1. 2. The Saint Louis Art Museum (SLAM) CaseIn the past years, there wasanother similar instance for the repatriation issues relating to the Egyptiancollection in one of the U.S. museums.
The issue was concerned with one of theancient Egyptian artifact in Saint LouisArt Museum in Missouri, the Ka-Nefer-Nefer funerarymummy mask (New Kingdom, Dynasty 19, 1295-1186B.C.). 1 This case was very controversialissue between Saint Louis Art Museum and the Egyptian Government for many followingyears. The saint Louis Art Museum purchased the mummy mask (inventory No. 19:1998)in 1998. 2 Eightyears later, in 2006, the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt requested themask’s return on the grounds that it had been stolen from Egyptian Museum inCairo. Saint Louis Art Museum denied the Egyptian request.
In 2011, after manytrials of negotiations between the two parties, the case went before the UnitedStates District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri to separate in this disputeand determine the ownership of the mask. In 2014, the court of appeals assertedthe right of SLAM to retain the mask among its collection. 3According to the Egyptian provenance information, the funerarymask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer was excavated by the Egyptian archaeologist Muhammed ZakariaGhoniem during the first season (1951-1952) of his field work inside thefunerary enclosure of Third Dynasty Pharaoh Sekhemket in Saqqara, Egypt. 4 Oneyear later in 1953, the Egyptian Antiquities Service (Later Supreme Council ofAntiquities) registered the funerary mask as Egyptian property in the officialledger book and deposited the object at the government storage, at Saqqara. Themask remained at Saqqara warehouse until 1959, when it had shipped along with otherartifacts from Gonium’s excavation from storage at Saqqara to The EgyptianMuseum in Cairo to be prepared for the planned travelling exhibtion to Tokyo inJapan that never fulfilled.
In 1962, the Egyptian Museum shippedthe mask back to Saqqara in box number fifty-four. Four years later, in 1966,the mask was sent again from Saqqara to the conservation Lab attached to theEgyptian Museum in Cairo for restoration. In 1973, during a routine inventory,the Cairo Egyptian museum discovered that the mask no longer existed among theobjects came from Saqqara.
Since then, the funerary mask was considered missingby this time. 5On the other hand, theSaint Louis Art Museum (SLAM) introduced a contradictory story for the object’sprovenance according to the museum’s archive records. The museum alleged thatthe mask was in the possession of unknown Belgium dealer in 1952, the same yearthe Egyptian Government alleged that the mask was officially recorded. 6 The museum was based on ahandwritten letter (dated in February 11, 1997) of a swissman named Charly Mathezwho avowed in his letter that he had seen the mask in agallery in Brussels, Belgium in 1952. Moreover, Mathez could not remember thegallery name, in his response letter (dated October 5, 1999) to the Saint LouisArt Museum team when they wrote to him seeking more information to uphold theprovenance. 7The next appearance for the mask was almost ten years later in early 1960s.
Themask became a part of Kaloterna private collection without any reference ordetails about how the ownership was changed or transferred. Then, the maskquickly resold again in the same time to a Swiss collector who asked anonymityaccording to the provenance. In1997, the anonymous Swiss collector sold the mask to PhoenixAncient Art. One year later, in 1998, the Saint Louis Art Museum purchased the mask fromPhoenix for approximately $499,000. 8In January 2011, the parties met in responseto a request of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District ofMissouri seeking agreement regarding the mask. The meeting did not come up withany solutions to end the case. the United States Government decided to seze OnFebruary 15, 2011, SLAM filed for declaratory judgment against the U.
S.government for the mask. SLAM confirmed its adequate provenance researchregarding the mask and declared that it reached out several institutions inthis regard, the International Federation of Art Research, the Art LossRegister, INTERPOL, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Missouri HighwayPatrol, and the Egyptian Museum’s director in that time, Mohamed Saleh askingabout the mask.
Further, SLAM states that the statute of limitations for seizurethe mask had passed. The U.S. Government was aware of the doubtful provenanceof the mask more than five years ago since the Museum Security Network sentseveral emails to FBI and Department of Security, in December 2005, allegingthat the mask was stolen.9OnMarch 16, 2011, U.S. Government filed its response on the SLAM’s declaratoryjudgment complaint. The U.
S. Government filled a complaint for the civil forfeiturerelaying on 19 U.S.C.
§ 1595a(c), alleging that the mask had been stolen fromthe Egyptian Museum and there are no records prove its sale or transfer to anyperson or entity.Asa result, on April 20, 2011, SLAM filed a claim of interest in the mask,asserting that it had purchased the mask in good faith for $499,000 fromPhoenix Ancient Art in Geneva, Switzerland. Then, On May 5, 2011, SLAM filed amotion to dismiss, answering that the mask was described in the Egyptianprovenance as “missing” which does not mean stolen and U.
S. Government did notprovide any details about the mask’s theft in its complaint. Additionally, SLAMargued that the statute of limitation for the object had been passed and thegovernment’s action should be forbidden by laches on the grounds that bothparties, the Egypt’s Government and the U.S.
Government, were aware of theexistence of the mask in Saint Louis Museum in 1998 and no immediate action wastaken by any of them. The actions from both sides was too late, after passingmore than five years. The Egyptian government requested the mask’s return in2006 after almost eight years of the SLAM’s letter to the director of EgyptianMuseum and after passing more than thirty years of recording the mask asmissing object. On the other hand, the U.S. Government, also did know that theSLAM possesses the mask since 1998 and was aware of the provenance issue whenit received the emails from the Internet Security Network in beginning ofDecember 2005 until February 2006 stating the mask as stolen object with nolegal action.10TheU.S.
Government responded to SLAM’S motion, argued that missing the mask in1973 is quite enough to believe that the mask was stolen and imported to USA in violation18 U.S.C.
§ 1595a. furthermore, the statute of limitations and thedefense of lacheswere outside of the scope of a motion to dismiss. The government also moved tostrike SLAM’s claim for lack of standing. It argued that SLAM did not have theright in the mask’s ownership because the mask considers a property of Egyptunder the Egyptian Law of 1952.
11 In a counteraction, SLAM responded that it had a standing to claim the mask based on itspossession of the mask for thirteen years as well as the money it paid toacquire it. 12OnMarch 31, 2012, the court dismissed theU.S. Government’s civil forfeiture action. The court saw that the Governmentfailed to determine any facts in regard to steal of the mask except statingthat it was missing in Egypt of a 1973. The government also was not able toprove that the mask illegally imported to U.S.A.
contrary to law.13Asa result, the government filed a motion to reconsider or file an amendedcomplaint. It stated that “stolen” means that the mask was in a possession ofsomeone else other than SLAM and the Law only stated in a plain language word stolenwith no requirement to mention any details about the theft. The court deniedagain the Government’s motion to reconsider and gave more time to the U.
S.Government to file an appeal. 14OnJune 8, 2012, the U.
S. Government filed a motion for first amended verified complaintfor forfeiture the mask. The Government added new additional information tosupport its claim.
Themotion was denied. The U.S. government appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court ofAppeals (Court of Appeals), which has appellate jurisdiction over districtcourts in the state of Missouri, among others. The Court of Appeals affirms theDistrict Court’s procedural ruling and allowed to SLAM to keep the mask amongits collection.
151 The mummy mask measures approximately 21 and 1/16inches by 14 and 9/16 inches by 9 and 3/4 inches. It depicts the face and uppertorso of a woman. It is made of linen, wood, plaster, resin, and it is painted,gilded, and inlaid with glass.
2 ‘SaintLouis Art Museum: Collections’. 2018. Accessed January 18.http://emuseum.slam.org:8080/emuseum/view/objects/asitem/[email protected]/0/title-asc?t:state:flow=1e3a8839-f428-4258-a159-9f3bdf276a4e3 Victoria A. Russell, Don’tGet SLAMmed into Nefer Nefer Land: Complaints in the Civil Forfeiture ofCultural Property, 4 Pace.
Intell. Prop. Sports & Ent.
L.F. 209 (2014), p.
214.4Goneim, Mohammed Zakaria,”Excavations atSaqqara; Horus Sekhem-Khet, the Unfinished Step Pyramid at Saqqara.” Vol.1. Cairo: Imprimerie de L’Institut Français D’Archéologie Orientale, 1957, p.5The Mask of Kanefernefer,SUPREME COUNCIL OF ANTIQUITIES,http://www.
scaegypt.org/eng/RST_005Kanefernefer.htm (last visited January 20, 2018).
6 Mummy Mask of Kay-neferwy, SaintLouis Art Museum, http://emuseum.slam.org:8080/emuseum/view/objects/asitem/[email protected]/0/title-asc?t:state:flow=513bf936-f5b1-44c6-b6ff-31bcc0d22fd(last visited January20,2018).7 Gay, Malcolm, Outof Egypt, From a long-buried pyramid to the Saint Louis Art Museum: Themysterious voyage of the Ka-Nefer-Nefer mask, Riverfront Times (February 15,2016).https://www.
riverfronttimes.com/stlouis/out-of-egypt/Content?oid=2484863v8 Mummy Mask of Kay-Neferwy, SaintLouis Art Museum, http://emuseum.slam.org:8080/emuseum/view/objects/asitem/[email protected]/0/title-asc?t:state:flow=513bf936-f5b1-44c6-b6ff-31bcc0d22fd(last visited January20,2018).9 Ibid, p. 230-231 10 Ibid, p.
234-23511 EgyptianLaw 1952 12 Ibid, p. 23613 Ibid, p. 23814 Ibid, p. 239-24015 Lauren Bursey, Ece Velioglu Yildizci, Marc-AndréRenold, “Case United States v. Mask of Ka Nefer Nefer” Platform ArThemis,Art-Law Centre, University of Geneva, June 2015, p. 2-3.