The Government’s standpoint is that the priceless national treasure – “the family silver” – belongs in Hungary, Prime Minister Orbán said.
After his announcement in the Hunting Hall of the Parliament Building in Budapest, the Prime Minister unveiled the treasure to the media.
László Baán, the Director of Budapest’s Museum of Fine Arts, told reporters that every government since 1990 has attempted to reacquire the treasure, either through negotiation or legal action. “This has now been achieved in two stages”, he said, “as the first seven pieces were returned here in 2014, and the remaining seven pieces – which are even more valuable from an art history viewpoint – have now been returned to Hungary”. He confirmed that “This means that the complete Seuso Treasure is now back in Hungary”.
“The return of the treasure is a moment which has been awaited for many years – not only by the people of Hungary, but the whole world”, he said.
Mr. Baán observed that the Seuso Treasure is the most important hoard of late Roman silverware found to date. It was originally discovered in Hungary in the 1970s, but was then illegally transported out of the country. He said that the public had the opportunity to see the treasure for a single day, at a New York auction in 1990, with a suggested opening bid equivalent to a sum of 100 million euros today. Mr. Baán noted that Hungary and the world had not had the opportunity to see this priceless treasure before or since that time.
The Director explained that “In recent years, an agreement on compensation was successfully brokered with two family foundations, which was 15 million euros in the first instance and 28 million euros in the second. In return, the items were handed over and the parties did not challenge Hungary’s rightful ownership”. He added that the treasure was successfully reacquired at 25–35 per cent of its estimated market value.
The Director of the Museum of Fine Arts also stressed that the return of the treasure is not only extremely important for Hungary, but also for the whole world, because now it can finally be put on display in its entirety. Those previously in possession of it did not make this possible, and the treasure was to all intents and purposes hidden away in storage, he explained. He added that several alternatives for the treasure’s final location will be considered by the Government.
Explaining the history of the hoard, Mr. Baán said that the ancient treasure was originally given as a gift to man of high rank in the Roman province of Pannonia, in present-day Hungary, and he probably buried it to protect it from barbarian looting. After this it remained in the ground untouched for almost two thousand years, he said.
The Director also said that now that the entire hoard has been reassembled, research on it will move forward more rapidly. The exact site of its discovery has been suggested, but experts do not yet agree on whether it was in fact buried there, Mr. Baán said.
According to background information provided to Hungarian news agency MTI, the seven pieces that have now been returned comprise the Achilles and Milagros plates, a ewer decorated with animals, an amphora, the Hippolytus Ewer and two buckets with decoration similar to that on the Hippolytus Ewer.
The Seuso Treasure is now on display in the Parliament Building. The exhibition will be open to the public every day between 12 noon and 6 p.m. from this Saturday until the end of August, after which the exhibition will tour the country, before being given to the Hungarian National Museum.