More on Swimming Girl Figure…


The figure imitates a form of cosmetic spoon or small covered vessel found in some tombs of the 18th Dynasty and (to a lesser extent) later. The little round container, in the shape of a flower or fish, or with a lid in the shape of a water bird or small animal, is held at arms' length by a naked girl, whose body is stretched out horizontally behind her raised head.

These charming objects have been quite popular with forgers; it must be said that this example is among the more attractive of a fairly large group. But false it is, for the following reasons:

  1. The material:
    This wood is very light in weight, which suggests that it may be ancient wood. It is, however, coarse-grained utilitarian stuff, not what one finds for these deluxe items.
  2. The carving technique:
    Similarly, one would expect much attention to detail and careful finishing of the surface, obviously not the case here.
  3. The object she holds:
    This is unique among swimming-girl figures; all other examples hold a small vessel. Uniqueness per se would not, of course, be enough to condemn the object. But deviation from a well-defined class is certainly cause for suspicion…The object itself is unconvincing, because it is unidentifiable. The suggestion that it was meant to function as a grinder becomes absurd when one considers how fragile and ill-designed the figure is for exerting pressure on even a fairly soft substance.
  4. The anatomy:
    It is not only clumsy, but clumsy in an un-Egyptian way; for example, the too-short, elbowless arms; the small, deeply-recessed pubic triangle; the uneven, paddle-shaped feet.
  5. The vaguely masculine hairdo.
  6. The face:
    More attention has been given to the face than to any other part. It is recognizably modeled on Amarna-type faces, but with a telltale lack of definition, especially in the lower half. This kind of face frequently turns up on small forgeries of New Kingdom material, and it is probably a clue to when this forgery was made, and perhaps even the identity of the maker.

The Art of the Fake: Egyptian Forgeries from the Kelsey Museum of Archeology

Exhibit Curators: Robin Meador-Woodruff, Terry Wilfong and Janet Richards
Exhibit Designer: Anne Noakes