Ivory table casket
A gothic ivory table casket c.1330 sold for £1.2m at Lyon & Turnbull.

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Ten minutes of bidding that began at the top estimate of £50,000 estimate ended at £1.2m.

A glory of the chivalric age, this is one of only nine complete secular ivory coffrets known. Probably made in Paris c.1330, it is intricately carved in bas-relief with narratives relating to courtly literature. On this coffret, that measures 10in (25cm) across, the panels appear to relate to the famous medieval romance Tristan and Isolde and the Arthurian legend Queste del saint grail.

Ivory casket

The lid of the ivory casket c.1330.

To the lid is a scene of ‘wild men’ fighting to conquer a castle (and again defeated and in chains on the back panel), a popular motif in medieval imagery akin to the winning of a lady’s heart. The brass brackets, straps and handle are later additions.

Bairds of Auchmedden

The casket comes with an impeccable provenance from Tornaveen House in Aberdeenshire. Its history can be traced back to 1615 where it is described in the genealogy of the Bairds of Auchmedden in connection with Thomas Baird, a friar of a monastery in Besançon, Burgundy. Family history suggested it had been made (rather than acquired) by Thomas Baird leading the vendors to erroneously believe it was 17th century.

The final price with a 25/20% premium was close to £1.45m. It was Lyon & Turnbull’s first seven-figure lot on UK soil (and the most expensive work of art sold in Scotland) although in 2016 the firm went to Hong Kong to sell a Xuande (1426-35) mark and period blue and white stem cup for £3.1m.