Carved Narwhal Tusk



Carved narwhal tusk, likely to have been one of the pair of processional candlesticks, the other example and of similar decoration and dimensions in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum (Museum number A.79-1936). Both may have been carved in England, possibly in the workshop of Lincoln Cathedral and of Romanesqe style decoration. The upper section has four spiralling carved panels with two alternating designs separated by plain bands: (i) foliage design (b) winged dragons chasing animals. The lower section has four carved panels with two alternating designs separated by plain bands (i) human figures surrounded by plant decoration (ii) figures with profile heads. Originally decorated with strips of copper, covered in gold; a few of the pins, and the holes they made, are still visible. O. The precise use of these sticks is unknown, they may have been used as processional candlesticks or as the handle in ceremonial processions A previous owner bought it in 1957 for £12 as one of a group of walking sticks at a sale in Hereford. Once recognized as a rare survival from pre-Reformation England, the narwhal tusk was sold at Christie’s, London, in 1994 but an export licence was withheld, giving the Museum the opportunity to save it for the nation.