The Six Million Dollar King
President Abraham Lincoln’s Bible vs. a King Tutankhamun (“Tut”) Bust.
Two pieces of history — each carrying the weight of immense national pride for the individual subject — have interestingly, in recent days, moved in opposite directions for its next prized resting place. The Lincoln Bible has been donated by a private collector, legitimately passed down through generations, to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois.
Conversely, a roughly 3,000-year-old bust of King Tut referred to as “the boy king,” is heading for Christie’s high-end auction block for sale by a private collector. However, the rub is that there is speculation in Egypt that the bust was stolen. Therefore, Christie’s has no right to sell what is viewed by some as a priceless work of art of one of Egypt’s most famous individuals.
Who is right? Christie’s or Cairo?
However you may feel upon reading the following, this actually seems like a question for fictional adventurer and professor of history Indiana Jones or author Dan Brown and his fictional (though based loosely on himself) Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon to resolve.
Or maybe the decision should be up to real art collector and King Tut impression extraordinaire Steve Martin?
Returning back to the real world, Egypt’s only claim appears to be limited to speculation of theft. Still, one has to have sympathy for antiquities professionals in Cairo, like former Egyptian antiquities minister Zahi Hawass, featured in the video above, because of the definitive ambiguity surrounding the sculpture’s origin story. It’s quite difficult to determine a clear right and wrong regarding the near-future ownership of King Tut’s sculpture.
Regardless, the auction took place yesterday at the famous Christie’s auction house, as reported by CBS News.
“A sculpture of King Tut’s head was sold at Christie’s for $6 million Thursday.”
A prized American treasure of the past, Abraham Lincoln’s Bible is in a museum for all to see while a prized Egyptian treasure of the ancient past, a sculpture of King Tut, will be displayed by a private collector for a restricted audience to witness in awe. This is a fascinating debate on public ownership vs. private ownership and the ever-changing value of art inside the debate of perception vs. reality.
As the legal adage goes, “possession is nine-tenths of the law.”
Unlike King Tut, Cairo’s claim of one-tenth of the law won’t peacefully rest for eternity until the face of its country is returned.
And the rest of us are hoping to serendipitously score an invitation to an exclusive home art show that will display more than just macaroni art on the fridge.