Monday, September 30, 2013

Congratulations to the Cairo Museum's Restorers!

It still breaks my heart to see the damage ravaged upon artifacts that have lasted in pristine condition for more than 3000 years and broken for no reason. Now the good folks at the Egyptian museum Cairo have worked their magic and put back together what can be put back together.

The museums newly restored objects are being put back on display. Sadly other objects are missing parts such as the sitting figure of Tutankhamun on the head of a goddess, the goddess is in the museum the figure of the boy king will hopefully return some day along with the many shabtis of Yuya that are still missing.

Congratulations a job well done!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Who's Collection?

The recent coming to light of six ancient Egyptian artifacts at Christie's auction house has raised a whole host of questions. The red granite sunk relief of a Nubian prisoner is likely stolen from an excavation in 2000 says Archaeologists Dr. Hourig Sourouzain and the British Museum.

I have my suspicions that of the remaining 5 pieces the cobra is likely a fake and the attractive raised relief also caused problems for me particularly by its pattern of damage to one side and not the face? The coloured late period relief I am on the side of the relief as being genuine with a big question mark again because of convenient damage.

The remaining two pieces of a Middle Kingdom bust of a nobleman and the New Kingdom head of a Noblewoman are no great additions to the collection just the type of pieces you would love to find in a collection which may give the appearance of a long line of Egyptian art beginning in the Old Kingdom, if we are to believe the builder of the collection wanted the raised relief to represent that period even though its archaic stylistic value is more likely 26th Dynasty, nearly 2000 years later.

So in six pieces we have an attempt at an evolution of a couple thousand years of Pharaonic art. With this I come to the question for who and cannot help but wonder how soon after the excavation in 2000 was the granite relief from Amenhotep III's throne stolen?

The collection smells of being a Mubarak era VIP collection which may have belonged to someone in that regime, removing the collection from Egypt during the revolution. Why would anyone think of selling a fragment of a kings throne without a fool proof provenance?

The last question would make me think the person who attempted to sell the pieces was not the sophisticated collector who amassed the pieces, since the uncle story for their provenances from the 1940's cannot be true if the red granite throne fragment of the Nubian prisoner was excavated in the year 2000. This leads to an accomplice besides the seller and that the seller is likely a junior member in the plot, fool enough to offer his/her tail to the officials at Christie's and the police.

This leads me to wonder if the theft of the throne fragment being the work of someone who had a right to be in contact with the excavation material including the fragment soon after its discovery in 2000 and might have pocketed the stone upon examining the material before being packed away in storage? The real possibility that the acquisitionaire of the throne fragment was in the employ of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities or culture ministry at the time?

I guess from here we go to the officials in charge of the antiquities of Upper Egypt during the years after the 2000 discovery of the fragment at the mortuary temple of the "Magnificent" Amenhotep III at Thebes behind the colossi of Memnon. Not likely a career individual within the antiquies service but rather a lower level underpaid employee who needed money and likely passed through the money quickly.

It is not likely that this throne fragment is an isolated case and the stores need to be re-cataloged for what else is missing?


1) Ahram Online

Further reading: Fragments from Christie's

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Search for Alexander: An Exhibition

Nicholas Yalouris
Manolis Andronikos
Katerina Rhomiopoulou
Ariel Herrmann
Cornelius Vermeule

The Greek Ministry of Culture and Science
New York Graphic Society of Books
ISBN: 082121080

This publication accompanied an exhibition of objects on a United States tour, many on loan from Greece for the first time between November 16, 1980, and May 16, 1982.

The book opens with a forward by the Director of the National Gallery of Art J. Carter Brown, to thank the people involved in putting the exhibition together including the conception of the show.

The story opens with "Alexander and his Heritage" by Nicholas Yalouris in the 5th century B.C., among the Greek city-states before unification. The story of Alexander is probably at least in passing familiar to most people complete with admiring kings and a number of mythical creatures.

The development of Alexander's many representations throughout history particularly of works in relation to the advancement of the arts both political as well as artistic. The chapter is liberally accompanied by pictures of his legend and its manipulation.

In the second chapter, Katerina Rhomiopoulou writes on an outline of Macedonian history and its art as it evolves over time culminating with the supreme discoveries of the royal tombs at Vergina. We are presented at this point with a full-page map of the city-states of the Greek world which is very useful in the authors background on the unification of ancient Greece.

The empire was short lived as Alexander's generals carved it up with Ptolemy I taking control of Egypt at Alexander's death in 332 B.C. The body of Alexander is brought back to Memphis where Ptolemy takes control of it until the reign of Ptolemy IV when a mausoleum was built to house him and the Ptolemaic rulers.

Next, we are presented with an account of the excavation of the royal tombs at Vergina by Manolis Andronikos. I was glued to my book by this chapter and could not put it down which included an image of the excavated tumulus and a cross section of tomb II and its marvelous finds within.

"When the sarcophagus in the antechamber was opened, we met yet with another surprise. A second chest, a little smaller and more simply decorated than the first, dazzled us with its glittering gold. We took it out, set it, for the moment, on a plank on which we stood, and opened it."

"A well-nigh incredible sight met our eyes: A marvelous gold and purple brocade shrouded the bones; the whole background was gold, with flowers, leaves. and stalks in purple, framed by a wave pattern in gold and purple."

The intact images of the in situ material are some of the best including on page 36 an image of the interior of the gold box and its stunning contents in the antechamber. We are next on to the color plates which include many portraits of Alexander and his family at least according to the Roman Emperor Caracalla.

The various color plates display objects of the plastic arts in both gold and stone and once again I see one of my favorite pieces of ancient goldwork in a spray of life size wheat leading the reader through a stunning array of gold jewelry. funerary goods with the most unusual find of a gorytus which may be of Scythian origin.

Next we are on to the catalogue section of the book with entries from General Editor Katerina Rhomiopoulou for the loans from Greece and General Editors Ariel Herrmann and Cornelius Vermeule for entries from Europe and United States. The catalogue contains a little more than 173 works in the exhibition included with most a small black and white picture of the artifacts as well as its references.

The exhibition opens with appropriate enough a marble head of Alexander the greats father Philip II from the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen. We are next on to a series of eight heads mostly marble but one of bronze which show Alexander as mortal and in a guise of Alexander-Herakles.

The catalog is certainly informative with many lovely things including a relief of Ptolemy I in front of Hathor. From here a whole series of portraits goes by in the round or on the nearly two dozen coins in the exhibition of which most were from Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.

Three bronze statuettes of Alexander are mixed in with a couple of very nice reliefs but the next really outstanding piece is from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, being a slightly larger statuette than the previous mentioned and certainly far more interesting in character as the horse rider minus the horse abounds with life and movement dressed in an elephant's skin.

This figure is quickly followed by a marble grave stele of a mother and child found at Makriyalos in 1970. The delicate relief has the seated mother looking forlorn while the child falls back into her arms which are lovingly in a loose embrace of the child.

From this point, the relics are far more interesting in appeal including a magnificent silver rhyton from the George Ortize collection. The silver rhyton is in the shape of a deer's head with its ears perked and horns gilded along with a small frieze around its neck of six warriors in a confrontation.

Black and white images rarely do justice to art and this is true with its images of the many pieces of jewelry in this long past exhibition. This is made more confusing in that the many terms used to describe the techniques used in making the pieces of jewelry are not familiar words that would be used by the average person including myself.

In the end images in black and white or color cannot do justice to this landmark exhibition but certainly, this catalog is a fantastic piece of reference material I will use in the future. The lives of Philip II and Alexander the great has left an amazing impact on our world which is wonderfully explored in the exhibition and catalog "The Search for Alexander".

Tour destinations:

National Gallery of Art, Washington, November. 16, 1980 - April 5, 1981
The Art Institute of Chicago, May 14, 1981 - September 7, 1981
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. October. 23, 1981 - January 10, 1982
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, February 18, 1982 - May 16, 1982

Images; Objects pictured were in the exhibition

Bronze of Alexander(?) in elephant skin; Metropolitan Museum of Art

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Book of the Fayum

 The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore will be presenting an exhibition on the Greco-Roman book of the Fayum and will be re-uniting major portions of the papyrus for the first time in more than a century since its division in 1859. The book deals with the Fayum and its God Sobek and is a priestly manual with this copy being the most important due to its many images and good preservation.

The book exists in many different papyrus' as well as Sobek's temple in the Fayum and on coffins from the area. The show will be running between October 6- January 5, 2014 so get your ticket soon or miss this amazing opportunity.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Malawi Museum: Update

 There is good news coming from Egypt that people are returning many of the stolen artifacts from the Malawi museum. There was a recent arrest when a person tried to sell thirteen artifacts from the collection of the museum.

To date 457 of the museums 1049 artifacts has been returned but at that its vulnerabilities on open display leaves me wondering if it is still practicle for the Malawi museum to open again or safer to send the damaged collection elsewhere?

Still yet no sign of the missing princess above?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Professor Barry Kemp at the ROM

Professor Barry Kemp the director of the Amarna trust has been excavating at Tell el Amarna in middle Egypt since 1977. The sites name in antiquity was Akhetaten, the home of Akhenaten the heritic pharaoh who ruled the two lands in the middle of the 14th century bc.

Akhenaten dedicated the site to his supreme god, the Aten, a form of the sun god. Akhenaten's reign was a disaster that warranted the king to be regarded as "that criminal" and his memory erased from history by his successors.

Professor Kemp will be lecturing at The Royal Ontario Museum on September 19, 2013 for now here is an interview of the professor on the museums blog. The period of Akhenaten's reign is one of ancient Egypt's most popular subjects in modern times so I would expect it to be well attended.

Photo: Einsamer Schütze

Friday, September 13, 2013

Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt

This is an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum on the reverence the ancient Egyptian felt for cats and the goddess' they represent. The Egyptians have probably left the broadest material associated with the cat from coffins and mummies to temple figures and votives.


 Figure of a Cat. From Egypt. Ptolemaic Period–Roman Period, 305 B.C.E.–first century C.E. Wood, gilded gesso, bronze, rock crystal, glass, 25-9/16 x 6-5/16 x 11-13/16 in. (65 x 16 x 30 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.1945E

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Mummy in the Attic

A ten year old boy in Diepholz Germany went up to his grandparents attic recently and uncovered an elaborate Egyptian mummy in a clearly fake sarcophagus. X-rays of the mummy reveal a skull and bones including an arrow in one of its eye sockets.

In a separate box was found the mummy's very interesting mask and the bandages on the mummy are also of modern mechanically woven material. For myself I am comfortable that the mummy and its equipment was probably made as a play or movie prop in the last century but is it a real mummy underneath?

Here an article on the X-ray results on the mummy!

Photo's: Lutz-Wolfgang Kettler

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

More Images of the Devestated Malawi Museum

This is another article on the destruction and looting of the Malawi museum with information that we are up to 221 pieces recovered from the lost 1049 artifacts stolen. For all the damages and loss it can not be forgotten that the museums ticket taker Sameh Ahmed Abdel Hafiz was killed during the attack.

The Magicians Tomb under the Ramesseum

This is an in depth look at the Ramesseum papyri presented by The British Museum whose collection contains most of the papyrus' from "The Magicians tomb". The tomb was located under the fifth storage magazine in the mortuary temple of Ramesses II by Flinders Petrie in 1895-96. The papyrus' were found in a box at the base of the tombs shaft along with ritual objects now dispersed to a number of museums.