Testing has shown that the Egyptian death mask in the Mikkel Museum is actually a fake from the 19th century.
The authenticity of the portrait of a woman, previously believed to be a mummy death mask from the 1st-4th century Faijum in Egypt, was first questioned by the local art experts about five years ago, when it was displayed as part of the "Treasures of the Lost Times" exhibition, reports Eesti Ekspress.
The portrait was then subjected to four types of analysis in Hamburg, Germany, the weekly said. These tests revealed that the picture was painted on alder wood - a material that was never used for the original death masks - probably in the late 19th or early 20th century.
Johannes Mikkel (1907-2006), the most famous of Estonian art collectors of the recent past, obtained the portrait from Eduard Bramanis, who said he bought it from Vilhelms Purvitis, then director of the Latvian Museum of Art. Mikkel believed the portrait to have originally been in the possession of a Russian diplomat who allegedly owned several Egyptian artifacts, including some Faijum portraits.
Mikkel's extensive private collection is now owned by the Art Museum of Estonia and housed in the Mikkel Museum in the former kitchen building of the Kadriorg palace.