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Art Anecdotes : King Tutankhamun & his Broken Beard

Through ART ANECDOTES, Art From Us brings you funny, heart-warming and sometimes heartbreaking stories that shape Artists and their work. Today we look at the story of King Tutankhamun & his Broken Beard.

Art From Us and Divvya Nirula bring to you a curated collection of Art related events, from suspected murder, to love affairs, to grand theft and curious cases of creation through ART ANECDOTES. Join us on this fun-filled ride of exploring and reliving these art-tales.

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo is the resting place of the mask of famed King Tutankhamun. The 11 kilo funerary mask is one of the Museum’s most proud exhibits, created in the New Kingdom of gold and semi precious stones. The mask was designed to mimic the facial features of King Tutankhamun himself. According to experts, it was an instrument to ensure the resurrection of the king.

The Damage is Done : King Tutankhamun & his Broken Beard

In August 2014, the display lights of the mask’s exhibit at the Egyptian Museum malfunctioned. The designated electrician was promptly sent over to fix the problem; unfortunately he created a bigger one. While the man was working on the light, he ended up knocking off Tutankhamun’s blue and gold braided beard. This was not the first time the beard has detached from the mask. It had been removed by archeologist Howard Carter when he had discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 and had subsequently been re-attached. This time, a group of conservators at the museum were tasked with fixing the damaged artefact. They somehow managed to make things worse.

A 3,000 year old mask, an invaluable piece of world history that is rumoured to be empowered with ancient spells and incantations. This wise group of museum ‘experts’ chose epoxy glue to restore the artefact. Epoxy glue – to stick back a beard made of solid gold and lapis lazuli, onto the face of ancient Egypt’s most famous pharoh. Needless to say, the glue did not work and the culprits tried scraping it off its residue with a blade. Another unfortunate decision on their part.

Restoration

The mask was eventually restored by a team of German-Egyptian experts, led by Christian Eckmann. The restoration included a three dimensional scan of the mask. The relic was also exposed to high temperature in order to remove the glue used by the workers in their weak attempt to mitigate the damage. It was returned to the museum after two months of repair.

A group of eight people, including the former Director of the museum and the formed Director of Restoration were charged with negligence and violating professional standard, following a through investigation into the incident.

To read more stories visit Art Anecdotes.

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