Cultural objections 2

Pandora’s Box in Greek mythology, taken from the myth of Pandora’s creation in Hesiod’s Works and Days, was a large jar given to Pandora that contained all the evils of the world. This summer, an artefact was sold that had been the subject of a gift almost 135 years ago. The sale will be viewed as a success by the parties, who will now share the proceeds of the sale, but like the opening of Pandora’s Box the consequences of that act may yet turn out to be seriously difficult and have widespread repercussions.

In May 2013, Spencer Compton, 7th Marquess of Northampton, challenged the decision of Northampton Borough Council to put up for sale a statue, sculpted around 2400 BC, of an Egyptian official called Sekhemka. The basis of the Marquess’s challenge appears to have been that, under the terms of a deed executed in 1880, his ancestor, the 4th Marquess, had granted his collection including the statue to the Mayor, Aldermen and Burgesses of Northampton (‘the corporation’), later statutorily re-established as the council:

‘…on condition that… the corporation… for ever hereafter exhibit the same freely to the public… and at no time dispose of any part… in default whereof at any time the said collection shall revert and be restored to the Marquis his heirs or assigns… or be disposed of as he may direct.’ …

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