As reported last week, an important collection of Egyptian antiquities, the Harageh Treasure, was withdrawn from auction at Bonhams in London, where it had been consigned by the Archaeological Institute of America St Louis Society, with an estimated sale price of £80,000 to £120,000. It has since been revealed that the Treasure had been bought by the Metropolitan Museum in New York by private treaty sale.
This outcome will likely satisfy the condition upon which the Society first acquired the Treasure in 1914: that it be kept in a public collection. For nearly one hundred years, the Treasure had been bailed by the Society to the St Louis Art Museum. The potential breach of this condition had been the source of outrage in the archaeological community – most notably at the UCL Petrie Museum, the Egypt Exploration Society and the national office of the Archaeological Institute of America.
Those groups will be happy with the latest development. The Met is one of the best institutions in the world to care for and display the Treasure. The only sour note may be for the smaller St Louis Art Museum, which will see one of its important Egyptian collections move to the Big Apple.
But at least that’s better than having it stored in the vaults of some private collector…