Dating ivory carvings

There are many misunderstandings about the use of ivory in antiques and we believe that the information given below will help provide more clarity. The poaching of elephants in the wild and the threat that this causes to the survival of the species is a very serious matter. We should make it absolutely clear that BADA members deplore the illicit market in ivory and are fully supportive of targeted and proportionate measures aimed at eradicating it. It is not quite as simple as this, because most of the objects found in the UK today made from or incorporating elements of ivory were created many years ago and are part of our shared cultural heritage. These historical items are not derived from recently-poached ivory.

Scientists deploy DNA analysis and radiocarbon dating in latest salvo against ivory trafficking

Ivory carving , the carving or shaping of ivory into sculptures, ornaments, and decorative or utilitarian articles. Elephant tusks have been the main source of ivory used for such carvings, although the tusks of walrus and other ivory-bearing mammals have also been worked. From ancient times ivory has been considered an article of luxury because of its qualities of fine grain, creamy light colour, smooth texture, and soft lustre.

Ivory has been carved in such widely varied cultures as those of ancient Egypt , China, Japan, and India. In the West the use of ivory can be traced almost continuously from prehistoric times through the Roman, Carolingian, Byzantine , Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque periods up until modern times. Until about all ivory carvers used much the same tools: The great change came with power-driven rotary saws for cutting and peeling the ivory and with dental drills for carving it easily and quickly.

These machine tools spread from Europe to Asia in the midth century and are now in universal use for carving ivory. Carvings made of ivory, bone, and horn are numerous from certain periods of the Stone Age. Most of the carvings have been found in southern France, particularly in the Dordogne region. The earlier examples take the form of small nude female figures.

The carvings of animals belong to the succeeding Magdalenian period, and many of these have great merit. The material used is reindeer horn, with the ivory of mammoth tusks also occasionally used. The incising, or engraving , of ivory probably developed later than carving in the round. The prehistoric engravings on ivory usually represent animals, often rendered in a masterly manner and combined to form scenes.

Elephant tusks and hippopotamus teeth were carved from a very early period in ancient Egypt. Many combs, hairpins, and other utensils dating from the predynastic and early dynastic periods have been found at various sites, and to the same period probably belong some crudely carved nude female figures that were likely worn as amulets to ward off evil or harm. Among the masterpieces of early Egyptian carving are two statuettes, both found at Abydos; one represents a king of the 1st dynasty , while the other depicts the 4th-dynasty king Khufu , the builder of the Great Pyramid at Giza.

The Egyptians also incised pictures on flat slabs of ivory, and sometime after bce they introduced the technique of relief carving. Later Egyptian ivory work, much of it of fine quality, is mostly decorative in intention, being used for handles, spoons, and inlays for caskets and furniture. The ancient Phoenicians used ivory from Syria and Africa, and they seem to have specialized in ivory inlays for woodwork, often overpainted or encrusted with lapis lazuli or glass.

Among the earliest preclassical Aegean ivory carvings are small figures of acrobats found at Knossos in Crete and dating from the 16th century bce. Many ivory gaming boxes, mirror handles, and plaques carved in low relief with hunting or combat scenes have been found at Cyprus and at Sparta and Mycenae; they show a strong Asian stylistic influence and were probably made in Syria or on the south coast of Asia Minor. No ivories of importance belonging to the early Classical period of Greece have survived, though it is known from ancient writers that they existed.

The high point of Classical ivory carving was most certainly the colossal chryselephantine statues i. In the last centuries of the Roman Empire, ivory diptychs i. The most important surviving ivory carving from early in the Common Era is the Brescia casket 4th century ce ; this is a small casket bearing relief carvings of scenes from the Old and New Testaments.

Several reliefs on diptychs and panels having Christian subjects date from this period, and indeed depictions of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the Apostles form the main subject matter of European figurative ivory carvings for many centuries thereafter. No Byzantine ivory from the 7th to the 9th century survives, but there do exist several magnificent carved ivory reliefs from the 10th and 11th centuries.

The figures are treated in a strongly classicizing, frozen, and monumental style. Byzantine statuettes from the late 11th and the 12th centuries show a more relaxed and fluid treatment of draperies, and their figures have elongated forms. Northern European ivory carving revived during the Carolingian Renaissance, using walrus instead of elephant tusks. The Carolingians carved ivory into reliquaries, crucifixes, relief panels, and the book covers of psalters. New Testament scenes and figures were the almost invariable subject matter.

Thus, from about the 12th century on, ivory carving ceased to be a major art or an important adjunct to religious or imperial liturgies. Nevertheless, ivory diptychs and triptychs carved with religious scenes continued to be produced in the Gothic style by many workshops. Ivory was also carved into caskets, combs, mirror cases, writing tablets, cups, dagger handles, and chess pieces. Sometimes scenes of courtly love or extracts from romances were carved onto the surface of these utilitarian objects.

Renaissance ivory carving marked a notable change from that of the Middle Ages in its technical sophistication and sensitivity. By this time ivory was rarely used except for domestic articles and inlay work, but there was a revival of interest in ivory carving in 17th-century Germany and Flanders, and many elaborate and sumptuously carved objects such as candelabra , plaques , statuettes, and drinking tankards were made by highly skilled artists.

By the late 18th century, ivory carvings were regarded in Europe merely as curious and quaint decorative objects. In the 19th century, ivory came into prominence once more, chiefly for making forgeries of older, more valuable ivory objects. It was also used to make caskets, clock cases, and batons, as well as humbler objects such as snuffboxes , fan handles, and scent bottles. By the 20th century, with the use of machine-driven tools to cut ivory and the decay of unified stylistic traditions of decoration, ivory carving in the West had degenerated into a craft still possessed of technical sophistication but almost utterly lacking in aesthetic worth.

In ancient China elephants still roamed the forests of the Huang He Yellow River region, so that the supply of ivory was close at hand. At the court of the Zhou dynasty — bce it became fashionable for princes and high officials to carry narrow memorandum tablets of ivory. Called hu, these were generally worn as girdle pendants.

In the Han dynasty bce — ce these ivory tablets came to be considered as marks of rank and were required for formal dress. Later, during the Tang dynasty — and the Song dynasty — , these tablets were greatly elongated and were carried by court officials as a kind of sceptre as well as a writing surface for memoranda. The tablets continued to be carried as a mark of high court rank until the fall of the Ming dynasty in the 17th century.

Some ivory figurines have also survived from these periods in Chinese history. Other carvings consist of flat ivory pieces that were painted or stained a dark colour and then carved to form intricate patterns of birds and animals or geometric figures, the carvings finally being stained with other colours or left plain. By Song dynasty times the elephants had been driven far into the wilderness areas of southwest China modern Yunnan , which then belonged to another nation, the kingdom of Nanzhao.

Accordingly, new sources of ivory were sought overseas, and at this time the first African elephant tusks were brought from Zanzibar to China by Arab traders. The new nationalistic-minded Ming dynasty, after overthrowing the Mongol Yuan dynasty , proceeded in the 14th century to revive the art of ivory carving, and a renaissance of fine craftsmanship resulted.

The Ming ivory carvings that have survived are mostly handsomely carved figures, not stained or painted but having the natural colouring of ivory. The tradition of fine Ming carving seems to have carried over into the first half of the Qing dynasty — Workshops in Beijing and Guangzhou Canton were the main centres of ivory carving, producing figures, singly or in groups; cylindrical brush boxes, table screens, and armrests and other desk fittings carved in low and high relief; sceptres; snuff bottles, snuff dishes, and accessories for opium smoking; stands for fine porcelains; and perfume boxes, mirror cases, and other toilet articles for court ladies.

Shanghai workshops produced such utilitarian objects as chopsticks , Mah-Jongg sets, combs, and seals. Beijing and Guangzhou continued to be centres for the finest Chinese ivory carving until after the fall of the Qing dynasty in In subsequent years the output declined, resulting from the lack of Imperial patronage. From that time on, the industry was devoted chiefly to supplying foreign residents and tourists with ivory canes, card cases, and other objects.

Because these buyers were not discriminating, the quality, which had been declining after the midth century, deteriorated at an accelerating pace. It is not possible to claim any great antiquity for ivory carving in Japan. Although they learned the art rather late, the Japanese ivory carvers of the Tokugawa period — quickly developed an astonishing mastery of this medium and created many miniature works of art that still excite admiration. Ivory was used in Japan to produce such objects as the plectrum for plucking the strings of the samisen and the ends of the rollers for traditional scroll paintings.

They were often delicate and exquisitely carved miniature figures, landscapes, or animals. With the end of the Tokugawa regime in , new customs of dress, and the introduction of the cigarette shortly after, netsuke became obsolete. Their former carvers, like the Chinese, gradually turned to making things for foreign residents and tourists, producing jewel boxes, chests, card cases, chess pieces, buttons, brooches, and other objects to appeal to Victorian tastes. By about , endless repetition and the use of machine tools for mass production had destroyed the remaining elements of the art.

From that time on, most Japanese ivory carving has been directed toward the copying of old netsuke, complete with signatures of dead artists, and the forging of Chinese ivory antiquities. From the time of Muhammad or before, ivory was used extensively in the Middle East and in Muslim-ruled Spain to decorate furniture, doors, caskets, and minbar s pulpits.

The decoration consisted of geometric and plant-form arabesques, sometimes inhabited by birds and animals. Ivory was always plentiful in India, but few carved ivory pieces have survived to illustrate the art during most of the 4, years it has been practiced there. Some Hindu and Buddhist figures carved in the round are extant , along with little boxes and some reliefs. The early Inuit, or Eskimo , of northern North America lacked most useful metals, and so they fashioned the ivory from walrus tusks and buried mammoth tusks into a variety of utilitarian objects, such as bucket handles, bow drills, pipes, harpoon shafts, and needle cases.

They etched these objects with geometric or gracefully curving patterns of fine lines. We welcome suggested improvements to any of our articles. You can make it easier for us to review and, hopefully, publish your contribution by keeping a few points in mind. Your contribution may be further edited by our staff, and its publication is subject to our final approval.

Unfortunately, our editorial approach may not be able to accommodate all contributions. Our editors will review what you've submitted, and if it meets our criteria, we'll add it to the article. Please note that our editors may make some formatting changes or correct spelling or grammatical errors, and may also contact you if any clarifications are needed. Written By: The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. See Article History. Read More on This Topic. Ivory painting was practiced in the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe and America for portrait miniatures.

These were generally oval-shaped…. Start Your Free Trial Today. Learn More in these related Britannica articles: These were generally oval-shaped and designed as keepsakes, lockets, and mantle pictures. They were painted under a magnifying glass in fairly dry watercolour or tempera stippling,…. Ivory came into popular use as a painting support in the 18th and 19th centuries as part of miniature-painting traditions based largely in Europe and the United States. The naturally translucent material was well suited to the luminous techniques of portrait painting.

Derived from…. Of the few small ivory figurines to have survived from pharaonic times, two royal representations found in the Early Dynastic temple at Abydos are outstanding. There can be little doubt, in spite of the paucity of survivals, that fine decorative objects of ivory were…. South Asian arts:

Dating a piece, even after discriminating between elephant ivory and other Modern and antique pieces of netsuke (small, carved figures). (It needs to date prior to , but you don't necessarily need proper documentation. So antique shops and auction rooms can sell ivory legally, and regularly do. How does one sell carved ivory that was purchased in the s & s.

In January of , we took The first answer has correct details, although much of the laws worldwide relate to the importing or exporting of ivory. Particularly through the most well known sites.

On July 6, , a near-total ban on commercial trade in African elephant ivory went into effect in the United States.

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Galleries of Ivory Carvings and Scrimshaw

Today it is possible to recognize authentic ivory very easily. Musical instrument in ivory, Africa Buddha temple, China ivory Classification of the material. Sometimes, in addition to elephant tusks, the horns of other animals and some kinds of bone are inaccurately included in the category of ivory. Furthermore, increasingly perfect synthetic materials are being produced today which cannot be distinguished from ivory by their appearance alone. All these materials consist of distinct molecules which can be recognized simply and clearly using spectrographic analysis see figure right.

Asking Portobello dealer to prove age of ivory carving is “a bridge too far” says judge

From pre-historic times to the present, ivory has been among the most prized materials known to man. Sometimes it has been brightly-colored, at other times left pure white. It has been used for crude objects to some of the most intricate and ornamented things ever created. This gallery will show ivory from the earliest period of history to the present. It will describe the use of ivory in different geographic areas. Ivory Portraits and busts were often commissioned by royalty and the noble class in Europe. While some portraits were created as miniatures, out of a single tusk, others were life-size, made out of multiple tusks and placed upon pedastals of onyx, wood or marble. Unlike most ivory carvings, whose carvers remain anonymous, many ivory portraits and busts are signed by their makers. The mojaority of ivory portraits were made from to

The sale of ivory across international boundaries has been banned since , when the African elephant was listed among species prohibited for commercial trade, but the precious commodity still manages to find its way to buyers in Asia, Europe, and North America.

Ivory carving , the carving or shaping of ivory into sculptures, ornaments, and decorative or utilitarian articles. Elephant tusks have been the main source of ivory used for such carvings, although the tusks of walrus and other ivory-bearing mammals have also been worked. From ancient times ivory has been considered an article of luxury because of its qualities of fine grain, creamy light colour, smooth texture, and soft lustre.

Elephant Tusk Ivory

Tougher ivory law to come into force this year Alex Stevens, Exemptions include sales to and between accredited museums. The Ivory Act, which bans UK domestic and international trade in items containing elephant ivory, has passed through UK parliament and is expected to come into force in late Exemptions will be administered through a new online registration system. Further details of the exemption process would be released as soon as possible, said a Defra spokesperson. This international group aims to reduce the illegal killing of African elephants by at least one third by the end of , and two thirds by the end of Related Articles. Join Individual membership. Institutional membership. Corporate membership.

David Warther has become an expert in knowing the laws and regulations regarding the buying,selling and gifting of elephant tusks and ivory carvings in the United States. He is regularly consulted by professionals in the antique, musical instrument, and firearm worlds about the sale and transfer of tusks and carvings. The elephant tusk ivory David uses for his carvings is classified as pre-ban and antique ivory. This ivory is old material purchased or donated from other museums and from private collections, all within the United States. The African elephant tusks pictured here are from just one of many old collections in America dating back to the early s.

Registered in Ireland: Kya deLongchamps advises on how to identify real ivory, and when to avoid it like the plague. Despite its silken, tactile beauty, elephant ivory is one of those subjects that elicits an instant reaction from most people. A blink, a shudder, a twist of deep repellence — these feelings are well founded. Last year, and for the first time, a top London auction house, Chiswick, was prosecuted for the sale in genuine error of a piece of elephant tusk dating from the s.

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