The British Museum’s plan to lend 500 objects to Abu Dhabi for five years has expanded to include highlights of the London institution’s collection—and we can now reveal the list of objects that the museum has earmarked to send.
The loans are to the Zayed National Museum, which is due to open in 2016. The British Museum will get a substantial fee, although it has declined to reveal the amount.
The museum initially planned to send objects from its stores, excluding works that were on display or were likely to be shown. But the loans now include important pieces that the museum classes among its 5,000 “highlights” (these items are lent to international exhibitions, but nearly always on a short-term basis, usually three to six months). Critics are likely to ask whether so much should be lent to the Gulf for so long.
The items that have been earmarked—the museum stresses that the loans have not yet been formally agreed—include Assyrian reliefs and cuneiform tablets, Sasanian gold belt fittings, Phoenician jewellery, Fayum portraits, Indus antiquities, Greek and Roman jewels, Byzantine objects, Ming porcelain, Mughal miniatures, Japanese scrolls and European decorative art.
Specific items include two pieces from the Oxus treasure (fourth to fifth century BC): a ceremonial gold sword-sheath and a silver statuette of a Persian king, discovered in the 1870s on what is now the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. The list also includes a Cycladic figure of a woman (2600-2400BC), a Sasanian silver bowl depicting King Bahram Gur hunting lions (fifth to seventh century BC), an Achaemenid silver bowl from Anatolia (fifth century BC), an Egyptian mummified falcon (Ptolemaic), a Gandhara stone Buddha (second to third century), two Palmyran funerary busts (AD150-200), a Herat brass ewer from Afghanistan (late 12th to early 13th century) and a set of ten drawings (1532-43) by Hans Holbein the Younger, featuring pearls from the Gulf.
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