Egyptian authorities are trying to halt the sale of a Tutankhamun-like bust of Amen at Christie’s to make sure it was not looted. The sale of the bust is due July 4th by the auction house in London.
The bust is partial and about 28.5cm tall. It is made of brown quartzite and only the head portion of the statue is preserved. It represents god Amen of the New Kingdom and was created under the reign of Tutankhamun, hence it bears features associated with the pharaoh. The head is decorated by the distinctive crown of god Amen and the features of the face resemble those of Tutankhamun, namely a deep depression between the eyes, high cheekbones, a thicker upper lip and a faint smile with downturned corners, the rounded chin. The fake beard is broken.
Christie’s defines the provenance of the statue stating it was owned by Prinz Wilhelm von Thurn und Taxis who sold it in the 1970s to an Austrian dealer, Joseph Messina. Then it was sold to Arnulf Rohsmann in 1982 or 1983 and then acquired by Heinz Herzer, a dealer in Munich, in 1985. Finally, it was sold to the Resandro collection in Germany in 1985, about a month after it was bought by Herzer. However, Egyptian officials believe that the auction house cannot provide the necessary papers to prove it was removed from Egypt legally. If that is the case, then the statue should return to Egypt, they say. Dr Mostafa Waziri, Egypt’s head at the supreme council for antiquities stated that Egyptian authorities will talk to the Egyptian foreign ministry and the Egyptian ambassador in London will also try to stop the auction.
Christie’s have responded with a spokesperson stating that although the nature of ancient artefacts cannot be traced over millennia they have established recent ownership and legal right. If there were concerns over the item’s ownership it would not be offered for sale, as this is their policy.
The bust is set to be on auction on July 4th, leading The Exceptional Sale at Christie’s, and is expected to reach about £4 million if sold.