The Metropolitan Museum NY buys Egyptian collection

When I first read that the Metropolitan Museum in NY had bought a collection of Egyptian objects from Bonhams Fine Art & Antiques dealers in London, I wondered if this action actually represented a better solution than the items being sold privately, given the ongoing debate surrounding Egyptian artefacts being held outside Egypt. However, given the vulnerability of collections in Egypt under the current political situation, it does seem these items will be safer at the Met. (Last year the Malawi Museum in Minya, a city 300klms from Cairo, was looted and a 1000 items lost.)

The Harageh (Tomb 72) collection from the second millennium B.C.E. has been held by the St. Louis Archaeological Society and was offered for sale because the society was unable to raise ongoing storage costs to house the collection. There does seem to have been much debate and conflict in the St. Louis society over this action, with the society’s president resigning. The history of St. Louis donors to underwrite the dig by famed British archaeologist Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie, and subsequently be gifted the collection in 1914 seems like a unique and interesting story in its own right.

Bonhams describes the group as “an important Egyptian tomb group from Harageh Middle Kingdom, 12th Dynasty, probably the reign of Sesostris II, circa 1897-1878 B.C.” From a photo provided by Bonhams Auctioneers/AP, the pieces look delicate, the jewellery finely crafted and colourful, unique and exotic. According to online sources (see references below) the collection consists of 37 pieces: Five banded travertine objects, comprising a cosmetic spoon with the handle in the form of an ankh-sign and a small vase with a stopper a bag-shaped flask, a kohl-pot, and a cosmetic vase with lid; seven silver cowrie shells; 14 silver-mounted shell pendants; 10 silver and hard-stone inlaid jewellery elements; and a unique silver bee-shaped jewel, inlaid with lapis lazuli (reminiscent of tales of Arabian nights), carnelian and glass. The estimates value was £80,000 - 120,000.

References:

The Arts Newspaper, retrieved 2/10/2014, http://www.theartnewspaper.com/articles/St-Louis-archaeological-society-sells-Egyptian-treasure/35718

Art, Antiques, Design, http://www.art-antiques-design.com/featureDetails.cfm?featureID=928

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Copyright: Jessica Syme 2014