The culprit was likely Vassalli, the person credited with discovering and removing the painting, Tiradritti said. Vassalli was a curator at the Museum Bulaq in Cairo and was an accomplished artist, having studied painting at the Accademia di Brera in Milan, said Tiradritti. [Gotcha! Tales of 8 Famous Art Forgers]
While he is credited with finding and removing the painting, Vassalli never published a word about it, which is unusual given that he loved to talk about his discoveries in Egypt, Tiradritti noted.
"In the manuscripts of Vassalli, there is not mention of the 'Meidum Geese,' and that can be taken as a proof 'ab silentio,' given the fact that he used to mention his exploits even years after he made them. It is highly likely that Vassalli has to be considered the real author of 'the Geese,'" wrote Tiradritti.
The reason why Vassali forged the painting is a mystery. Tiradritti said the man could have done it because a painting was needed at the Museum Bulaq, or he could have simply done it for fun.
Although Vassali didn't write about the painting, he may have left behind a mark of his work.
While investigating remains from the Atet Chapel, Tiradritti noticed a fragment of painting that Vassalli supposedly found. It was painted with an image of a vulture and a basket. These two signs have meanings in Egypt's hieroglyphic language that spell the initials for Vassalli's second wife Gigliati Angiola.
Tiradritti wrote that the "basket can be read as a 'G,' while the vulture corresponds to an 'A,' giving room to the hypothesis that they have to be interpreted as a monogram."
His finds will be shocking to Egyptologists and art historians, Tiradritti told Live Science in an email. After his work is published, he will be able to get more feedback.
"I already announced it to some of my colleagues, and their first reaction ranged from astonishment to disbelief. At the end, they had to admit that what I am affirming could be likely," he said.
Tiradritti said he hopes that his research will help scholars think more critically about ancient art, especially pieces being sold today on the art market. "I would like to alert my colleagues and invite them to look at the Egyptian art in a different way. We strongly need to revise it."
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