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Achaemenid Soldier Withdrawn from Christie’s Sale


20 April 2005


The relief of an Achaemenid soldier from the Xerxes Palace of Persepolis due to go on sale in Christie’s London was withdrawn from the sale at the last moment.

The withdrawal of the relief work from “Faces from the Ancient World, A European Private Collection” sale came as a result of an order by the London court issued after a legal complaint by the Iranian Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO).

According to director of the Legal Department of the ICHTO, Yunes Samadi, the final verdict will soon be reached based on international laws, and the relief which was taken off the eastern stairway of the Apadana Palace and smuggled out of Iran nearly 50 years ago, will be retrieved and installed in its original place.

Due to the fact that the relief was looted out of Iran many years ago and was once before sold in Sotheby’s in 1974, Samadi and the director of the Committee for Retrieval of Historical Artifacts to Iran, Mohammad Abdol Alipour, consider the withdrawal from the Christie’s sale as an important victory.

Now Iran has to prove with documents and evidence that the Achaemenid soldier comes from the Xerxes Palace of Persepolis, one of Iran’s world heritage sites, and is a possession of the Iranian government.

Meanwhile, Christie’s has published a statement, announcing its respect for the national and international laws and the cultural historical heritage of countries, adding that if they are certain of a piece being looted or illegally obtained, they won’t go on with the sale.

However, Christie’s has referred to the legal sale of the piece in Sotheby’s in 1974, expressing its surprise of why Iran has waited so long to demand the soldier’s retrieval. The auction house has emphasized the need for the provision of formal documents that will prove Iran’s ownership of the soldier.

Iran has pictures which explicitly show that the relief is part of the eastern stairway of Xerxes Palace and therefore there would be no need of specialized studies to prove its original source. Moreover, documents exist which show that the dates of the legal excavations in the site and that of the relief being transferred out of Iran were after the passing of a law based on which all ancient discoveries are a possession of the Iranian government, therefore proving the illegality of the Christie's sale.




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