Thursday, 14 May 2009

Whoa! More on the Cambridgeshire Rider

The Roman bronze horse and rider from Cambridgeshire has been attracting further observations. Paul Barford talked about this specific piece back in November 2008 as it featured on the cover of the Review of the Portable Antiquities Scheme published by the MLA (2008) [pdf]. Paul has now commented on appeal to save this "stattuette ... of outstanding significance for the study of art, religion and society in Roman Britain" (DCMS Press Release, originally entitled "Culture Minister reigns in export of statuette of horse" (sic.)).

Barford notes the name of the original finder which led me to this report in The Times (London) (Dalya Alberge, "Metal detectives are a national treasure", November 23, 2007).
Duncan Pangborn, who first started metal detecting about five years ago, came across the Roman figurine, which dates from the 3rd or 4th century and is extremely well preserved, in an arable field in Cambridgeshire. "It was a shock," Mr Pangborn, a project manager from North Wymondham, told The Times, recalling the moment he lifted the figurine from a clump of earth close to the surface.

Asked about the thrill of his hobby, he said: "It's about finding something that hasn't been seen, in this case, for 1,700 or 1,800 years. It's about being the first person to handle it since the Roman owner, the link with the past."

The British Museum described the figurine as the most artistically distinctive and accomplished example so far discovered. Thought to have been a votive figure from a rural shrine or temple, it reflects the high level of horsemanship in Roman Britain: the gait of the horse and its pricked ears suggest that the animal is alert and paying direct attention to the commands being given by the rider.
The rider was sold at Bonhams in May 2008 and the new owner wants to export it: hence the appeal announced by the UK Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS).

I am also intrigued by the Press Association release ("UK buyer sought for rare Roman-era statuette", April 7, 2009):

The statuette was sold at Bonham's auction house in London last May for £10,200, and the culture minister Barbara Follett placed a temporary export bar on it until June 6 following advice from the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA).


The bar can be extended to September 6 if someone comes forward with a serious proposal to raise the £22,000 the Government has set as the recommended price for the statuette.
I had assumed that the piece had been purchased for £10,200 and that the new owner had asked for £22,000. But it seems I was wrong. If I understand this correctly, the market thought the piece was worth £10,200 and the Government set the "recommended price" at £22,000. Who was responsible for setting this higher price? Or is this press release incorrect?

Barbara Follett is the
Minister for Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism (see also the BBC).

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