess great spirit are from the later part of Akhenaten's reign?

Picture 1 of a sculpture of Akhenaten has the same face as #24 and #26, busts of the Amarna princess' with the faces being crudely worked with details left unfinished on all pieces. This could be explained by the works being found in a lesser sculptures studio at Tell el Amarna. The nemes headdress on the sculpture (1) also appears to be just the wrong shape for my tastes.

In the collection shown only one nose is missing with two more slightly damaged this is unusual for a collection of sculptures from ancient Egypt. Images # 37-39 seem to be copied directly from a painted scene of Smenkara while the two seated princess' come directly from the famous mural found by Flinders Petrie at Amarna and now in England.

This is not new but worth another look at so you can be the judge!



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Tha_Pig said...

As an amateur on the topic I cannot give a verdict, but I admit the pieces of the collection look suspicious. Egyptian art is unique in its consistency; the stylistic rules changed little in thousands of years making Egyptian artifacts immediately recognizable at first glance. Even in an unusual period as Amarna, where art deviated from orthodoxy, things like proportions and symmetry were still carefully respected.

The pieces in this collection all look kind of off. The general style looks Amarna-Egyptian, but the craftsmanship is full of small errors that you rarely see on Egyptian art. Eyes in the wrong angle, careless outlines, unbalanced poses. What are the odds that so many of these anomalies would present in a small group of artifacts? Could these all be practice exercises of the same student? Unlikely, since we know Egyptian artists would practice extensively on cheaper materials before being allowed to ruin a block of stone.

But who knows. Maybe the particular political environment of the Amarna period created a demand of mass-produced art resulting in the hiring large crews of poorly trained stone carvers?

The only way to know for sure would be to know more about the origin of there pieces. Who dug them and where? But the lack of information on that matter is frustrating.

tim said...

Thank you for your comment THA- PIG your comment is right on the mark, this period in Egyptian art is particularly valuable to collectors and as such all pieces from the Amarna period without provenance need to be held with great suspicion. For me these pieces just do not work!