Dating to the end of the 19th Dynasty (c.1193-1185BC), the 2ft (61cm) sculpture depicts a husband and wife seated on a throne. Text identifies them as Sethmose, the overseer of the cattle and high priest of the gods Anhur and Sobek, and his wife Isisnofret.
Thomas Cook legacy
Thomas Cook, which went into liquidation last September, was founded in Leicester in 1841 and initially organised trips by rail between cities in the Midlands for supporters of the Temperance movement.
Cook’s son John Mason Cook (1834-99) was instrumental in expanding the company’s expeditions to the Middle East and success in Egypt came with the first period of British rule starting in 1882. He was presented with the New Kingdom period figure by the Egyptian administration in recognition of his contribution to tourism on and around the Nile.
It was reportedly used as a doorstop for more than 50 years by the travel agents. The statue, acquired from the Thomas Cook administrators for £150,000 with contributions from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and The Leicester Archaeological & Historical Society, will be on view at the Egyptian Gallery of the city’s New Walk Museum.
It will join two sarcophagi acquired by John Cook from the French Egyptologist Sir Gaston Maspero and later presented to the museum.
Joanna Jones, head of arts, museums, festivals and events at Leicester City Council, said: “We are very grateful to everyone involved in bringing this beautiful statue to Leicester. It is not only an important addition to [the city’s] fabulous Egyptian collection, but it’s also another link to the Thomas Cook story – and a reminder that, thanks to Thomas Cook, Leicester can rightly call itself the birthplace of tourism.”
Following the closure of the travel company, other elements of the Thomas Cook collection have already been moved to Leicester.
After a bidding process in January, the Cook archive of souvenirs, posters, staff uniforms and some 60,000 photographs was acquired by the Leicestershire County Council record office.