Tuesday - 21 October 2014

Northampton’s Egyptian statue sets £14m record amid saleroom protest

11 July 2014Written by Gabriel Berner

This 4500-year-old Egyptian painted limestone statue topped last week’s summer series of Old Masters and works of art sales in London.

Billed as one of the most important Egyptian sculptures to come to market, and remarkable for its quality, near perfect condition and impeccable provenance, the 2ft 5in (75cm) sculpture from the Old Kingdom (c.2400-2300BC) sold at Christie's evening Exceptional sale on July 10 for £14m.

From the inscription to the base the main figure was a man called Sekhemka, the Inspector of the scribes of the royal court, accompanied by his wife, Sitmerit, at his feet and their son carved in shallow relief by his other leg. It was consigned by Northampton Borough Council to help fund a £14m extension to Northampton Museum and Art Gallery, although the sale's proceeds will be shared with Lord Northampton, whose family presented the statue to the museum in 1880.

It was believed to have originally come from Egypt with the 2nd Marquess of Northampton in 1849-50.

Sale Controversy

While Arts Council England warned the museum it could lose its accreditation status, Egypt's Antiquities Ministry had also challenged the sale. Around ten protesters demanding the trade in ancient Egyptian artefacts is stopped gathered outside Christie's in King Street prior to the auction, and as bidding got under way on the lot in the saleroom, a protester interrupted auctioneer Jussi Pylkkanen shouting "nobody should bid, nobody should buy it, this belongs to my country".

Bidding resumed soon after and quickly rose above the £4m-6m estimate with six bidders active in the room and on the phones.

The battle came down to two phones before it was knocked down for a price that, with premium of 25/20/12%, is a world record for an ancient Egyptian work of art at auction according to Christie's.

 

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