A letter from Alexandre Stoppelaëre to his friend Conrad Kickert.

 

Letter from Alexandre Stoppelaëre to his friend Conrad Kickert.

Letter from Alexandre Stoppelaëre
to his friend Conrad Kickert.


A letter from Alexandre Stoppelaëre to his friend Conrad Kickert.
On July 29. 1946, Alexandre Stoppelaëre, at that time Chief Restorer of Antiquities in Egypt and employed by the Egyptian Ministry of Education, wrote a letter to his long-time friend, Conrad Kickert; A Dutch painter, living in France.

In this letter he tells his friend some pretty intriguing things.

The original letter is still in the possession of Kickert’s daughter who, courteously, allowed us the publish this letter on our website.

Alexandre Stoppelaëre in 1937. A painting by Conrad Kickert.

Alexandre Stoppelaëre in 1937.
A painting by Conrad Kickert.


Antiquities Department
Cairo

Gurnah through Luxor July 29, 1946

My dear Conrad,

For a long time I wanted to write to you, but I lost my address book, among other things, in a fight with Bedouins in the Syrian desert in 1940, and a memory problem prevented me from recalling yours.

I just received the 1945 autumn salon catalogue and see with pleasure that you are exhibiting some paintings. So, you are painting again…this did not happen to me for a long time.

Tell me quickly how you are doing, how was your life during these long years? How are our friends doing? I did not find Osterlind among the exhibitors.What is happening with Bosch , this young Dutch painter and philosopher, married to a pianist?

For me, I came back to Egypt in October 1940, at the request of the Egyptian Education Ministry and succeeded in creating – against a strong opposition of certain Egyptian circles and of some English Egyptologists from Cairo and England, but with strong support of the (English) king and some people of the British Embassy – a (new) restoration service within the Antiquities Department of Egypt. New French position won right in the middle of a battle.

In principle, I will have the responsibility for all of Ancient Egypt (1), except the architectural monuments, but everything has to be created, mainly the executive staff, which has to be Egyptian.

I have, for the time being, 4 capable restorers, if we don’t let them go, who can do some good work, and one very good draughtsman. But you cannot imagine how difficult it is to have Egyptian people live outside Cairo.

For 3 years we have been working on the restoration of paintings of the Theban necropolis in front of Luxor; but I have learned that this year my budget will increase from LE 1000 to LE 10000 (2). This will enable me to increase the number of staff, working for me and create a restoration centre in Cairo for the Egyptian museum where the objects are abandoned.

I live in the middle of the desert in a house (3) that was constructed some time ago by Lord Carnarvon for H. Carter, the “inventor” (4) of the Tutankhamun tomb.

If I have not made sensational discoveries, it is because this is not my role, I have nevertheless found a large sculpted tomb of a Minister of Amenophis III (5), the Louis XIV of Egypt, of which I will send you a drawing done in 1943 (6), when I discovered it.

You will not find all the delicacies and beauties of the original tomb in the drawing I send you; the scale would not permit it. But you will certainly be struck by the greatness and the nobility of the composition and by the rhythmic development of the female dancers.

Together with this drawing, I send you a study on Egyptian painting, written too quickly in 1941 in a time when I had not yet mastered this art of writing.

In a few weeks, after Ramadan – the great feast when all activities stop – I will go down the Nile in small steps, to inspect all the ancient sites.

Write to me, in Cairo, so that your letter will follow me surely. I would have great pleasure if I receive some good news.

Sincerely,


Notes:

  1. It was always thought that Stoppelaëre was in charge of restoring antiquities in the Luxor area only. Apparently, as of 1946, he was in charge of restoring all monuments in Egypt.
  2. It is the author’s believe that, being a wealthy man, Stoppelaëre paid his workers for a large part out of his own pocket. This is also suggested by Alfred Lucas who wrote in a letter to the Egyptian Government:

    “incidentally I should like to draw attention to the fact that Zaki lskander Hanna Effendi is grossly underpaid and certainly he should be promoted to the next class at the least. At present he is paid 12,- per month, the next class being double that. I am told that one or more of Stoppelaëre’s assistants, who are ‘not in the same street’ as regards to qualifications with him, have been promoted to the higher class. This does not make for satisfaction and good work.“ (Mark Gilbert: “Alfred Lucas: Egypt’s Sherlock Holmes” Published in JAIC 1997, Volume 36, Number 1, Article 3 (pp. 31 to 48).
  3. Remember that this letter was from 1946. The house we now know as “Stoppelaëre House” was not built until 1950.
  4. Considering the fact that he calls Howard Carter the “inventor” of the Tutankhamun tomb, Stoppelaëre probably wasn’t one of Carter’s fans.
  5. No other references found (yet) as to Stoppelaëre’s claim of discovering a tomb.
  6. These drawings were probably lost, although Mrs. Gard, Kickert’s daughter, will continue looking for them.

Original letter courtesy of Mrs. Gard; daughter of Conrad Kickert.
Initial translation from French to English: Raymond Betz, Groupe d’Études Égypte.
Thanks to Charlotte Booth for proof reading and editing the translated letter.

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