Friday, August 9, 2013

Fragments from Christie's

This article on six fragments of ancient Egyptian stonework which were placed for auction at Christie's and found by the auction house to have been recently stolen from Egypt is very interesting.  One of the pieces is referred in the article as having been recently found in context of Amenhotep III and I would imagine it is the red granite fragment above which might be appropriate at the base of a kings throne though it is not the finest grade of art.

Among the pieces is a very poorly carved Middle Kingdom bust of a noble as well as a New Kingdom head of a noble woman represented below. These pieces back in Egypt will be drawer fillers after their use in the stolen objects exhibition even if they are actually fakes?

The generic face of the lady pictured above is in this opinion the least remarkable of the pieces of which its authenticity is of little importance. Perhaps one of the prettiest of the lot is the limestone figure of a cobra perhaps the Goddess Meretseger which would indicate a Theban origin for the piece.

The exquisite fragments composition is full of all the bells and whistles yet upon closer examination it begins to fall starting with that wilting lily, the damage to the horn shown in the photo appears to be the work of a chisel though this vandalism left the orb completely unharmed where one should expect damage to be, with the crown edge on the cobra's head also unaffected by the damage to the horn?  For me this is likely a fake and leads to the possibility that the two previous discussed heads may also be.

Lastly the real artistic treasures of the lots are a raised limestone relief of an official pictured below and a coloured sunk relief of another official.

This piece as the other piece which is also very attractive demonstrates the point that the figure of the nobleman on that coloured piece fits a little too well to the fragment as if carved onto the fragment not a block surface? The above piece also demonstrates this but that in this case of a much more expensive tomb decoration which very few tomb owners could afford should not be all that hard to trace to it's origins of perhaps the 26th Dynasty at Thebes?

Having said this I am confronted by the image that fits the block even perhaps not feeling too great about the hand pictured but the piece is not without its charm including the hammered away figure to the right side which for some reason the person damaging the block did not decide to touch the face or figure on the left side?.

This piece also presents another issue which is at the time the collection was put together was this relief intended to represent a funerary relief of Old Kingdom art instead. That in these six pieces would be a funerary relief of the Old Kingdom, a Middle Kingdom bust, a New Kingdom Woman and including a piece from a kings throne of that period and a late period funerary relief in the coloured piece pictured below.

In the appraisal of this small collection of pieces the artistic nature is strong in the types of things you would like to find in a collection of six objects. This is not your typical load of pottery, amulets, coffin and linen fragments, shabti and votive figures that feed the ancient art market but rather that this appears a much more important collection.

If we are to take these six elements as genuine antiquities then the cobra piece does just fine as a sculptures trial piece? The suspected Theban origin hinted at by a number of the pieces is probably not an unreasonable thought as all these pieces are relevant to that culture though does not exclude a northern Egyptian find spot(s).

As mentioned before one or two of the items may have been stolen from excavation(s) storerooms. The question who's storage room or which magazine has been robbed to create this collection or to add to a group of fakes is yet to be figured.

This collection is a big deal and the course of this particular group of objects and who has entered official stores has real potential to expose a criminal ring. I would think the fine folks excavating the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III may want to look in their storerooms!

Source: Ahram Online

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