PETER FROST, a modern scribe meets another – and this one is four and a half thousand years old.
A 4,400-year-old Egyptian statue, owned by the people of Northampton will go under the hammer at Christie’s Auction House on July 10. The ancient work of art is expected to sell for between £4 and £6 million.
Northampton Borough Council [NBC] has brushed aside protests and confirmed the sale of the statue of the Egyptian court scribe Sekhemka.
The Tory Council, and its leader David Mackintosh (below), has made an agreement with the Marquis of Northampton, whose ancestors gave the statue to the people of the town, to sell the statue and split the proceeds.
Mackintosh is also prospective Tory candidate for the next General Election.
The shameful sell-off has caused outrage in the town and in the wider world. Mackintosh and his fellow philistines on the council aren’t even likely to make much money out of this greedy attempt to sell of the family silver.
Concerned locals have not been slow to point out that the sale is so unethical it will lead to the museum losing its accreditation with the Museums Association and thus cut off a huge resource in grants and other museum funding.
The powerful limestone statue of Scribe Sekhemka – his name means stong of soul – and his wife was made in about 2400 BC. Sekhemka was a man of some importance. He is named in an inscription on the plinth of his statue as “Inspector of Scribes in the House of Largesse, one revered before the Great God”.
Sekhemka is shown holding a roll of papyrus on which are listed offerings including bread, beer, wine, perfume, cedar oil and linen clothing.
At Sekhemka’s feet is a woman on a much smaller scale. She is Sit-merit, the scribe’s wife. You can just make out that her body was originally painted with a dark blue dress. Both his and her fine wigs show their high rank in society.
The statue was acquired by Spencer Compton, the second Marquis of Northampton, during a trip to Egypt in 1850 – a time when many rich British aristocrats were touring the world and either looting or buying cheaply the art treasures of other cultures to fill their stately homes or private museums.
Sekhemka was taken from the necropolis at Saqqara near Cairo.
After some time, nearly a century ago, Lord Northampton’s family donated the statute to the people of Northampton. However once a sale was in the offing the present Lord Northampton (below) made it clear he wanted a share of the cash.
Now the Council have agreed his lordship will receive 45 per cent of the sale price and the borough council will get 55 per cent but only after paying the large amount of fees and commission demanded by the Auction house.
It is well known that the private sale of antiquities encourages looting, smuggling and corruption especially in countries where the political situation is unstable. Northampton’s council’s sell-off of its Egyptian treasure will contribute to this shadowy world of dealing in antiquities.
Local campaigners are fighting to stop the sale. They argue the legal situation is still unclear and that the sale of the statue may yet be postponed or even prevented by legal questions surrounding its ownership.
They also plan to ask the Arts Council and Department for Culture, Media and Sport prevent the statue leaving the UK if sold, as expected, to an overseas buyer.
The Save Our Sekhemka Group believe that Northampton Borough Council has already spent over £40,000 on legal advice to facilitate the sale and guarantee the Marquis of Northampton his cash windfall.
All kinds of National bodies such as the Arts Council, the Arts Fund and the Museums Association have criticised the sale of the Sekhemka statue.
If the sale does go ahead the Museums Association and the Arts Council have stated that the Northampton Council, and their museums, could well lose accreditation thus cutting off access to funding, loans and touring exhibitions.
It is just another example of short-sighted and short term Tory austerity policies up and down the country. They sell the family silver and end up with very little to show for it.