Friday, August 19, 2011

More on Nefertiti

An interesting article on the continuing international squabble over the Nefertiti bust:

This queen owes her immortality to a gifted artist. The bust he fashioned out of gypsum and limestone some 3,350 years ago became an eternal monument to her beauty. As realistic as the image is, it has the radiance of a goddess. "It's no use describing it; you have to see it!" said the German archaeologist who unearthed the bust of the Egyptian queen in the desert sand almost a century ago. Hardly anyone is familiar with the name of the sculptor, Thutmose, but the bust is of the famous Nefertiti, Queen of the Nile, Great Royal Wife of the Pharaoh Akhenaten. And thanks to a coincidence, a minor detour of history, her likeness is not on display in a museum in her native Egypt, but in Berlin. Or was it not a coincidence at all, but rather fraud?

Michael Sontheimer and Ulrike Knöfel, 'German-Hating Frenchman Sparked Nefertiti Row', Der Spiegel, 18th August 2011.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Cyrene Apollo

At the two-day conference of the Council of Antiquities in Cairo about the repatriation of artefacts in 2010, Libya stated that it wished two antiquities to return, "a statue of Apollo from the British Museum and a marble statue of a woman from the Louvre". I'm not clear what the statue in Paris is, but the British Museum object is the ' Cyrene Apollo'.

The monumental Roman (2nd century AD) cult statue discovered in January 1861 by Lieutenant Robert Murdoch Smith and Commander Edwin Porcher, whose excavations in the Temple of Apollo in the Greek and Roman settlement of Cyrene, on the Libyan coast are recorded in a monumental site report published in 1864. The statue was found broken into 121 pieces, laying near the large pedestal on which it had originally stood. The fragments were painstakingly removed from the site and reassembled in the British Museum. The statue now stands 2.29 metres high but the right arm, which was originally raised, and the left wrist and hand are missing (photo).

In 1989 Libya requested from Italy the restitution of the Venus of Cyrene, a white marble statue (Venus Anadyomene) that dates from the second century AD. It was taken to Italy after it was found in 1913 by Italian troops near the ruins of the city and was housed in Rome’s National Roman Museum (AP Photo/Ministero dei Beni Culturali – Italian Culture Ministry). The Venus was only returned in April 2007.

Peter Higgs, 'The Cyrene Apollo', History Today, 44 (11) (1994), pp. 50-54
BM webpage

"The world's most disputed antiquities: a top 5 list"

Melanie Renzulli, 'The world's most disputed antiquities: a top 5 list', Aug 3rd 2011:
One of the biggest arguments in the art world is the repatriation of objects, particularly antiquities. On one side of the debate are art scholars who feel that ancient objects should remain in the care of their current (usually Western) museums or locations. The other side argues that antiquities should be returned to the countries from which they were removed because they were taken during times of war and colonization or were stolen and sold through the highly lucrative art black market.

It's true that a great many antiquities and works of art we enjoy at museums today may have been acquired through looting or other unsavory practices. Here are five of the most famous works of art that have been repatriated or are the focus of an ongoing battle for ownership".

1) Elgin Marbles
Where are they now? The British Museum, London
Where were they? The Parthenon, Athens, Greece [...]

2) Obelisk of Aksum
Where is it now? Aksum, Ethiopia
Where was it? Rome, Italy [...]

3) Objects from King Tut's Tomb
Where are they now? The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
Where are they headed? Giza, Egypt [...]

4) Dea Morgantina (Aphrodite)
Where is it now? Aidone, Sicily
Where was it? Getty Museum, Los Angeles [...]

5) Hattuşa Sphinx
Where is it now? Istanbul, Turkey
Where was it? Berlin, Germany [...].

Photo: The London bits of the Parthenon Marbles