Saturday, January 21, 2006

Controversy re St Louis Mask (St Louis Post Dispatch)
"A one-time forger and art smuggler has accused the St. Louis Art Museum of purchasing in 1998 a stolen Egyptian mummy mask and displaying it in its galleries. Museum director Brent Benjamin said the history of the mask was thoroughly researched before its purchase, and he is confident the piece was not stolen.
The accusation comes at a time of heightened scrutiny of the international trade in antiquities. This case also illustrates the difficulty of constructing complete records detailing the ownership of ancient objects - proving the object wasn't stolen or forged.High-profile players in the international market for antiquities now find themselves in legal hot water. A former curator of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles is on trial in Italy on charges that she was involved in buying looted objects, and the Metropolitan Museum in New York is working out a deal with the Italian government over the disposition of 42 works the Italians have charged were smuggled out of the country.
Michel van Rijn, now a self-appointed art-world watchdog, claims that the St. Louis Art Museum's mummy mask, dating to the Egyptian New Kingdom between 1307 and 1196 B.C., was stolen in the 1990s from storage at the pyramid of Saqqara, where it had been excavated in the early 1950s. Van Rijn contacted the Museum and the Post-Dispatch with his charge. But despite two e-mail requests, he has not provided hard evidence.Benjamin dismisses the accusation. . . . .But van Rijn has not been a man easy to dismiss - or ignore. He has an active Web site where he makes accusations against dealers, collectors and institutions."
See the above article for the full story.

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