German Art Collector Loses Ancient Egyptian Mask

German Art Collector Dirk Gemünde Loses an Ancient Mask Looted From Egypt Because of a German Court Ruling.

Dec 3, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
German Art Collector
The Stahlhof. Via Saiteja


German Art Collector Dirk Gemünde lost a court battle over an ancient mask stolen from Egypt. According to the German news agency DPA, a German court dismissed his argument and maintained a previous decision. Dirk Gemünden, 80, initiated the complaint towards the North Rhine-Westphalia administration.


German Art Collector Proved Provenance of One Object


The Stahlhof, seat of the Düsseldorf Administrative Court and founding site of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia in 1946. Photo by Oliver Berg/picture alliance via Getty Images


The collector filed a complaint after officials confiscated a 2,000-year-old Egyptian funerary mask. There was also a 3,500-year-old brooch, taken from him in 2020. However, on Friday, the Düsseldorf Administrative Court concluded that the NRW Ministry of Culture was correct to take both objects. Why? It remained a possibility the items had been acquired unlawfully from Egypt.


Some believe the mask went missing when doing excavations between 2011 and 2017. This happened before French auction in 2017, as official stated. In 2020, Gemünden purchased three works of art from an American auction. These are the mask, the brooch and a 2,500-year-old coffin plaque. The third piece did not come within the Cultural Protection Act, as the buyer was able to show.


Tutankhamun’s Gold Mask, 18th dynasty, tomb KV62 in the Valley of the Kings, via The Global Egyptian Museum


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Enacted in 2016, the law aims to stop the illegal trafficking of historically significant assets. The court determined that the mask and the brooch might be classified as Egyptian national cultural heritage. Overall, this process puts them in accordance with the regulations.


Similar Case in France

Gold mask and jewellery of Pharaoh Shoshenq II, part of the Treasure of Tanis. The mask has lost its eyes. Cairo Egyptian museum, photos Global Egyptian Museum


Overall, Gemünden informed the court that he believed the mask was in a private American citizen’s ownership since the 1970s. Judge Andreas Heusch, however, said he was amenable to Gemünden’s suggestion. He proposed that the masks should be displayed in a museum he and his wife founded.


The name of the institution is The Obentraut 3 Museum. He also said the process should happen before the pieces go back to Egypt and disappear “into some storage facility”. Artnet News contacted Gemünden for comment via the museum, but did not receive a response by time of publication. The ruling by the court occurs while a related reparation case is being heard by French courts.


maiherpri papyrus black egyptian king tut mask


The transitional government of Gabon, which underwent a military coup d’état in August, has begun a legal battle for the restitution of an antique mask. The item is already at the center of a lawsuit between an elderly couple and the antiques dealer they bought it from, who they believe cheated them out of higher profits from its sale.











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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.