Friday, March 18, 2011

St Louis Art Museum: another legal development

I have made several comments about the Egyptian mummy mask in the St Louis Art Museum (SLAM) (most recently here). Ricardo A. St Hilaire has commented on the legal action taken by the US authorities (and full text here).

There are two sections that will be of particular interest:
14. In 1966, the Mask and other objects from the same burial assemblage were removed from packaging in Saqqara and given to the Egyptian Antiquities Organization Restoration Lab located in Cairo in preparation for future display.
15. The Mask traveled to Cairo from Saqqara in box number fifty-four. This was the last documented location of the Mask in Egypt.
The fact that the mask was record in 1966 is significant. (It is also apparently recorded in July 1959 and in 1962 (sections 12 and 13).

I have rehearsed the alleged collecting histories before here.

It is important to realise that the mask's excavator, Mohammed Zakaria Goneim, died in 1959.

Yet, although the mask was apparently still known in Egypt at late as 1966, it is claimed by Swiss national Charly Mathez that the mask was seen in 1952 at the premises of an antiquities dealer in Brussels. Indeed it has been suggested that it was given to an Egyptian official shortly after its discovery in 1952.

Moreover, it is reported that in 1962 (or thereabouts) the mask was acquired by the "Kaloterna Collection".

It is then claimed that around 1967 it was acquired by "an unnamed Swiss citizen". This person, a resident of Geneva, has been identified.

The collecting history as it was supplied to SLAM now looks less secure. Is it time for a thorough review of the due diligence process?

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