Export stop on ‘wonderful’ £10m reliquary

A silver reliquary statuette of St Christopher made at the end of the Middle Ages has been valued at £10m.

On the advice of the reviewing committee on the export of works of art the government has put a temporary export stop on it to allow a UK gallery or institution to raise the money to match it, and stay in the UK in the public domain instead of going abroad.

“This wonderful object, the product of enlightened patronage in one of the pre-eminent artistic centres north of the Alps combines sculptural brilliance and technical skill with the most touching humanity, tenderness, power and realism” said committee member Pippa Shirley, head of collections at Waddesdon Manor. “You can feel the water tugging at the saint’s legs as he strides across the river with his precious burden, his cloak billowing around him in the wind.

“Silver sculpture of this date is rare, and objects of this quality rarer still, so even though it is well documented, there is much to learn, about how and by whom it was made, the relics it contains and its relationship to its companion, St Sebastian, as well as its later history. All of this means that its departure would be a great loss to the nation.”

The statuette was made in 1493 and was a gift to the monastery of Kaiserheim in South Germany, paid for in part by Duke Frederick of Saxony. It depicts St Christopher in parcel-gilt silver on a hexagonal reliquary base, wading through a river, staff in hand, with the figure of the Christ sitting on his shoulder.

A companion piece, a figure of St Sebastian, is in the V&A.

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