The stone bust of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen went under the hammer on Thursday at an auction in London for almost $ 6 million This was reported by representatives of the auction house Christie’s, who conducted the auction in the British capital.
The unnamed buyer laid out more than 4 million 746 thousand pounds for the sculpture, taking into account the auction collection, which translates to $ 5.97 million
For this reason, 20 protesters gathered outside Christie’s office during the auction, who silently held banners with the slogan: “Egyptian history is not for sale.”
The head of Tutankhamen, depicted in the image of the sun god Amon, the earthly incarnation of which was considered a young pharaoh, is in a private collection and has not been put up for auction since 1985.
How the sculpture put up for auction came to Europe is unknown for certain. Christie’s points out that in the 1960s she was a member of the collection of the German aristocrat and collector Wilhelm Thurn and Taxis. In Christie’s reported that they notified the fact of the auction authorities in Egypt.
Tutankhamen ruled Egypt in 1332-1323 years BC. er His tomb was not ransacked and remained intact until the time of its discovery in 1922 by the British Howard Carter and Herbert Carnarvon.
Its discovery is considered to be the largest archaeological discovery of the 20th century, which caused a sharp increase in world public interest in ancient Egypt.
Unfortunately, the bust of Tutankhamen is not the only stolen work of art. Below we describe the other works of art that were illegally acquired by their owners.
Egyptian frescoes of the Louvre
Ancient frescoes, which are located in the Paris Louvre, have caused discord between the Louvre and the Egyptian government.
Zahi Hawass, head of the Egyptian Department of Antiquities, states that the Louvre bought fragments last year, despite the fact that the museum management knew that the frescoes were removed from a tomb located in the Valley of the Kings in the 1980s.
The Valley of the Kings at that time was one of the favorite places where tomb raiders were operating.
Egypt, which is committed to returning objects of ancient art that were illegally exported from the country, said that cooperation with the Louvre will be terminated if the murals do not return.
Representatives of the Louvre declare that they did not know that the frescoes were stolen, and that they would consider returning them to Egypt.
Bust of nefertiti
The bust of Nefertiti is one of the most famous works of Amarnian style and ancient Egyptian art in general, a stylized sculptural portrait of Nefertiti, the wife of the pharaoh reformer Akhenaten, who ruled Ancient Egypt around 1351-1334 BC.
The bust of Nefertiti was discovered on December 6, 1912 in Tel-el-Amarna during the excavations of the ancient city of Ahetaton, carried out under the auspices of the German Oriental Society by an archaeological expedition led by the German Egyptologist Ludwig Borchardt.
The bust was in one of the rooms in the house of the ancient Egyptian sculptor Thutmose, along with dozens of other sculptures depicting Pharaoh Akhenaten and his entourage.
In 1913, the bust of Nefertiti was exported to Germany and was kept in the house of a prominent businessman and second treasurer of the German Oriental Society, James Simon, who personally financed the excavations in Egypt.
In 1920, James Simon donated the sculpture to the Museum of West Asia in Berlin. For the first time, the sculptural portrait of Nefertiti was shown to the general public in 1924 on the Museum Island in the New Museum, specially built for the Egyptian collection.
In wartime, the bust of Nefertiti, along with other cultural treasures, was kept in the bunker of the anti-aircraft tower and the salt mine, was shown in West Berlin after the war, and in 2009 finally returned to Museum Island on display at the restored New Museum.
The bust of Nefertiti officially belongs to the Prussian Cultural Heritage Fund, however, Egypt, represented by high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Culture, continues to insist on the illegality of its export to Germany and to demand return to the country.
The Elgin Marbles are an unsurpassed collection of ancient Greek art, mainly from the Acropolis of Athens, which was brought to England at the beginning of the 19th century by Lord Elgin and is now kept in the British Museum.
The Turkish government, which showed no interest in the masterpieces of antiquity, allowed the export of everything Elgin collected to London. It took 10 years – from 1802 to 1812, and in 1804 part of the cargo sank near Kiefer Island, but was subsequently raised to the surface.
In 1806, Elgin returned to his homeland, and for 10 years the meeting remained his private property.
On the eve of the Greek Revolution, a wave of philillinism swept Britain. Lord Elgin was the target of attacks on the press by Lord Byron and other minds of the Romantic era.
Charges of acquisitions, fraud and vandalism attracted the attention of British parliamentarians to the marbles. A special commission began studying the Elgin collection and found it expedient to purchase it by the state for placement in the British Museum.
In 1816, the collection was bought from Elgin for a comparatively modest sum of 35,000 pounds.
Almost since the revival of Greek statehood, Greece has demanded that Britain return the Elgin marbles as an integral part of the national heritage.
The Greeks refuse to recognize the legitimate permission of the Turkish government to export treasures from the country. The British side, in turn, points out that Lord Elgin was driven by good intentions, and refuses to return the displaced values to the land of ancient Hellas.
Disputes about the fate of the displaced property resumed in connection with the opening of the Acropolis Museum in the 2000s.
Due to the controversial status of values, the British government has never given permission for their display outside the country.
An exception was made for the exhibition to the 250th anniversary of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg (from December 5, 2014 to January 18, 2015), at which the statue of Elissos, the ancient Greek god of the rivers, coming from the Elgin collection, was presented.
In 2009, the crater Euphronius, one of the most famous ancient Greek red-figure vases, was transferred for permanent storage to the collection of the Roman Etruscan Museum in Villa Julia.
Since 1972, the vessel was kept in the New York Metropolitan Museum, but in the 2000s it turned out that the crater had been illegally exported from Italy, and the authorities of this country had been seeking its return for several years.
The Metropolitan Museum bought a crater from an antiquary named Robert Hecht for a million dollars in 1972. The vessel was and still is considered to be one of the best examples of vazopi that have survived to our days.
In addition, this is the only fully preserved work of master Ephronius; another 27 vessels with his drawings came down to us in fragments.
In the early 2000s, the Italian authorities were able to prove that Hecht obtained a crater through people involved in illegal excavations in Cerveteri, an Etruscan city known for its rich burials.
In 2006, the Metropolitan Museum recognized that the crater should be returned to Italy, and in 2008 the vessel went on a multi-month tour of the country.
The crater Euphronia is the most famous exhibit, transferred to Italy as a result of two years of quite fierce “museum war”.
In addition to the Metropolitan Museum, antique values - only about 70 items – in recent years have returned the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Getty Museum of California, the Cleveland Museum, and the Princeton University Art Museum .
Priam’s treasure is a sensational treasure discovered by Heinrich Schliemann during his excavations in Troy. The treasure got its name from the name of the ancient king Priam.
The treasure itself was in a two-handed silver vessel. It consisted of more than 10,000 items. Most of the gold beads were about 1000 beads. Moreover, the beads were very diverse in shape — small beads, thin tubes, and beads with flattened lobes.
When the pectoral reconstruction consisting of these beads was reconstructed, it turned out twenty luxurious threads of a necklace, to the bottom of which 47 gold rods were hung, and in the center there was one very special one with thin cuts.
Also in the hoard there were earrings, in particular, “lobed”, made in the form of a semi-ring, rolled from a series of wires (from 2 to 7), at the end of the flattened. There were temporal rings – rather massive decorations, which, as was supposed by scientists later, were tied with thin cords to the ears. The treasure also contained elegant basket-shaped earrings, to which a goddess figure was attached.
Also in the hoard were bracelets, a golden headband, two golden diadems and a massive golden boat-shaped bow weighing about 600 grams, which was probably used in ritual sacrifices.
Heinrich Schliemann discovered the treasure on May 31, 1873. As Schliemann himself described, he noticed copper objects and announced a break to the workers in order to independently dig up the treasure with his wife. In reality, Schliemann’s spouse was not present at this event.
From under the shaky ancient wall, Schliemann dug out various items of gold and silver with one knife. The treasure was under the dust of millennia and a heavy fortress wall in a kind of stone box.
Schliemann feared that such valuable treasures could be confiscated by local Ottoman authorities and would become inaccessible for further scientific study, and therefore smuggled them into Athens. High Port demanded from Schliemann damages in the amount of 10,000 francs.
Schliemann offered 50,000 francs, provided that the money goes to fund archaeological work. Schliemann proposed the young Greek state to build a museum in Athens at its own expense for exposing the treasure, provided that during the life of the archaeologist the treasure remains in his property and that he will be given permission to conduct large-scale archaeological excavations in Greece.
For political reasons, Greece rejected this offer; for financial and political reasons, the museums of London, Paris and Naples also refused the Schliemann treasure. In the end, Prussia and the German Empire declared their desire to accept the treasure in the Antique Assembly.
At the end of World War II in 1945, Priam’s treasure was kept in a bunker near the Berlin Zoo. Professor Wilhelm Unferzagt, fearing the plunder of the treasure, passed it along with other works of ancient art to the Soviet commandant’s office.
As a trophy art treasure Priam was transported to the USSR. From that moment on, the fate of the treasure was unknown, and it was considered lost.
In the Soviet Union, “trophies” from Berlin were kept in a special secrecy regime, and only in 1993 the Russian government announced that the treasures of Troy were in Moscow. Only on April 16, 1996, 51 years later, was Priam’s treasure in the Pushkin Museum of Moscow.
Kohinur is a 105 carat diamond and diamond, which is currently in the crown of Queen Elizabeth (Great Britain), one of the most famous diamonds in history.
One of the largest diamonds that make up the treasures of the British royal family. Initially it had a light yellow tint, but after recutting in 1852 it became pure white.
The history of “Kohinura” can be traced reliably since 1300. Legends also tell about much earlier events associated with this stone.
In 1849, the treasury of Lahore came into the possession of the British authorities. The diamond first came to the Governor-General of India, Sir John Lawrence, and was almost lost – the governor did not attach importance to the value of the stone and only a faithful servant found him among the things of the lord.
On April 6, 1850, Kohinur left India and reached Britain on July 2, 1850. Valuable cargo was received by the Acting Chairman of the Board of Directors of the East India Company, JV Logg, who handed over the diamond, among other Indian values, to Queen Victoria.
In 1851, the diamond was exhibited at the Big Exhibition in London. In spite of the fact that a fame was fixed behind the jewel, as about a subject bringing misfortune to the owner, the queen ignored prejudices and wore it in a crown.
Indian sources say that Queen Victoria was embarrassed in front of India for the removal of the Kohinur stone.
In 1852, the diamond was cut in Amsterdam and acquired a flat shape. The mass of the stone during recutting decreased from 191 to 108.9 carats.
The expediency of recutting caused a lot of doubts and criticism, since the operation itself over the world famous diamond, with significant historical and cultural value, which eventually lost more than 42% of its precious mass, is very doubtful.
In 1853, Kohinur was encrusted with the British royal crown as part of another 2000 smaller diamonds.
Now Kohinur as part of the Crown of Queen Elizabeth is kept in the Tower.
In early December 2015, it became known that a group of Indian citizens was about to file a lawsuit against Britain for the return of the Kohinur diamond, which adorns the crown of Elizabeth II . According to them, the gem was illegally exported by the British from India.
Earlier, Pakistani lawyer Jawad Iqbal Jafri, who sued the British Queen Elizabeth II and Pakistani authorities, demanded that the diamond be returned. However, the court of the city of Lahore dismissed his claim.
Chinese bronze figurines
Sale of two Chinese statues of the Qing dynasty at Christie’s auction caused sharp criticism from the authorities of the PRC to the organizers of the auction. Both pieces of art were part of the collection of Yves Saint Laurent.
For the bronze sculptures depicting the heads of a rat and a rabbit that once decorated the zodiacal fountain of the summer palace of Emperor Qing Moon “Yuanmingyuan”, an anonymous buyer laid out 15 745 000 euros from his own pocket.
Objects of fierce dispute about 150 years in the number of palace treasures were taken out of China by French and British troops besieging Beijing.
Five bronze statues of the fountain – a monkey, a bull, a tiger, a horse and a pig – were able to return to China thanks to the state-owned company Poly Group and Macau magnate Stanley Ho, who bought them at auction, and are now on display in Beijing.
With the help of a private entrepreneur, the National Treasure Fund, which deals with the return of the stolen valuables, returned another statue.
As the state administration on the cultural heritage of the PRC insists, “the items appearing were illegally removed from the country.”
“In recent years, Christie’s has often sold objects of cultural heritage that were stolen or smuggled out of China,” the administration said, stressing that the organizers of the auction had repeatedly called to remove both statuettes from the auction.
However, the Paris court, having considered the case of the possibility of placing two bronze heads of animals from the zodiacal clepsydra (water clock) of the summer palace of the Chinese emperor Qing Luna, located in the unique art collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berger , for auction “Christie”, ruled in favor of auction house.
A Paris court also ruled that representatives of the Chinese side must pay a thousand euros in fines to the Christie’s auction house and Pierre Berge’s company, respectively.