The smile of Ka Nefer Nefer is thin, intimate, knowing, a little like the Mona LisaĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s. The unknown artist who shaped NeferĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s funerary mask about 3,200 years ago had a deft touch.
His mask of the lady Nefer is a minor masterpiece Ă˘â‚¬â€ť which is why it has caused an international art squabble, one of many shaking display cases of museums around the world.
One of those cases is in the St. Louis Art Museum, located between two mummies on the first floor. It is where the memory of Nefer lives on.
But Zahi Hawass, the stocky Egyptian version of Indiana Jones Ă˘â‚¬â€ť complete with trademark hat Ă˘â‚¬â€ť wants her to come home. Ă‚Â Hawass, the Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), said a deadline for a US museum to turn over an ancient mask in its collection ended Tuesday 16/05/2006.
The mask was stolen and smuggled illegally out of the country. At a press conference, Hawass said Egypt’s Attorney General office is to take legal action against the St. Louis Art Museum after having given the museum an ultimatum to hand over the 19th dynasty (1307-1196 BC) mask of Ka-nefer-nefer.
Egypt will also seek the Interpol’s aid to help restore the mummy mask he added.
Egyptologist Zakaria Goneim excavated the mask in the Saqqara area some 25 Kilometres (16 miles) south of Cairo in 1952 and registered the artefact.
It depicts a young woman with inlaid glass eyes and a gold-coated face wearing a wig and holding a wooden amulet in each hand.