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 Fake Swimming Girls

Figures of nude or semi-nude swimming adolescent girls in heavy wigs and holding spoons seem to have been associated with fertility. They are found in a number of Egyptological collections. The Egypt Centre’s figures, 2 of which are on display in the fakes case (upstairs gallery)  also appeared in the Face of Egypt Exhibition which took place in 1997 in the Glyn Vivian Art Gallery, in Swansea (see catalogue numbers 36 and 37). Swimming girls are popular figures for forgers of ancient Egyptian artefacts. We believe that ours are also forgeries.

There are a number of reasons why we suspect their authenticity:

– The shape and proportions of W764 are not in keeping with ancient Egyptian art.

– W765 and W766 are made of lightweight wood and part covered with plaster and paint. This is not the case with other known swimming girl figures, which tend to made of fine grained wood and not painted.

– Genuine figures tend to be intricately carved. Ours are not.

Our figures do not have the intricacy of design, which other known figures do.

– Finally, other figures hold a receptacle, ours do not.

Figures of proven provenance are often represented holding a circular bowl for ointment. They evoke the goddess Nut as she brought forth the sun-god Re from the primaeval waters at the dawn of creation. Ours appear to hold a flat disc.

Such figures may have been made from ancient wood. Their quality suggests they would have been easy to manufacture and their small size may have appealed to collectors. They would thus have been easy to forge and to sell on.


















W764 was purchased by Sir Henry Wellcome at auction in 1925. It is made of finer wood than the others but has strange proportions for a genuine artefact. It is also not so finely carved as genuine items.

A similar example can be found at: http://www.collector-antiquities.com/110/

We do however have one genuine swimming girl, though this is possibly not Egyptian.

For other fakes click here

Further Reading

Delange, E. 1993. Rites et Beauté. Objets de toilette égyptiens. Paris.

Freed, R. E. 1982. Egypt‘s Golden Age. The art of living in the New Kingdom. Boston, 205-207.