A 3,000-year-old bust depicting the pharaoh Tutankhamun was sold on Thursday at Christie's London for £4.7m (US$5.9m), despite the claim from Egypt that it was a stolen artefact. No information about the buyer was revealed.
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.
However, Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities appealed to Christie's and UNESCO to halt the sale in June, and requested to see documents of proof of the lot's provenance. Egyptian officials fear the statue was taken from the Karnak temple complex, an ancient Egyptian temple precinct located on the east bank of the Nile River in Thebes (modern-day Luxor) around 1970 as other artefacts were stolen from the location at that time.
The auction house stated that they recognise the controversies this sale has caused but believe that their role today is to work to "continue to provide a transparent, legitimate marketplace upholding the highest standards for the transfer of objects." They also mentioned that Egypt has not expressed concern about the bust in the past, despite it being exhibited publicly.