British Culture Minister, Barbara Follett, has placed a temporary export bar on an unusual animal-shaped copper alloy mount found in North Yorkshire. The discovery is very significant and is likely to be a product of Viking activity and perhaps evidence of links between Dublin and York. This will provide a last chance to raise the money to keep the mount in the United Kingdom.
The cast copper alloy mount takes the form of an animal with splayed legs and a projecting head, seen from above. This animal outline is filled with multiple levels of animal decoration: each of the animal's four splayed legs are themselves heads, interlacing snakes form a central square field, and between these are further beasts, skilfully adapted to the varied spaces available. The reverse of the mount is undecorated and has three complete lugs for attachment. The smooth, semi-circular -shaped edge is likely to have fitted a second, correspondingly-shaped mount. The mount measures 67 mm long x 43 mm wide x 14 mm high (including lugs on reverse), and weighs 49.6 g.
The Minister's ruling follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, administered by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA). The Committee recommended that the export decision be deferred on the grounds that the mount is of outstanding aesthetic importance and of outstanding significance for the study of Insular art and archaeology. Insular style is a fusion of Germanic and Celtic art styles of early medieval Britain.
The mount, which is in the form of an animal dates from the 8th or 9th century AD. The mount may originally have been intended for a horse's harness, although the unusually large lugs on the back suggest that it could also have been set into a wooden object such as a shrine. Each of the four splayed legs are also in the shape of animal heads, and the body is decorated with further animal motifs, adapted to fit the spaces available. The mount retains much of its original gilding and the details of its complex and unique design survive perfectly. There are other similar mounts in the national collections of Britain, Ireland and Scandinavia but none of comparable quality or of this spread-eagle design is known from an English find spot.
Dr Catherine Johns, Reviewing Committee member, said: "The unique form, unusually complex design motifs and unmodified condition mark this mount as the best of its type. It is also of outstanding research significance as there is much to be learned about the function, manufacture and detailed iconography of this class of object."
The decision on the export licence application for the mount will be deferred for a period ending on 13th June inclusive. This period may be extended until 13th September inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds with a view to making an offer to purchase the mount at the recommended price of GBP 52,281.37 is expressed.
Anyone interested in making an offer to purchase the mount should contact the owner's agent through:
The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest
Museums, Libraries and Archives Council,
Wellcome Wolfson Building
165 Queen's Gate
London SW7 5HD
Telephone 020 7273 8270