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Tutankhamun head stolen or not?

Tutankhamun, an auction that makes people talk

It is not easy to see on the world antiquarian market a large find from the 18th dynasty of ancient Egypt.

So when the famous British auction house Christie’s beat at auction for 4.7 million pounds(4.8 million dollars) a head of Tutankhamon, great was the wonder of the experts.

Egypt vs Christie’s

In a few days a controversy arose: the Egyptian authorities have indeed announced that they will sue Christie's, because the find, a 28 cm high fragment of a 3,300-year-old brown quartzite statue depicting the pharaoh Tutankhamon in the guise of the god Amon, it would actually have been stolen from the Karnak temple in the seventies and Egypt now demands its return.

They have left us no alternative but to assert our reasons in court”, the Egyptian minister of antiquities, Khaled el-Enany, told the BBC, adding: “we will do everything to make Tutankhamun's head return to Egypt”.

tutankhamon testa bis

Is Tutankhamun's head a stolen relic?

According to Christie’s reconstruction, the head would have belonged to the prince Wilhelm von Thurn und Taxis since 1960, who in 1973 (or 1974, the date is not certain) sold it to the Austrian merchant Joseph Messina.

The latter in turn sold it between 1982 and 1983 to his German colleague Heinz Herzer who in 1985 sold it to the Resandro Collection (a pair of German collectors who over the years it has collected one of the most important Egyptian art collections in Europe), which in turn has now resold the ancient Egyptian relic through Christie's.

Transfer of ownership appearing doubts

Pity, points out the Association for research into crimes against art (Arca), that Herzer is not new to dealing stolen works, as in the case of the Athlete of Fano, that Italy has long been asking for back at the Getty Museum of Los Angeles, which bought it from Herzer (who would have bought the stolen relic in 1971).

It also seems strange to Arca that the statue may have been previously acquired by Messina, owner of a small gallery, while there would be no certain evidence of his previous possession by the prince Wilhelm von Thurn und Taxis.

Christie’s reiterates: legitimate origin

Christie’s refer to the sender accusations and doubts and stresses the research done on previous transfers of property were accurate “accurate” and that it would never have accepted to auction a relic that could even be suspected to have been stolen.

Tutankhamon's head, adds Christie’s (which did not disclose the identity of the buyer) in the last 30 years it has been repeatedly exhibited in exhibitions and published in its catalogs without Egypt ever claiming it back.

Waiting to see who is right, the risk now is that the mysterious buyer may decide that it is better to close the head of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh in some armored depot until the waters have calmed down.

Tags: Ancient Egypt, Archaeology, history