Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Met returns object to Egypt: some further thoughts

Yesterday I commented on the extraordinary story about the New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art acquiring an object so that it could be returned to Egypt. The Met has now issued a press statement.

There are several new details.

a. The granite relief fragment is inscribed with the name of Amenemhat I. Curatorial research showed it was part of a larger monument. Dorothea Arnold is quoted: "For a long time, I puzzled about the object to which this fragment belonged. I finally pieced it together when I came across a photograph showing a naos in Karnak which is missing a corner in an article by Luc Gabolde ..."

b. "The work had been on loan to The Metropolitan Museum of Art from a private owner, though the Museum had never displayed it publicly."

c. Once the identification of the piece had been made, "the Museum reached out to the owner of the work and took steps to notify the Egyptian authorities of the discovery".

d. "The Museum also arranged to purchase the work from its owner in order to take official possession of the work and return it promptly and unencumbered to Egypt".

Thomas P. Campbell, the Met's Director, provides a comment:
The Metropolitan Museum is delighted to be able to assist in returning this granite fragment to its original home. Though the fragment is small, its return is a larger symbol of the Museum's deep respect for the importance of protecting Egypt's cultural heritage and the long history of warm relations the Museum enjoys with Egypt and the Supreme Council of Antiquities.
The precedent for buying the fragment is provided by a 19th Dynasty head from the chapel of Sety I at Memphis.  In that case the piece had also been on loan from an unnamed private collector from 1996. (It had reportedly been purchased from Sotheby's in 1981, and before that had been in the collection of Mrs Richard Rogers.) It was purchased and returned to Egypt in 2001. [News story detail]


This latest return raises interesting issues. Who was the collector? Does the collector have any formal links with the Met? Why did the Met have to purchase the piece? Could the collector have been asked to return the piece directly? Is the Met trying to ensure that the collector does not suffer any consequences? Who provided the funds for the purchase? (Remember the cuts at the Met: Culturegrrl)


Perhaps the Egyptian press will provide some of the answers.

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1 comment:

David Gill said...

For an image and comment by Hawass see here.

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