King Tut’s broken beard and other art disasters

24 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Archaeologists Want Egyptian Officials Charged for Damage to Tutankhamen’s Burial Mask.

CAIRO: Employees at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo had to glue the 3,000-year-old burial mask of pharaoh Tutankhamun back together after its blue and gold beard was snapped off, according to media reports, Al Arabiya said on Friday.An Egyptian conservation group says it will sue the country’s antiquities minister over a “botched” repair of the mask of King Tutankhamun that left a crust of dried glue on the priceless relic.Yup, the people charged with King Tut’s mask not only broke off his famous chin-beard, but also managed to GLUE IT BACK ON with epoxy, a totally unsuitable material.

And to make matters worse, it now seems that a hastily performed repair job might have actually caused even more damage due to the use of the wrong kind of glue. “Unfortunately he used a very irreversible material – epoxy has a very high property for attaching and is used on metal or stone but I think it wasn’t suitable for an outstanding object like Tutankhamun’s golden mask,” one curator told the website. “The mask should have been taken to the conservation lab but they were in a rush to get it displayed quickly again and used this quick drying, irreversible material,” they added. Monica Hanna, an archaeologist with the group, Egypt’s Heritage Task Force, confirmed the damage during a visit to the museum on Friday and told Agence France-Presse that officials must be held responsible. Egypt’s tourism industry has struggled to recover following the violent Arab Spring that saw the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Carnarvon was still in Egypt celebrating being the beneficiary of one of history’s greatest treasure hunts when he sliced open an innocuous mosquito bite on his cheek while shaving.

A museum official, who spoke anonymously to avoid repercussions, told AFP news agency the beard had fallen off accidentally when the mask was removed from its case last year to repair the lighting. Three of the museum’s conservators reached by telephone gave differing accounts of when the incident occurred late last year, and whether the beard was knocked off by accident or was removed because it was loose. Jackie Rodriguez, a tourist who visited the museum last Aug. 12, provided The A.P. with what she said was a photograph of two men carrying out the repair work while the gallery was open. “The whole job did look slapstick,” she said. “It was disconcerting given the procedure occurred in front of a large crowd and seemingly without the proper tools.” The director of the museum, Mahmoud el-Helwagy, dismissed reports last year that the mask had been damaged, but said to the BBC on Friday that an error in the application of the adhesive material might have been made during restoration work on the 3,300-year-old relic. Another museum conservator, who was present at the time of the repair, said that epoxy had dried on the face of the boy king’s mask and that a colleague used a spatula to remove it, leaving scratches. Bethell’s father, Lord Westbury, plunged seven floors to his death from his St James’s apartment, where he reportedly kept artefacts from the tomb given to him by his son.

The first conservator, who inspects the artifact regularly, confirmed the scratches and said it was clear that they had been made by a tool used to scrape off the epoxy. Egypt’s tourist industry, once a pillar of the economy, has yet to recover from three years of tumult following a 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. In recent days it has emerged that irreparable damage has been caused to King Tutankhamun’s funerary mask – one of the most priceless artefacts in history. Her disastrous attempt in 2012 to restore Ecce Homo – a 19th century fresco of Jesus in her local church in the village of Borja – became a global sensation. Gimenez admitted earlier this month that only now is she finally able to look at her painting. “It has taken me a long time to get to this point,” she said.

The art dealer and broadcaster Philip Mould calls this “the restoration equivalent of the builder from hell”. “They do a small area of something where there has been a loss, but like a scratch on the side of the car it doesn’t quite match the rest of the picture, so they then rather indiscriminately paint over the surrounding area. So, bit by bit, the original strokes of the artist, which have lasted 300 to 400 years, can literally disappear.” During his 35-year career in the art world, Mould has specialised in discovering lost works of art that have been obscured or hidden by restoration.

In 2010, the Louvre was accused of allowing restorers to carry out two ‘‘botched nose jobs’’ on a principal character in Supper at Emmaus, a 1550s painting by the Renaissance master Veronese. Michel Favre-Félix, president of the Association for the Respect and Integrity of Artistic Heritage in Paris, said the character depicted, who previously represented a “noble family mother, as an echo to the Virgin Mary”, had been turned into a “caricature of a 21st-century adolescent, with bloated cheeks and a ridiculous pout”. In our own National Gallery, meanwhile, the painting Marcia by Domenico Beccafumi was damaged while being taken down from the wall and the canvas was split. In 2004, a transparent bin liner filled with waste paper, part of a piece by the artist Gustav Metzger at the Tate Britain, was gathered up by a cleaner and thrown out. Michael Daley, director of Artwatch UK, which has campaigned to protect the integrity of art works for the past 20 years, says few of the accidents ever make it into the public domain. “When these blockbuster exhibitions are going on it is pandemonium,” he says. “Everybody wants all these things taken down as quickly as possible.

During a £100,000 revamp of Liaoning province’s Yunjie Temple, workers painted over the frescos, turning them into a series of garish and “sloppily drawn … modern paintings”. But when you are handling them it is best just to try and think about other things.” When it comes to looking after a museum’s collection, he says, the emphasis should be on conservation.

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