Another hole in the story? Damage to the Gaza ‘Apollo”s arm, leg…?

Just as I emerged from application hell, Bloomberg Businessweek journalist Vernon Silver (@VTSilver) found a fantastic and potentially conclusive (or meaningless) photograph of the Gaza “Apollo” (tray-bearer). It’s nothing like the photos of trinkets, false leads and forgeries in my last post – but it may reveal whether or not this statue is a forgery.

BBC Arabic’s Shahdi Alkashif published a report and a photo report (which were republished on Arabic MSN, Ayoooh, where Silver saw it, the Palestinian Discussion Forum, etc.). This time, Jouda Ghurab said that he had found the statue ‘at a depth of three or four metres [على عمق ثلاثة إلى أربعة أمتار]’. More importantly, there was a seemingly never-before-published photograph of the statue.

The caption explained that ‘[t]he statue had [already] suffered some problems as a result of the length of its stay in the water, then some parts were exposed to [further] corrosion later [يعاني التمثال بعض المشكلات نتيجة طول فترة بقائه في المياه، ثم تعرضت بعض أجزائه للصدأ لاحقا]’. But neither Ghurab nor Alkashif seemed to explain the roughly rectangular mark on the back of the statue’s right forearm [leg], or the gaping hole in it.

[Is the limb in the photo an arm or a leg? It doesn’t seem to have enough of a bend in it to be either forearm; and it doesn’t seem to be close enough to the body to be either upper arm; but the corrosion along its sides doesn’t seem to correspond to the corrosion on either leg…]

Now, the rough rectangle may be a mark from its production or a point for an attachment. But the hole appears to have punctured the statue bluntly – it doesn’t look like a designed hole for an intended fitting.

There appears to be less corrosion inside the hole than around it, which suggests that the hole was made after the statue was recovered from land or sea. And there is a narrow piece of bronze that appears to be very smooth(ed) and pointing into the hole. Is that the point where something struck the statue and made the hole?

But there does appear to be corrosion inside, so perhaps it is an ancient injury, or the hole was made during the statue’s recovery and it has corroded while it’s been in storage.

An image of the mark on, decay of and/or damage to the Apollo (tray-bearer)

An image of the Gaza Apollo’s mark, decay and/or damage
(c) Shahdi Alkashif, BBC News Arabic, 16th February 2014

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4 Responses to “Another hole in the story? Damage to the Gaza ‘Apollo”s arm, leg…?”

  1. Confusing picture. The smurf pattern suggests at first we are looking at the right lower leg, but that is not the part of the statue I see. I am not completely sure but I think this must be the lower right arm after all, at the elbow, an area which is not visible on any of the other photos of the series. There is a similar rectangular patch at about the same position on the left arm, but this seems to be lower down and has different corrosion patterns in and around it. There is another one under the chin (which looks like a badly attached band aid) and perhaps one more on the lower left leg, but this is not very clear; and do I see another one on the lower part of the left hand? Perhaps we should look back on some of the other photos…

    The square on the image above looks like the hole left by a patch which was put in to cover the hole, but also to hold together the arm which seems to have cracked at the elbow. The hole seems to be related to the crack, it rather looks like a bit with cracks on all sides simply fell off or was removed. I don’t think this feature was made after recovery — if so they did quite some effort to make it look like an old repair. If properly put in and polished, the patch may not have been very visible. I don’t think this would be a strange way to repair a statue, or adjust a not completely successful cast. The patch on the chin is rather less elegant though, and the one on the left arm does not seem to cover any fault, although perhaps this would be different if we could zoom in. If there indeed is one more on the left hand, which seems to be mostly massive, this would probably make least sense of all. There is also an odd round patch on the left breast, which does not seem to be in the right position to be a nipple. Altogether perhaps a strange set of features, but also a set which a forger would probably avoid rather than add (unless there was no avoiding possible/they cover up another problem).

    There also is a remarkable line going out to left from the patch. This looks like the two sides have been welded together — not completely impossible but perhaps a bit odd here.

    Finally, the uncorroded part on the lower backside of the head, or rather its regular border, looks odd, as if the corrosion has been cleaned away to reveal part of the hair.

    I am not sure what to make of all this, perhaps someone who knows more about the details of bronze statue production (ancient or modern) could enlighten us.

    PS I still think the hands are incredibly clumsy. And how common are completely massive fingers?

    • Thank you yet again. I don’t think that the patch as well as the hole was made after recovery. I thought maybe the hole had been made in the patch (but I defer to anyone else’s judgement).

      There also seem to be faint, rough but roughly parallel, lines above the strong leftward line…

      I was trying to get comparable photos of the face, to see whether it had been as heavily cleaned as it (sometimes) appears, but it’s difficult. I haven’t been sufficiently confident that the bluest/greenest images were products of its original corrosion, rather than products of the camera work.

      The poor thing’s going to have an emotional complex by the time you’re done with his clumsy, fat-fingered hands. 😉

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