Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tomb of Iurudef: Ushabti Returned from Holland

In May there were two linked news stories relating to Egyptian antiquities: the fragment from the Tomb of Mutirdis (TT410) being offered at auction by Bonhams, and a second piece in Holland. The news story had appeared in Daily News Egypt on May 1, 2008:

They also announced that in collaboration with Egypt’s ambassador to Holland, a 19th Dynasty green ushabti figure of a woman called Hener was also taken out of an auction sale and will be returned to Egypt.

The figure had been stolen from a Saqqara storehouse and is now at the Leiden Museum awaiting its journey back in accordance with an Amsterdam court verdict.

A press release, "A stolen ushebti found in The Netherlands returns to Egypt" (July 22, 2008), has now been issued. There are several things to note.

First, the 19th Dynasty faience ushabti of a woman, Hener, came from the tomb of Iurudef at Saqqara. This tomb had been excavated by a team from Leiden in 1985.

Second, the piece seems to have been stolen from the "Sekhemkhet magazine" in Saqqara, probably around 1987. (For related thefts from Saqqara stores: mummy mask; Middle Kingdom alabaster duck.)

Third, the ushabti is said to have passed into a "German collection".

Fourth, a private collector purchased the ushabti "in good faith" at an (unspecified) art fair.

Fifth, the collector showed the ushabti to curatorial staff in Leiden in July 2006.

Sixth, the Art Loss Register has been mediating. (This is what the ALR does best: identifying known objects that have been stolen. The staff of the ALR should be congratulated on this satisfactory outcome.)

It would be interesting to have more detail. What is the German collection? Which art fair and who was the vendor? And what is the auction sale mentioned in the original story?

Martin, G.T., Raven, Maarten J., and David A. Aston. 1986. The Tomb-Chambers of Iurudef: Preliminary Report on the Saqqara Excavations, 1985, JEA 72: 15-22. (Hener: p. 19) [JSTOR]
Raven, M.J., and D.A. Aston. 1991. The Tomb of Iurudef, a Memphite Official in the Reign of Ramesses II. Leiden: National Museum of Antiquities Leiden / London: Egypt Exploration Society. [WorldCat]

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