The Egyptian Embassy is calling on British auction house Christie’s to halt the sale of an ancient bust of King Tutankhamun, a piece valued at nearly $5 million (£4 million), according to officials.
The Daily Mail reported that officials with the Egyptian Embassy in London have asked Britain to step in and prevent the July sale of the 3,000-year-old artifact, which they say was looted from the Karnak Temple in Luxor.
The brown quartzite sculpture, which Christie’s says provides viewers an “exceptional representation of the King,” is set to go to auction on July 4.
Not only are Egyptian officials working to put a stop to the sale of the Tut bust, but have also called for the halt of all other Egyptian items scheduled for auction on July 3 and 4. Zahi Hawass, a former antiquities chief for the North African nation, emphasized the importance of valid ownership certificates and told The Independent he suspected Christie’s “would not have any proof whatsoever of its ownership.”
Egyptian officials have since threatened to get Interpol involved should it find that any Egyptian piece has been illegally removed from the country.
“We will never allow anyone to sell any ancient Egyptian artifact,” a spokesman for the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities said in a statement.
Still, Christie’s said it has no concerns over the bust’s ownership, arguing that “ancient objects by their nature cannot be traced over millennia.”
“It is hugely important to establish recent ownership and legal right to sell which we have clearly done,” a spokesman for the auction house told The Independent. “We wouldn’t offer for sale any object where there was concern over ownership or export.”
The spokesman added that “Christie’s strictly adheres to bilateral treaties and international laws with respect to cultural property and patrimony,” and that Egypt was alerted to the sale beforehand.
According to the company’s listing, the King Tut piece is being sold by the Resondro Collection, which it lauds as “one of the world’s most renowned private collections of Egyptian art.” Christie’s said Resondro acquired the statue from Heinz Herzer, a Munich-based dealer, back in 1985.
Before then, the pricey piece of art belonged to Austrian dealer Joseph Messina, who acquired it in 1973-74 from Prinz Wilhelm von Thurn und Taxis. Taxis had reportedly added the piece to his collection by the 1960s, according to the auction company.
Earlier this year, Egypt said it recovered an ancient stone tablet that had been stolen from the country and taken to the U.K. The artifact was saved after it was found for sale in an unnamed auction house in London.