The Hungarian government has acquired another seven pieces of the Seuso Treasure, a rare collection of ancient Roman silverware, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced on Wednesday.
The government believes the “priceless national treasure, Hungary’s family silver,” has its place in Hungary, Orbán told reporters during a break of a cabinet meeting.
“We have fulfilled our duty and reclaimed the collection,” Orbán said, presenting the seven pieces to the press in Parliament.
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.
The head of the Hungarian Museum of Fine Arts, László Baán, told reporters that 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 added.
Baán said the Seuso treasure is the most significant assemblage of late Roman metalsmith work. It was found in Hungary in the 1970s and taken out of the country illegally, he said. 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.
He said that 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.
The treasures now to have been reunited with Hungary include a plate depicting Achilles and Meleager, a jug decorated with animals, an amphora, a Hippolytus jug and two related Hippolytus carafes.
The Seuso treasure will be shown to the public in Parliament every day between noon and 6pm until the end of August. Thereafter it will be exhibited in the Hungarian National Museum.