July 13th, 2017

Seuso Treasure returns to Hungary

The Hungarian government has acquired the last seven pieces of the Seuso Treasure, a rare collection of ancient Roman silverware. In March 2014, Hungary bought the first seven pieces of 4th century Seuso silver, trays and jugs believed to have been a part of the tableware from a villa in the Balaton area of the Roman Empire, after a lengthy international dispute over its ownership. The treasure had been smuggled out of the country and ended up in Britain. The government recovered the first seven pieces at a cost of 15 million euros.

Head of the Hungarian Museum of Fine Arts László Baán said the Hungarian government had striven to reclaim the treasures ever since 1990. This has been achieved in two steps, he noted. The second tranche is more valuable from an art-historical point of view, he said, adding that the Seuso treasure, found in Hungary in the 1970s and taken out of the country illegally, is the most significant assemblage of late Roman metalsmith work.

The collection was seen by the public only once, at an auction in 1990 in New York, where its asking price had been 100 million euros at today’s prices, Baán said. Over the past few years, the government had successfully negotiated with two family foundations on compensation for handing back the treasure. The government paid 28 million euros for the second tranche, he said, adding that this was a “fraction” of the collection’s true market value.

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