The Associated Press has just reported that the famous King Tutankhamun’s Mask has recently been damaged and quickly repaired.
According to the report, the beard on the Pharaoh’s mask was detached during cleaning at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and was “hastily” glued back on with epoxy.
It's hard to believe that such a prized artifact could have been repaired so crudely - notice that the glue used has spilled out onto the king's chin. It looks like Araldite, which is used in repairing ceramics, though any restorer would be ashamed of such a repair.
Howard Carter's discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in November 1922 began a phase of Egyptomania that influenced almost every aspect of design.
I couldn't resist showing the picture on the left of the Carlton Cinema built in 1930 in Essex Road, London. This image must have been taken shortly after the cinema opened because the film showing, In Old Arizona, was released in 1929.
Carlton Ware's TUT pattern is a fine example of catering to the craze and is estimated to have been introduced in 1923. Jumping to conclusions
At first sight, the finial on the ginger jar shown above appears to have been copied from King Tut's mask, though it does not have a beard - its projection would have been too vulnerable to breakage. But was the gold mask inspiration for the finial?
The contents of the tomb took ten years to catalogue and Carter's diary tells us that the mask was not revealed until the lid to the innermost coffin was lifted on 28 October 1925. On the right is a picture taken shortly after the lid was removed and before the mask was extricated from the mummy and cleaned. This means that pictures of the mask can't have entered the public domain until the beginning of 1926 at the earliest.
Since Carlton Ware's TUT pattern was introduced in 1923, this suggests that either the finial was used on ware made from 1926 onwards, or that it was based on another similar representation of a Pharaoh or statuary.
Below is one example from many, this being the head of the Sphinx on the Embankment in London, cast in 1881. It is shown next to Tutankhamun's mask and the Carlton Ware finial. Below them are pictures of the guardian statues of Tut that Carter found at the entrance to the burial chamber. They are thought to be representations of Tut's soul or spiritual double after death. My guess is that the finial is based on the head of the guardian statue on the right in Harry Burton's brilliant documentary black and white photograph, released not long after the discovery. The statue has a black face, as does the finial. We would like to thank the Griffith Institute, University of Oxford for permission to show the Harry Burton black & white pictures above, taken as the tomb was excavated. ❑