A famous auction house must give up the name of the buyer who tried to pay $14.5 million for a rare idol the Turkish government claims was illegally taken from the country, a judge ruled Wednesday. According to Christie's, the 9-inch Guennol Stargazer comes from the Chalcolithic period between 3000BC and 2200BC and is one of about 15 such complete idols in existence. "The Guennol Stargazer is an iconic work of art and universally recognized as the finest Kiliya idol in existence," the auction house's head of antiquities says. Back in April, an anonymous buyer agreed to pay $14.5 million for the idol at auction. The next day, the Turkish government filed a lawsuit demanding the return of the idol and the would-be buyer's name, Courthouse News reports.
Now, despite the buyer backing out of the sale, a judge has ruled Christie's must hand over the buyer's name and contact information to lawyers for the Turkish government. Artnet News calls the ruling "highly unusual." The judge reasons the buyer may have "information about the idol, about the bidding process, or about Christie’s vigilance in determining the provenance of the idol.” According to Turkey, the Guennol Stargazer was illegally dug up and smuggled out of the country in the 1960s. It's changed hands multiple times prior to being put up for auction by Christie's. “The idol is an irreplaceable part of Turkey’s cultural patrimony," a lawyer for the Turkish government says. The Guennol Stargazer is currently being held in a vault at Christie's. (Read more Christie's stories.)