Britain looking for buyer or it faces losing £6m ancient Egyptian sculpture once owned by King George III
Britain is at risk of losing a rare 2,400-year-old ancient Egyptian sculpture worth £6m and once owned by King George III because a buyer cannot be found.
The limestone statue depicting the priest Mehernefer of the vulture goddess Nekhbet seated next to his standing son, who bore the same name and was the priest of the snake goddess Wadjet
The statue, which is 64 centimetres high, has hieroglyphic inscription which says he was an agent of the king in Nubia, a partly colonised region to the south of Egypt. The statue has been restored from badly broken fragments. A third figure, representing the father’s wife, was previously cut away.
Once part of King George III’s collection, the antique was brought to the UK by Sir James Porter while he was ambassador to Constantinople in 1746–62, and is only one of a handful of figures from Egypt’s ‘old kingdom’, held in Britain.
The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, serviced by Arts Council England (ACE), which advises the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, advised the statue should be kept in the UK – leading to calls for a buyer.
The recommendation was made on all three of the so-called Waverley criteria, a series of factors which make it of national importance.
Arts and Heritage Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said: “This incredibly rare sculpture offers a fascinating glimpse into life in ancient Egypt. I hope a UK buyer can be found so that this artefact can remain in the country to be enjoyed and studied here by future generations.”
Committee member Peter Barber said “its provenance makes it of particular importance to the cultural history of Britain.
“It would be a great pity if a work so closely linked to the development of British and royal taste since the mid-eighteenth century left the United Kingdom.”
The British Museum has been asked whether it will consider the item, and Arts Council England has been asked for comment.