A bust of Tutankhamun sold at an auction in London for over £4.7 million (€5.2 million) on Thursday despite calls from Egyptian officials for the sale to be postponed over speculation that the artefact was stolen.
The 28.5cm-high quartzite statue — which had been expected to fetch more than £4m (€4.4m) at a sale at Christie’s auction house — depicts the ancient Egyptian god of the sun and air, Amen, with the facial features of ancient boy pharaoh Tutankhamun.
Egyptian authorities have been calling for an investigation into the legitimacy of the sale, and suggested that the bust was stolen from Karnak Temple in Luxor.
Christie’s says the 3,000-year-old bust is being sold from the Resandro Collection, a private collection of Egyptian art, that was sold in part in 2016 for more than £3m (€3.3m).
In a statement, the auction house stated: “We recognise that historic objects can raise complex discussions about the past; yet our role today is to work to continue to provide a transparent, legitimate marketplace upholding the highest standards for the transfer of objects.”
“There is an honourable market for ancient art and we believe it is in the public interest that works come out into the open with the opportunity for them to be researched, as well as seen and enjoyed by global audiences,” they added.
It also told The Guardian newspaper that it had provided “extensive information” about the artefact.
It added: “We have also invited them to meet with us to review the work and discuss the provenance and accompanying documentation.
“They have not yet taken us up on this offer but we remain happy to welcome them to discuss this object and our processes.”