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Looted Safavid bowl returned to National Museum of Afghanistan

Kabul director calls for restitution of other treasures taken during 1990s civil war

Christie’s and the British Museum in London have joined forces to return a looted, early 17th-century tinned-copper bowl to the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul.

According to a Christie’s statement, the object, which dates from the Safavid period, was lost during the civil war of the 1990s in Afghanistan. In 1994, it was bought in good faith from an Afghan antique dealer in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, by a German couple, Patrick and Paola von Aulock, who later decided to sell the bowl.

Sara Plumbly, the head of Christie’s Islamic art department, says in a statement: “When we were doing the research for the pieces in the sale, I found it published in one of the books particularly related to this type of material, Islamic Metalwork from the Iranian World, eighth-18th Centuries, by the scholar Assadullah Souren Melikian-Chirvani.” The book was published in 1982, and described the bowl as being in the collection of the Afghan museum.

Plumbly contacted St John Simpson, the assistant keeper of the Middle East department at the British Museum. “The museum confirmed the provenance and negotiations were entered into with the current owners and with the National Museum of Afghanistan to return the bowl to Kabul,” a museum statement says. The bowl was handed over to Ahmad Zia Siamak, chargé d’affaires at the Afghanistan Embassy in London, on 10 May.

Fahim Rahimi, the director of the National Museum of Afghanistan, is hopeful that the restitution will lead to the recovery of more artefacts removed from museums and archaeological sites in Afghanistan. “I ask those collectors who keep artefacts from Afghanistan to help us return them, and encourage the auction houses to always check their collections for looted objects from Afghanistan,” he says.

Courtesy: The Art Newspaper

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