Egypt is trying to stop the sale of a statue of Tutankhamun’s head that is set to be auctioned by Christie’s next month.
The statue — an Egyptian brown quartzite head of Tutankhamen as the God Amen — is expected to be sold for more than £4 million (€4,493,297) on July 4.
“The facial features – the full mouth with slightly drooping lower lips, and almond-shaped, slanted eyes, with a deep depression between the eyes and eyebrows – are those of Tutankhamen,” said a press release by Christie’s.
Such representations of the God Amen were carved for the temple of Karnak in Upper Egypt, it said, adding that the statue is being sold from the Resandro Collection — a private collection of Egyptian art.
In a statement published on their Facebook page, the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities said they reached out to the auction house and the UN’s culture agency UNESCO to try to stop the sale.
Egypt said it has a claim to the artefacts under the current protection of antiquities law (article 42) and has requested to see the documents of ownership of the artefact.
The Egyptian embassy in London has been in contact with the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the auction house to stop the sale and return the statue to Egypt.
"Efforts come in the framework of the eagerness of both the ministry of foreign affairs and the effects towards the continuous coordination of the retrieving of Egyptian artefacts smuggled from abroad," it said.
But Christie's said it had established ownership and legal right to sell the statue.
"We would not offer for sale any object where there was concern over ownership or export. The work has been widely exhibited and published and we have alerted the Egyptian Embassy so they are aware of the sale," said a statement by the auction house.
"There is a long-standing and legitimate market for works of art of the ancient world, in which Christie’s has participated for generations. Christie’s strictly adheres to bilateral treaties and international laws with respect to cultural property and patrimony."
The British Foreign Ministry told Euronews in an email they have published advanced guidance to help UK art dealers and auction houses ensure "the secure provenance of cultural objects in which they deal."
They added the Egyptian ambassador had briefed them about the embassy’s concerns but they had not been asked to intervene to stop the sale and that they expected that any sale takes place in accordance with the law.
Euronews has sent a request for comment to the Egyptian Embassy in London.