Abstract The identity of the owner of an anonymous Egyptian collection, sold by Sotheby’s in London on 15–16 March 1833, has long been debated. Some attributed it to Henry Salt, the British Consul-General in Egypt from 1815 to 1827, while others gave it to his successor, John Barker. A new piece of evidence allows us to demonstrate that this collection did indeed once belong to John Barker. This is potentially enlightening for the history of archaeological excavation in Egypt in the 1830s and 1840s, a period less well-known than the first three decades of the nineteenth century, when Bernardino Drovetti and Henry Salt held an effective monopoly. The French campaign in Egypt (1798–1801) and its associated scientific expedition shone a spotlight for Europeans on the ancient culture of Egypt. The subsequent publication of the Description de l’Égypte between 1809 and 1821 gave access to an enhanced level of documentation for the ancient sites, and the volume took its place in scholarly libraries alongside William Hamilton’s Ægyptiaca (1809). Both the French and the English continued to play a prominent role in political matters in nineteenth-century Egypt and the consuls from both countries maintained regular contact with the Ottoman military commander Muhammad Ali. In addition to their political activities, two of them became well known as collectors of antiquities, Bernardino Drovetti (1776–1852) and Henry Salt (1780–1827). As Richard Burton vividly described it a few years later Nile-land was then, as now, a field for plunder; fortunes were made by digging, not gold, but antiques; and the archaeological field became a battle-plain for two armies of Dragomans and Fellah-navvies. One was headed by the redoubtable Salt; the other owned the command of Drovetti, or Drouetti, the Piedmontese Consul and Collector, whose sharp Italian brain had done much to promote the great Pasha’s interests.1 The first thirty years of the nineteenth century in Egypt are therefore known as the period of the consul-collectors, although both men are now regarded more as looters than as proto-archaeologists.2 Recent studies have proven the strong link between the collecting of antiquities and the prevailing political context.3 Muhammad Ali regularly delivered his firmans – authorizations for excavating and exporting antiquities – to a small number of selected Europeans, leading Donald Malcom Reid to write that ‘antiquities were primarily bargaining chips to be exchanged for European diplomatic and technical support.’4 With the help of agents such as Giovanni d’Athanasi (1798–1854), Giovanni Battista Belzoni (1778–1823) and Jean-Jacques Rifaud (1786–1852), Drovetti and Salt created extensive collections of Egyptian antiquities. Until the introduction in 1835 of the first legislation controlling the exportation of antiquities from Egypt, a considerable number of ancient Egyptian objects reached Europe through Drovetti and Salt, as well as contemporaries such as the Swedish-Norwegian consul Giovanni Anastasi (1780–1860), or wealthy travellers, like the 2nd Earl Belmore (1774– 1841) and William John Bankes (1786–1855). Henry Salt began to gather antiquities soon after his arrival in Egypt in 1816. Between then and his sudden death in 1827 he sold a first collection of objects to the British Museum and a second one to the Louvre. The period between his death and the sale of the remainder of his collection by Sotheby’s in 1835 is poorly documented and many questions relating to it remain unanswered, such as the manner in which Salt’s agent, Giovanni d’Athanasi, kept up his activities at that time.5 Regarding Salt’s professional success, things are simpler: John Barker (1771–1849), consul in Alexandria since June 1826, acted as Consul-General after Salt’s premature death and succeeded formally to the position on 30 June 1829; he held that office until January 1833. Barker has long been credited with having formed a personal collection while in Egypt, seemingly through Salt’s network. A newly discovered source allows us now to confirm that he was in fact the owner of the collection sold anonymously by Sotheby’s in London on 15–16 March 1833. The suggestion that this was the case had been made initially on the basis of a figure of Panehsy in the British Museum (inv. no. ea1377): the statue bears on its back the inscription ‘barker’6 and there can be no doubt that it corresponds to lot 245 of the Sotheby sale.7 Ownership of that collection, however, has also been attributed to Salt: for example, Gerry D. Scott makes this assumption in an article written in 2007,8 in which he focuses on a statue of Sekhmet that entered the San Antonio Museum of Art’s collections in 2004.9 This sculpture, although new to the San Antonio museum, was in fact already well known to Egyptologists, since it formerly belonged to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York;10 before that, it was in the possession of Lord Amherst (Didlington Hall, Norfolk) who purchased it from John Lee (Hartwell House, Buckinghamshire) in 1864 or early 1865.11 This statue entered the Metropolitan Museum in 1915, along with six other representations of the goddess Sekhmet (Figs 1–2).12 Following Albert M. Lythgoe,13 Scott relies on the signature of Giovanni d’Athanasi on ‘a most splendidly illuminated manuscript, on vellum’ to relate the 1833 sale to Salt’s estate. As with the presence of Barker’s signature on the Panehsy sculpture, however, this scarcely proves anything, for the multiplicity of sales of Egyptian antiquities during the 1830s could easily have created confusion regarding the ownership of these collections.14 The fact that eight years separate the death of Salt and the sale of 1835 remains also a source of mystery and leaves open the possibility that parts of the Salt collection might have been sold off in the meantime. At the same time, d’Athanasi continued excavating on his own account after Salt’s death, and it might also be suggested that he could have offered his services to the newly appointed consul, John Barker, when Salt passed away. We should also bear in mind that d’Athanasi may have derived a large part of his income from the money that Salt gave him to fund the excavations made on his behalf, with an additional amount – possibly quite modest – earned from the objects sold to tourists. It seems perfectly plausible to suggest that he may have looked for another sponsor after Salt’s death. Fig. 1. View largeDownload slide Statue of the Goddess Sekhmet, Metropolitan Museum of Art, inv. no. 15.8.1. Fig. 1. View largeDownload slide Statue of the Goddess Sekhmet, Metropolitan Museum of Art, inv. no. 15.8.1. Fig. 2. View largeDownload slide Statue of the Goddess Sekhmet, Metropolitan Museum of Art, inv. no. 15.8.2. Fig. 2. View largeDownload slide Statue of the Goddess Sekhmet, Metropolitan Museum of Art, inv. no. 15.8.2. One might also wonder how these seven statues came into the hands of John Lee, for no information survives relating to the origin of his ownership. Indeed, in an annotated catalogue of the 1833 sale preserved at the British Museum, only one lot, no. 247, is attributed a named purchaser – Sir T. Phillipps, presumed to be the famous bibliophile – while the other six bear no indication of the buyer. These annotations match a report of the sale given in the Gentleman’s Magazine of March 1833: ‘One of these figures was sold to Sir Thomas Phillipps for twenty guineas; the others, for which not more than about £12 each was bid, were, we believe, bought in.’15 In this regard, another annotated copy of the catalogue at the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art (inha) in Paris has proven very interesting. In this volume, lot no. 247 again bears the name of ‘Sr T Phillipps’, but the six other lots concerning figures of Sekhmet (nos 246, 248, 249, 250, 251, and 252) are also associated with a buyer’s name. The buyer is the same for all six lots and, although the name is difficult to decipher, it appears to read ‘Calvert’. A volume of Lee’s correspondence in the British Library, the existence of which I was fortunate to discover in 2015, provided answers to the above uncertainties.16 The clues lie in a letter dated 27 July 1833, written in London by Lee to one of Barker’s sons, William Burckhardt Barker, who was then living in Alexandria. As the following transcript shows, that letter is important for our study: The Antiquities which were forwarded to this country by your father sold remarkably well and they were much admired, in particular the hieroglyphic manuscripts of papyri and the sepulchral tablets or stele. I purchased two of them which I hope to show to you on some future occasion at Hartwell, and subsequent to the sale I purchased the seven granite Statues of which six are now at Hartwell, the other is shortly to be sent there. I also purchased one of the Mummies and Mr Pettigrew an eminent surgeon unrolled it and gave a public lecture on the art of making mummies according to the descriptions of Herodotus and other ancient writers, but no papyri or necklace or ornament were found in the case. I have had some of my Egyptian Antiquities lithographed and I propose to send some Copies of them to you, your brother, and your father through the favor of Mr Calvert and Mr Maltas. Since the sale of your father’s Antiquities another sale has taken place of some Egyptian Antiquities, the property of Madame Lavoratori, an Italian Lady who was in Egypt (as we are told) during the time that Mr Salt and Mr Drovetti were making their collections, and many of the articles were interesting but they did not sell so well as the articles at the former sale. This letter gives a solid proof that a collection of antiquities sent from Egypt by John Barker was sold in England in 1833. Moreover, another collection is here mentioned, the Lavoratori collection, sold in London in May 1833.17 The Widow Lavoratori is indeed commonly associated with an anonymous sale organized by Sotheby’s on 13 May 1833, an assumption evidently confirmed by Lee’s letter: the mention he makes of the collection sold by Signora Lavoratori matches perfectly with the introductory catalogue note to the sale of May 1833: The annexed Collection of Egyptian Antiquities was found chiefly at Thebes and Abydos, about fourteen years ago, when the rival Consuls of England and France were forming the superb Collections now in Paris and Turin, which do not contain so great a number of curious and interesting Monuments, all of portable size and weight, as the present, which, after having been kept for ten years in Florence as a private collection, is now offered for public competition. It seems very likely that the information communicated by Lee derived from the preface to the sale catalogue. This letter also allows us to understand how Lee came into possession of the seven Sekhmets. None of them were bought in the course of the sale, but in Lee’s own words: ‘subsequent to the sale [I] purchased the seven granite Statues’. He indicates that six of them had already arrived at Hartwell House; the last one, on its way, ought to be the Sekhmet bought by Sir Thomas Phillipps. The next paragraph mentions a certain ‘Mr. Calvert’, who might well be the buyer indicated in the inha catalogue. Together with the evidence provided by the inha catalogue, we have here clear proof that the collection sold on 15–16 March 1833 belonged to John Barker but one question remains unanswered: who was the mysterious and ephemeral owner named Calvert? The writer of the article from the Gentleman’s Magazine18 assumes, but without certainty, that these six lots were ‘bought-in’, which, in art-market vocabulary, would mean that they remained the property of the owner, the bidding having failed to reach the reserve price. Calvert would, perhaps, have though been the person acting for and in the name of Barker at this sale. If he is indeed the same Calvert mentioned in the letter, the fact that Lee suggests that lithographs might be sent to the Barker family through him suggests that he was well known to them. The other person mentioned by Lee for this purpose is a Mr Maltas, who, we may suggest, would have been William Maltas, chargé d’affaires at the British consulate in Cairo following Salt’s death.19 Calvert may have been another consular agent, or an agent of the Barker family based in London. The fact that the name Calvert is unknown as a buyer in other sales of Egyptian collections, such as the Lavoratori sale of 1833 or Salt’s sale of 1835, may suggest that he had no specific interest in Egyptian antiquity. Surprisingly, Barker’s biography provides no confirmation of his identity, although it includes two letters sent by correspondents of that name – one ‘James Calvert’ and one ‘C. A. Calvert’,20 both of them mentioned only once. Calvert could also have been an employee at Sotheby’s auction house or someone operating in the art-market. To date, no solid proof has yet been found to support either of these assumptions, so that the identity of ‘Calvert’ remains to be established. Acknowledgements The author would like to thank most warmly Dr John Taylor for guidance in her research in the archival sources. The valuable comments and suggestions of the anonymous referee also greatly improved the content of this article. Footnotes 1 R. Burton, ‘Giovanni Battista Belzoni’, Cornhill Magazine 42 (July 1880), pp. 39–40. 2 As an illustration of this trend in historiography, see for example B. M. Fagan, The Rape of the Nile. Tomb robbers, tourists, and archaeologists in Egypt (New York, 1975); F. P. France, The Rape of Egypt. How the Europeans stripped Egypt of its heritage (London, 1991). For an interesting analysis, one could refer to E. Colla, Conflicted Antiquities. Egyptology, Egyptomania, Egyptian modernity (Durham, nc, 2007). 3 See H. Hoock, Empires of the Imagination. Politics, war, and the arts in the British World, 1750–1850 (London, 2010), and M. Jasanoff, Edge of Empire. Conquest and collecting in the East 1750–1850 (New York, 2005). 4 D. M. Reid, Whose Pharaohs? Archaeology, museums, and Egyptian national identity from Napoleon to World Wari (Berkeley, 2002), p. 54. 5 In the biography of Henry Salt published by Manley and Rée, only eleven lines deal with the period following the consul’s sudden death; see D. Manley and P. Rée, Henry Salt. Artist, traveller, diplomat, Egyptologist (London, 2001), pp. 273–4. The purchase of objects from this collection by the British Museum is described in greater detail in S. Moser, Wondrous Curiosities. Ancient Egypt at the British Museum (Chicago, 2006), pp. 138–41. What happened in Egypt at that time, however, remains poorly known. Dr John H. Taylor is currently working on a publication relating to Giovanni d’Athanasi’s activities in Egypt. 6 The name ‘barker’ can be clearly read in M. L. Bierbrier, Hieroglyphic Texts from Egyptian Stelae etc., Part 10 (London, 1982), pl. 50. 7 Lot 245 is illustrated with a drawing in the sale catalogue, which allows it to be firmly identified with British Museum sculpture ea1377. This is mentioned in the main publications relating to this sculpture: see, for example, Bierbrier, op. cit. (note 6), p. 22. 8 G. D. Scott, ‘A seated statue of Sekhmet and two related sculptures in the collection of the San Antonio Museum of Art’, in Servant of Mut: Studies in honor of Richard A. Fazzini, ed. S. H. d’Aria (Leiden, 2007), pp. 223–4. This hypothesis also appears in the fourth, revised edition of Who was Who in Egyptology, ed. M. L. Bierbrier, Who was Who in Egyptology (London, 2012), pp. 484–5: ‘an anonymous sale of Egyptian antiquities held at Sotheby’s, 15–16 March 1833, has also been attributed to Salt’s estate (258 lots).’ The entry on Barker in the same volume, however, attributes the collection to him: ‘while in Egypt, Barker made an important collection of antiquities which was sent to England and sold (anonymously) at Sotheby’s, 15 and 16 March 1833 (258 lots)’ (Bierbrier, op. cit., pp. 40–41). In the earlier second and third editions, however, no mention of the 1833 sale appears under Salt’s entry. 9 San Antonio Museum of Art, inv. no. 2005.l.8 10 It was then known as inv. no. 15.8.5. 11 Cf. A. M. Lythgoe, ‘Statues of the Goddess Sekhmet’, Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 14 no. 10 (1919), p. 6. 12 The museum gave them the inventory numbers 15.8.1 to 15.8.7. The statue numbered 15.8.5 is now in San Antonio, while the Metropolitan Museum sold the statue numbered 15.8.6 in 2007–8, cf. Annual Report of the Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art no. 138 (1 July 2007 – 30 June 2008), p. 35. 13 See Lythgoe, op. cit. (note 11), pp. 3–23. 14 It seems that the first to misidentify the owner of the collection as Salt was T. J. Pettigrew, Biographical Memoirs of the most celebrated Physicians, Surgeons, etc. etc. who have contributed to the advancement of medical science (London, 1840), p. 31. The information as given by Pettigrew was repeated in several articles thereafter: see, for example, W. R. Dawson, ‘Pettigrew’s demonstrations upon mummies. A chapter in the history of Egyptology’, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 20 (1934), pp. 170–82. In more recent papers, some authors have attributed the sale to Barker: see, for example, G. Moshenska, ‘Thomas “Mummy” Pettigrew and the study of Egypt in early nineteenth-century Britain’, in Histories of Egyptology: Interdisciplinary measures, ed. W. Carruthers (New York, 2014), pp. 201–14, in which the author points out that ‘Pettigrew has misremembered the facts: the sale was in fact from the collection of John Barker and was held in March 1833’. 15 Gentleman’s Magazine, March 1833, p. 256. 16 It is preserved in the British Library under the reference Add. ms 47490, fol.128. 17 See Bierbrier, op. cit. (note 8), p. 312. 18 Op. cit. (note 15). 19 Cf. a letter from John Barker to William Maltas, dated 23 November 1827, in the National Archives at Kew, fo 142/2, fols 264–5. 20 Cf. E.B.B. Barker (ed.), Syria and Egypt under the last five Sultans of Turkey: Being experiences, during the fifty years, of Mr. Consul-General Barker: chiefly from his letters and journals (London, 1876), pp. 96, 182. © The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model)
Journal of the History of Collections – Oxford University Press
Published: Oct 23, 2017
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