Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer installed at St Louis Art Museum Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer installed at St Louis Art Museum

 

Frustrating many who have been following the case as it finally closed due to an administrative blunder; the attorney's office's failed to timely file a request to extend the deadline to amend the case. The court thus affirmed that the government was unable to articulate exactly how the mask was brought to the U.S. "contrary to law" and it was decided that the 3,200-year-old mummy mask may stay at St Louis Art Museum (SLAM).

Ka-Nefer-Nefer won't be going home. Ka-Nefer-Nefer won't be going home.

The mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer, an Egyptian noblewoman at the court of Ramses II was excavated in 1952 near the step pyramid of Saqqara but disappeared from storage in Egypt sometime between 1966 and 1973. SLAM bought the mask in 1998 from a New York art dealer for $499.000. When Egyptian authorities learned in 2006 that the museum had the mask, they began trying to get it back.

Journalists and officials at a ceremony for the return of the Euphronios Krater to Rome. Journalists and officials at a ceremony for the return of the Euphronios Krater to Rome.

In recent years several major museums' and auction houses' have repatriation objects from their collections.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sotheby's, Norton Simon Museum, and Christie's all returned tenth-century sculptures to Cambodia looted from the Khmer temple of Prasat Chen in Koh Ker. Other examples include the Met returning the famous Euphronios Krater in 2006; the Cleveland Museum of Art returning fourteen Italian antiquities in 2008; MFA Boston returning Weary Herakles in 2011 to Turkey, as well as eight antiquities to Nigeria last June. All cases included an agreement that the source countries recognized that the museums had acquired the objects in good faith without knowing their questionable ownership history.

Osman Murat Suslu (far left), Turkey’s director of cultural heritage and museums, who had refused to grant many exhibition loans to provoke a repatriation, at the unveiling of the reunited Weary Herakles. Osman Murat Suslu (far left), Turkey’s director of cultural heritage and museums, who had refused to grant many exhibition loans to provoke a repatriation, at the unveiling of the reunited Weary Herakles.

Although the antiquities world has seen a shift in the attitude towards repatriation, perhaps moving away from the dark shadows of colonialism, provenance of these types of objects is a tricky business in which both sellers and buyers are willfully fooled. Many smaller institutions are not willing to let valuable treasures leave their collections claiming that they are important for the cultural heritage within their own community than that of their creators.

It is however disappointing that SLAM, after begin caught "red-handedly," have not decided to upon moral and/or ethical grounds to repatriate the mask to her home country.

 

 

 

 

 

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