Exhibition Archive


10 January to 9 March 2008

This display brought together about 45 of the finest medieval ivories from the most important private collection of its kind in the world. The late Kenneth Thomson, Lord Thomson of Fleet and Northbridge (1923-2006) was heir to a vast media empire and an astute collector in his own right.

The display contained examples of the highest quality of most types of medieval ivory carving, both secular and religious, from large statuettes of the Virgin and Child to folding tablets (called diptychs) with scenes from the life of Christ, used to help in prayer and contemplation. Alongside these were beautiful small carved writing tablets, boxes and caskets, combs, mirror cases with scenes of romantic encounters, and a rare set of carving and serving knives with fabulous beasts.  Grisly memento mori beads, designed to remind us of our own death, are carved with heads on one side and worm-eaten skulls on the other.

This is the first time examples from the Thomson collection of ivories were shown together, giving visitors an opportunity to see them before they returned to Canada where they will be on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.

‘Though small in size, the exhibition is of momentous interest not only to scholars but to the art world in general.’ Colin Gleadell, The Daily Telegraph, 8 January 2007.

Display sponsor:

Sam Fogg Ltd.