[MR] History Blog: Medieval Ivory Figure Auctioned to Met

Garth Groff and Sally Sanford mallardlodge1000 at gmail.com
Mon Jan 8 03:12:14 PST 2024

Noble Friends,

A few days ago I had to choose between reporting on this story about an
ivory figurine and the Kefermarkt Altarpiece. The two stories were about
somewhat similar items. The Kefermarkt story won out, but I saved the
figurine's link and now present the tale to you.

The item in question is a small walrus ivory statuette showing Joseph of
Arimathea removing Jesus' body from the cross, commonly known as the
"Deposition From the Cross". It was once part of a much larger setting,
probably another altarpiece, now known only from fragments. The piece is
said to be among the most significant examples of English Romanesque ivory

The Deposition was on loan to the V&A until 2022 when the owner retrieved
it to sell through Sothbey's auction house. The Met snapped Deposition
up for a cool £2,006,595, plus £40,131.90 VAT. "Not so fast," said the UK
Government as they slapped an export ban on the figurine. Now a UK museum,
probably the V&A itself, has just a few precious months to raise the cash
and keep the piece in Britain. Otherwise, it will be "Bye-by London, hello
New York."

This raises an interesting question for us to ponder. While it would be
great for us to see the Deposition in person in New York, is it right to
remove a unique piece like this from its country of origin? How would we
feel if George Washington's precious dentures were bought by a foreign
museum? These are ethical and moral questions with valid arguments on both
sides, and one that museums, collectors, auctioneers, governments, and of
course lawyers, will no doubt debate *ad nauseum*.

Meanwhile you can see the Deposition and one of the related fragments
online at https://www.thehistoryblog.com/archives/69189 .

Yours Aye,

Mungo Napier, Laird of Mallard Lodge  🦆
Continuing a quest to keep Merry Rose relevant and in business.

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