Despite an eleventh-hour intervention by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities the controversial sale of the Egyptian limestone statue of the Inspector of the Scribes – Sekhemka – meaning ‘strong of soul’, went ahead yesterday at Christies auctioneers in London and sold for £15,762,500 ($27,001,163).
The bidding for the statue moved at an amazing rate, starting at £3 million and shooting up in million-pound bids before finishing at £14 million, less than five minutes later.
The small size of the wife Sit-merit emphasises the importance of Sekhemka as the owner of the tomb. (photo: Christies)
Once commission and charges have been added, the total sale price was £15.76 million. No details are yet known about who has bought the statue.
The Museum Association said earlier this week that it would review the Northampton museum’s membership if the sale went ahead, which it said breached ethical guidelines.
However the leader of the council David Mackintosh said he did not see why this should happen.
He said that having kept Arts Council England “informed of our actions and plans… we see no reason why we should not retain our accredited status.”
“The statue has not been on display for four years, and no-one had asked to see it in that time,” he told the BBC.
Details of the scroll held by Sekhemka (photo: Christies)
Members of the Save Sekhemka Action Group have led a determined campaign to stop the sale, and protested outside the auction house during the sale.
Sue Edwards from the Save Sekhemka Group, told reporters it was “the blackest day in Northampton’s cultural history ever” and the town had been “shamed across the world”.
Protesters outside Christie’s of London before the auction on Thursday evening
Ruth Thomas, also of the group, said, “I just hope it is bought by an international museum and doesn’t end up in a private collection to gather dust.”
Before the auction, Egyptian Ambassador to the United Kingdom Ahsraf Elkholy condemned the sale as an “an abuse to Egyptian archaeology and the cultural property”.
He said: “Our objection starts from this basic principle – how can a museum sell a piece in its collection when it should be on display to the public?”
Ahsraf Elkholy, the Egyptian Ambassador to the UK, condemned the sale
The ambassador said: “We are concerned this piece may be moved into a private collection.”
The 7th Marquess of Northampton, who last year wed for the sixth time, is due to receive £6 million from the sale, after striking a private deal with Northampton council.