Egypt is going to take legal action against Christie's for selling a 3,000-year-old bust of the pharaoh Tutankhamun for £4.7m (US$5.9m) last week and has requested Interpol help track down the statue. Prior to the sale, the Egyptian embassy in London had called for the object’s repatriation as they believe that the sculpture was looted from the Karnak temple in Luxor in the 1970s.
(For more details about the sale, please see Tutankhamun Statue Sold for £4.7m at Christie's Despite Egypt's Outcry.)
The bust is sold from the Resandro Collection, one of the world’s most renowned private collections of Egyptian art. According to the auction house, the present lot was acquired from Heinz Herzer, a Munich-based dealer in 1985. Prior to this, Joseph Messina, an Austrian dealer, acquired it in 1973-74 from Prinz Wilhelm von Thurn und Taxis who reputedly had it in his collection by the 1960s.
Karnak temple, Luxor
"Christie's would not and do not sell any work where there isn't clear title of ownership and a thorough understanding of modern provenance," a statement from Christie's said. "We recognise historic objects can give rise to complex discussions about the past; our role today is to continue to provide a transparent, legitimate marketplace upholding the highest standards for the transfer of objects from one generation of collectors to the next."
Egypt says they will instruct a law firm in the UK to file a civil suit over the sale. “They left us with no other option but to go to court to restore our smuggled antiquities,” the country’s antiquities minister, Khaled el-Enany told the BBC. “We will leave no stone unturned until we repatriate the Tutankhamen bust.”