'Derogatory' Champollion statue in Paris angers Egyptians

Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 26 Feb 2013

Statue of Jean François Champollion, who deciphered hieroglyphics, provokes criticism 135 years after it was placed in Collège de France in Paris


A statue in Paris of Jean François Champollion, the French archaeologist who deciphered hieroglyphics, has been condemned as "derogatory" and "shameful" by Egyptian Egyptologists.

Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi carved the marble statue depicting Champollion standing with his left foot on a pharaonic head in 1875.

It was put on display in the Parc Egyptian created by French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette for the Universal Exhibition of 1877.

It was originally intended to be transported to Figeac, the birthplace of Champollion, but the project did not find sufficient support and it remained in Paris. In 1878, the statue was placed in its current location in the courtyard of the Collège de France.

The statue has triggered the anger of Egyptian Egyptologists and the antiquities ministry.

Some Egyptian archaeologists sent a petition to the foreign and antiquities ministries condemning the statue as "derogatory toward Egyptian Civilization."

They urged the French government to remove this "shameful statue."

Omar Al-Hadary, chairman of the Tourism and Antiquities Committee of the Revolutionary Youth Federation, asked the antiquities ministry to stop all French archaeological missions to Egypt until an official apology is made and the statue removed.

Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim told Ahram Online that he would send an official complaint about the statue to the French ambassador to Egypt and the French culture minister.

"Such a statue disturbs the cultural relationship between Egypt and France which has been good since the French expedition to Egypt," said Ibrahim.

He said he supports creative freedom but things that affect the dignity and reputation of Egypt's cultural and archaeological heritage cannot be ignored.

The French government has not taken action on the issue.

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