The campaign to save the statue of Sekhemka, an ancient Egyptian limestone statue of the inspector of the scribes, which was featured in TNN last month, has heated up today.
The statue, which is being sold by Northampton museum in England at Christies auctioneers in London on Thursday, 10 July, has come to the attention of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. The ministry issued a statement today slamming the sale and urging everyone to participate in the campaign to stop it.
The statue which was given to the museum by the Marquess of Northampton around 1850 has ignited fiery debate since it was decided that it would be sold by Northampton council. They wants to use the money to pay for renovations at the museum.
A crusade to save the statue was launched by the Save Sekhemka Action Group on Facebook in October 2012, by people who were outraged about the sale and the impact this would have on the museum and the heritage of Northampton.
The Museum Association (MA) has urged the council to rethink its decision, as it could lose its accreditation and membership of the MA.
David Fleming, chairman of the MA’s ethics committee, said: “We do appreciate the huge financial pressure that many local museums are under at the present time, but the MA’s code of ethics provides for such a sale only as a last resort. We would urge the council to seek alternative sources of funding before undertaking the sale of such an important item with a long history of association with the area. The MA cannot endorse the sale.”
It was the second Marquess of Northampton who acquired the statue and gifted it to the museum on the understanding it was for the people of the town. If this condition was ever breached the statue should go back to the Marquess or his descendants.
2nd Marquess of Northampton who donated the statue to the museum
The Save Sekhemka campaign had hoped this clause would prevent the sale of the statue, however the council and the present Marquess have come to an agreement to share the proceeds.
The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities has addressed the International Council of Museums (ICOM) to stop the sale, which breaches all museum ethics.
Northampton Council is selling the statue to pay for renovations at the museum
A spokeswoman for Northampton Council said Eqypt had no right to reclaim the statue and this had been confirmed after an investigation.
The spokeswoman said: “We contacted the Egyptian government two years ago regarding our plans to sell Sekhemka. According to UNESCO’s 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing Ilicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, Egypt has no right to claim the recovery of the statue, as the statue left Egypt before this convention was put in place and this was confirmed by the Egyptian Government on 15 June this year.”
Georgiana Aitken, Head of Antiquities at Christie’s in London has said that the statue is the most important Egyptian sculpture ever to come on to the market.
“It is over 4,500 years old, is remarkable in terms of its exceptional quality, in near perfect condition and has impeccable provenance. It is unquestionably a masterpiece of Egyptian art,” she said.
Georgiana Aitken, Head of Antiquities at Christies in London, said that the statue is the most important Egyptian sculpture ever to come on to the market
It is to go to auction at the world famous Christie’s auction house in London as part of its Exceptional Sale in three days time, on Thursday 10 July and is expected to sell for between £4-6 million.