Head sold at Christie’s stolen from Libya
Italian buyer has voluntarily relinquished the work
By Martin Bailey. News, Issue 229, November 2011
Published online: 31 October 2011
london. A Roman head of a woman, which was sold at Christie’s in London on 14 April, had been stolen in Libya. It was bought at auction by an Italian for £91,250 and has now been recovered in Italy by the carabinieri.
Christie’s described it as “a Roman marble portrait head of a woman, circa first century AD”, suggesting that the life-size sculpture had been made in “an eastern workshop, perhaps Egypt”. The provenance was given as “private collection, Switzerland, circa 1975; acquired by the present owner in Switzerland in 1988”. At the time of the sale, an archaeologist contacted Christie’s to warn that lot 261 was the head of a statue at the Sabratha Museum, west of Tripoli; it had been detached and stolen in 1990.
A Christie’s spokesman said: “Additional information was brought to our attention after the auction. We subsequently cancelled the sale and are assisting all relevant bodies with the return of this object.”
The Italian buyer voluntarily relinquished the head and is being reimbursed by Christie’s. On 28 September, an international team of cultural heritage specialists visited Sabratha and saw the body of the sculpture from which the head was stolen.
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