somersethouse, v1

Day 6: Henry Salt

Today I found out that a whopping 1,659 objects in the British Museum collection were bought from Henry Salt. A good few more were ‘donated by’, ‘from’ and ‘purchased through’ him, so the true figure is probably over 1,700.

Today we were investigating the Goddess Hathor. She originally sat as part of the Temple of Amenhotep III but when that was ruined in an earthquake she moved to the Temple of Merenptah (a mere 8 minutes walk away, according to Google Maps!)

She was excavated (probably between 1824 and 1827) by Giovanni Battista Belzoni, who was working for Salt. And she was auctioned at Sothebys and bought by the British Museum in 1835.

Henry Salt (1780 – 1827) seems to have been a key figure for the British Museum’s Egyptian collection.

He became British Consul-General for Egypt in 1815. He sponsored excavations, carried out his own excavations and wrote on deciphering hieroglyphs.

Through his two agents (Belzoni and D’Athanasi) he built up his ‘First Collection’ within two years of arriving in Egypt. It was offered to the British Museum in 1818, it looks like the terms were finally agreed (£2,000) in 1821 or even 1823 as those dates crop up a lot.

His ‘Second Collection’ of over four thousand objects (collected 1819-1824) were sold to Charles X of France for £10,000.

His ‘Third Collection’ were auctioned off at Sotherby’s in 1835 (after his death). There were 1,083 objects on offer and the British Museum bought many of these. Hathor was one of them.

The Museum’s Egyptian galleries would look wholly different without the objects bought from Salt.

He was responsible for the paintings from the Tomb of Nebamun (around 1350BC)

Some of the massive Egyptian sculptures that dominate Gallery 4.

And some of the most popular mummies, including three of the animals.

I didn’t go for a pun in the title, but can’t resist…there’s no denying, he was a real Salt Seller.


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