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AN EGYPTIAN SILVER ROYAL DIADEM
PROPERTY FROM AN ENGLISH PRIVATE COLLECTION
AN EGYPTIAN SILVER ROYAL DIADEM

SECOND INTERMEDIATE PERIOD, 17TH DYNASTY, CIRCA 1580-1550 B.C.

Details
AN EGYPTIAN SILVER ROYAL DIADEM
SECOND INTERMEDIATE PERIOD, 17TH DYNASTY, CIRCA 1580-1550 B.C.
Consisting of a circlet constructed from a single band of sheet silver, with chased 'basket-weave' decoration, fronted by two separately made uraei, hammered and filed, each attached by two rivets, with incised cross-hatching and 'V's on their front, the heads finely modelled in the round and engraved, the rear of the diadem with separately made bow consisting of a disc with hatched border flanked by lotus buds with stippled outer petals, and pendant ribbons with 'ladder' pattern, all cut from a single sheet of silver, with traces of original gilding
7 ½ in. (19 cm.) diam., ribbon 5 ¾ in. (14.6 cm.) long
Provenance
Yorkshire Museum, York, the collection based upon the holdings of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society; sold to benefit the Museum in 1953 to Mr Kenneth A. Webster (1906-1967), London.
Margaret Burg (d. 1957), London; and thence by descent to the present owner.

Margaret Burg was a notable art dealer, collector, and art historian, receiving her doctorate in 1925 from the University of Bonn, a remarkable achievement for a woman in this period. She conducted her business alongside her husband, Dr Hermann Burg (1878-1947), who was also an art historian and dealer of antiquities; Dr Burg & Co. of Berlin and Galerie Dr Hermann Burg of Cologne traded from the 1920s onwards. As the Nazis gained supremacy in Germany, the Burgs fled, settling first in Holland, and then, in 1940, in England. They were an important presence on the art market, enjoying personal and professional relationships with many of the major names in Antiquities collecting, including Royall Tyler, founder of the collection at Dumbarton Oaks, Heidi Vollmoeller, and the Kofler-Trunigers. The Burgs also acquired pieces for museums, notably the British Museum, the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (where their papers now reside). The Burgs formed a close relationship with Leiden during their time in Holland. As the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden possesses the only other known Egyptian silver diadem, perhaps Margaret's interest in the present lot was inspired by seeing the Museum's own example years before.

There is no record of the Yorkshire Museum acquiring the diadem, though it is likely that a member of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society gifted it to the institution, as was the case with many of the pieces that formed the early collection there. In the post-war years, the Museum was under significant financial strain, and was forced to sell pieces that did not contribute to its primary focuses, which in this period were Natural History and Roman Britain. The diadem was one such sale, in April 1953; the sale is recorded in the minutes of the GPF Committee Meeting, 9th April 1953.
Exhibited
Highclere Castle, West Berkshire, 1997-1998.
Staatliche Sammlung Aegypticher Kunst, Munich, 1998.
The Egyptian Museum, Munich, 2002-2003.
The Burrell Collection, Glasgow, 2003-2004.
The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, 2006-2012.
The Houston Museum of Natural Science, 2012-January 2015.

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Georgiana Aitken
Georgiana Aitken

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Lot Essay

PUBLISHED:
N. Reeves, 'A newly discovered royal diadem of the Second Intermediate Period', Minerva, vol. 14 no. 2, March/April 1996, p. 47-8.
N. and H. Strudwick, Thebes in Egypt, London, 1999, p. 123.
A. Grimm and S. Schoske, Im Zeichen des Mondes: Ägypten zu Beginn des Neuen Reiches (= Schriften aus der Ägyptischen Sammlung, Band 7), Staatliche Sammlung Ägyptischer Kunst, Munich, 1999, p. 7, 96.
N. Reeves, Ancient Egypt: The Great Discoveries, London, 2000, p. 27-8.

Egyptian royal jewellery is exceedingly rare. There is only one other surviving Egyptian silver diadem, in the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden (inv. no. AO 11a-1). The Leiden example dates to the 17th Dynasty, and was found at Thebes in the 1820s; it is associated with the tomb of Nubkheperre Intef. The Leiden diadem and the present lot show many similarities, not only in material, but also in design and manufacture, and each was most likely made for a royal personage. The double uraei suggest that this diadem was the property of an Egyptian queen. The motif is seen in the early 18th Dynasty Theban tomb of Tetiky, where it is worn by Ahmose-Nefertari; it also occurs in images of Amenhotep III’s queen, Tiye, Akhenaten’s consort, Nefertiti, and Nefertari, wife of Ramesses II. The present lot, predating these known examples, demonstrates that this tradition was already established in the Second Intermediate Period.

Nick Reeves has suggested a connection between the present lot and the queen Mentuhotep, Great Royal Wife of the ephemeral 16th Dynasty ruler Sekhemre-Sementawy Djehuty. Her tomb is the only burial of a queen of this period to have been uncovered; it was discovered at the southern end of Dra Abu’l-Naga near Deir el-Bahari in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, and was possibly undisturbed before this. Its contents were dispersed, with the queen's canopic chest with cosmetic contents finding its way to Berlin between 1822 and 1825, via the Italian archaeologist Giuseppe Passalacqua; it is now on display at the A¨gyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung (inv. nos AM1176-1182, and 1175).

Silver was restricted to the highest echelons of Egyptian society. Due to the lack of any abundant local source, it was both rarer and more costly, and thus held in higher esteem, than gold. Commodities lists, which largely predate the Middle Kingdom, rank silver objects above those of gold, in testament to its relative importance. It is assumed that all silver was sourced from trade, booty or tribute; there are no contemporary references documenting local supplies, as opposed to the evidence for gold mining, which is frequently referred to in the historic record. It is possible that some silver, known as nebw hedj or 'white gold', originated from small deposits of silver-rich gold ore extracted alongside gold; however it is more likely that the silver used for this extraordinary royal diadem was sourced from beyond the boundaries of the Egyptian world, from the spoils of war or commerce. For a discussion of silver sources in ancient Egypt, cf. N. H. Gale and Z. A. Stos-Gale, 'Ancient Egyptian Silver', The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, vol. 67, 1981, pp. 103-115.


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