Online Argument

Meidum Geese is a painting from the tomb of Itet, wife of Nefermaat, son of Sneferu, Pharaoh of Egypt from 2613 to 2589 BC. It is the best painting of geese in the whole world, and ostensibly has been for 4,600 years or so. Someone is trying to take this away from me by suggesting that it's a fake, painted in 1871 by Luigi Vassalli, the man recorded in history as the painting's mere discoverer. The moment I saw Meidum Geese I thought, "Damn does that look modern. How amazing that it's so old that Cleopatra, who reigned from 51 to 30 BC, was a robotic cyborg in terms of her futuristicness compared to Itet." Now the thought that the painting actually could be modern, and that the accuracy of my first impression could have been a result of the expertise I gained from the 3/5ths of an art history minor I completed six years ago, are together too much for me to bear without wanting to comfort myself by drawing my fingers across the pearlescent feathers of a friendly goose.

The pugilists in the boxing match for whether the goose painting is good or bad are Francesco Tiradritti, some man at the Kore University of Enna in Sicily, and Dr. Zahi Hawass, an Egyptian Egyptologist and former Minister of Antiquities for the Egyptian government over the course of about six-ish months in 2011.

My agenda in this paper is to persuade you that Meidum Geese is genuine, which means I am on the side of Dr. Zahi Hawass, but only in the case of this one controversy. On the subject of his views on Israel and former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, I am staying as silent as the tomb of Nefermaat, except to suggest that, someone being wrong about five things may possibly not imply that the person is wrong about an unrelated sixth thing.

Tiradritti's suspicion that the Geese was painted in 1871, possibly by Luigi Vassalli himself, is partly a result of his reflection on the three species of geese in the painting: red-breasted geese, white-fronted geese, and bean geese, which among some people is a term of endearment:

Spouse 1: "My boss will never let me be a bean goose."
Spouse 2: "Well, you'll always be my bean goose."

I would also like to ask, before moving on, what the difference on a goose is between a front and a breast.

Tiradritti says that the red-breasted and bean geese were not to be seen in Egypt at the time of Pharaoh Sneferu, and that these geese are more common to Greece and Turkey. Tarek Tawfik, who is on my and Dr. Hawass's side in this matter, responds to this argument by patiently explaining "...that the area of the Meidum necropolis was located in Fayoum, which is on the birds’ migration path, and that they would have rested in the area during their annual trip from north to south and vice-versa."

My personal response to Tiradritti's argument is: "Yeah, because Greece and Turkey are So Far Away from Egypt that no Old Kingdom Egyptian could ever possibly have travelled there and returned with the knowledge of the geese's appearance, if not with actual specimens, sure."

Tiradritti contends that "[d]oubting the authenticity of a masterpiece seems almost impossible and it is a mentally painful process," but I would like to libel his reputation by suggesting that in fact, this is merely his way of claiming The Mona Lisa of Egypt for Italy, or whatever Sicily is. Just having the Mona Lisa isn't enough for Tiradritti (Especially after reports surfaced that the noted portrait of Lisa del Giocondo (1479-1542) was actually produced not by da Vinci but by an Egyptian tomb-artist flourishing in the 27th century BC), no, the professor must also have Meidum Geese, even if it means that he has to slander the reputation of Luigi Vassalli by accusing him of producing the painting himself, and tricking everybody. Tiradritti has done nothing here but make a countryman of his play the villain in this, his farce.

Here's another "finding," and I'm quoting now from some website:

The way the geese are drawn, so that they appear to be the same size, is also unusual, Tiradritti pointed out. The ancient Egyptians tended to draw different features of a painting, such as animals and people, in different sizes, sometimes relating their size to their importance.

The opponent is skeptical that the painting is original because the size of the figures in it is "medium." But pow, woosh, bang: we have a sort of quote-war here, because Dr. Hawass responds to this allegation with a pointy projectile called a "quote" from the director of the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures at the Polish Academy of Sciences, professor Karol Myśliwiec:

[T]here is a rock-hewn chapel of the mastaba of vizier Merefnebef, discovered and published recently by the Polish-Egyptian archaeological mission west of the pyramid of Djoser. Not only the portraits of the tomb owner and his four consorts, decorating the walls of the chapel, but also a scene of fowling ... as well as the representation of a shepherd with his large size geese, provide arguments for the authenticity of the [Meidum] painting.

Intemperate emphasis mine. I meant to highlight the fact that in this rock-hewn chapel, the geese are all one size, namely large. Unless Tiradritti would like to assert now that Luigi Vassalli also painted this scene, which lies in a site discovered a mere 110 years after his death, then perhaps our opponent ought to withdraw his assertion on that point.

I would like to personally confirm Dr. Karol Myśliwiec's "geese all same size" comment by directing cautious readers to the images accompanying his description of the interior of the main chapel in Merefnebef's tomb, specifically the images of the "Offering Bearers," specifically the third porter of the upper register, specifically what type of bird he carries in his left hand. All the geese are the same size there, too, is the upshot.

Dr. Zahi Hawass writes, "Tiradritti is working in Egypt and he knows the law which states that any announcement or discovery has to be submitted first to the head of the antiquities department before it can be made public. I do not understand why Tiradritti said what he did without giving prior warning to the Ministry of Antiquities..."

My guess is that the law is described in the document called Promulgation of the Antiquities' Protection Law, but having scanned it for over ten minutes I didn't find the one Dr. Hawass refers to. As penance for my sloth, and as a self-serving maneuver, I will take his word for it, and assume that in fact Tiradritti broke the law. I have a hard time believing he'll be extradited and put in an Egyptian prison, because imprisonment was an uncommon criminal penalty in ancient Egypt, and even in ancient Greece, or Athens, at least, the famous prison called the Desmoterion or "Place of Chains" was used only for the short term imprisonment of those awaiting trial, whose fates were generally along the lines of execution or banishment, not that I want Tiradritti to lead anything but a comfortable, fulfilling, and accuracy-rich life. Further complicating matters is that the law was passed under the administration of Hosni Mubarak, who is to say the least no longer president of Egypt.

Let's just accept that Tiradritti will not be put in jail for reporting his "findings" to Live Science before submitting them to the head of the antiquities department, and move on by wondering why he would have shirked the law except to avoid the Supreme Council of Antiquities' (SCA) scrutiny of his so-called "findings."

Now everyone is accusing me of purposefully failing to take into account the version of events where Tiradritti thinks the SCA is corrupt or something because it's an arm of the Egyptian government, which isn't perfect or whatever. Were he to submit his so-called "discovery" about the Meidum Geese to their scrutiny, they'd imprison him for attempting to damage mankind's faith that the strange idols and demonic curses of those storied sands aren't merely the modern fantasies of new men, perhaps using some pretext since that reason doesn't sound good.

Another of Tiradritti's arguments is that on a different, untraceable fragment found by Vassalli are the heiroglyphics of a vulture and a basket/jar stand, which mean A and G, which are the backwards initials of Luigi Vassalli's second wife, Gigliati Angiola. Maybe the fragment's real or maybe not, but I'm willing to accept that it is, based on the flimsy multi-part flight of fancy embarked upon by Tiradritti, who flies like so many bean geese on their migration path over Meidum.

I don't actually know how much I care whether the painting is real or not. I feel like I care a lot, but if you think I'm just making fun of a cabal of academics and their narrow pursuits, I'll probably tell you to look at a super high resolution image of the Meidum Geese, unless you've been to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and saw the painting yourself. In either case, let's sit down like adults and discuss the rugose feathering on the two white-fronted geese, which are the pair to the right of the solitary, leftmost goose. Let's discuss that feathering, because you might be one of those people who don't take a work of art's provenance into account when calculating its aesthetic value, which is what I do, and if we discuss the feathering of the white-fronted goose, and how the edges are indicated by a light, glimmering effect, as unto a goose feather illuminated by the sun (or "Ra"), instead of whether the painting is (as of this writing) ~4,600 or 146 years old, then we ought to come to an agreement at least that this object, which has so focused the passion of these narrow academics, is so beautiful as to drive a person mentally insane.

The purity of this object, which only magnifies its beauty, is the fact that it has not aroused a serious avaricious ache in me, only love for it, and for geese; whereas, once I read a catalogue of that which was found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, with splendid images of it all, such as the Triple Lamp Carved From a Single Piece of Alabaster, the translucent calcite Unguent Container with Crouching Lion on the Lid, the Human-headed Winged Cobra made of embossed and chased sheet-gold, the gilded alabaster canopic chest, the Earrings of Unknown Material, and the gilded wooden Funerary Bed in the Form of Lions. After delving through the images and descriptions of these treasures, and finding them to be what everyone secretly understands by the word 'treasure,' (as opposed to the Redwood Forest or one's children) the ache I felt was nearly overwhelming, that ache at remembering that this wasn't a mail-order catalogue, but just a book-form list of items, which items I could not actually possess, though I would betray my own cat to possess even one of the Pharaoh's gem-encrusted scarab-shaped pinky-rings. These treasures caused badness in my spirit, whereas Meidum Geese has merely caused me to wonder whether or not to believe something a stranger from Sicily said.

I want to send a parting shot to those who would take this away from me by republishing the quote Dr. Hawass gives us from Dr. Richard Redding of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology of the University of Michigan: "two bean geese were found in the refuse of Tutankhamun's funerary meal."

Now I have to do a painting of a goose, beginning with the difficult/impossible task of giving it a title over which Google WebSearch, and all humankind, won't insist that I misspelled the word medium, or that medium was the word I meant to type.

"A Bean Goose And His Nice Friend Give Each Other Kisses Because They're So Sweet But Also Cute"