King Tutankhamun’s Death Mask Under Scrutiny For Amateur Restoration

Amateur restoration using inappropriate epoxy glue has defaced one of the worlds most iconic works of art. The mask of King Tutankhamun is now set to undergo assessment. The crude repair holding the narrow, blue and gold beard, on the famous mask, must be removed and reattached.  According to reports on the Arabic news site Al Araby Al Jadeed, the braided beard which juts forward, came detached from the 3,500-year-old mask during a routine cleaning accident which took place last October, at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Conflicting accounts of how this came about are going viral among museum circles. However conservators cited by Associated Press have stated that “the use of epoxy on such a priceless artifact was thoughtlessly inappropriate and has irreparably damaged the centerpiece of Egypt’s pharaonic heritage, leaving a visible gap full of yellowish dried adhesive between the boy-king’s chin and his braided beard”.

Dr. Gharib Sonbol is the director of the Central Repair and Restoration Administration at the Egyptian Museum. In a telephone interview he defended the repair job on the mask and insisted the museum handled the situation properly. “There are different kinds of epoxy glues,” Sonbol told CBS News. “We used an epoxy that was appropriate for the mask.”

The incident came to light earlier this week when newspapers in Egypt reported that a repair performed hastily at the request of government officials resulted in a backlash, which has scandalised the Museum. The mask is the Pièce de résistance of the Egyptian Museum’s collection which generates much needed tourism revenue for the country.

The incident brings back memories of the The  Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) in the Sanctuary of Mercy church in Borja, Zaragoza. The painting  became an Internet phenomenon in August 2012 when Cecilia Giménez, an 80-year-old amateur artist living locally, painted over the fresco in an attempt to restore it. The result resembled a “crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic”.


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