Boston Museum of Fine Arts - The Lehman Collection of African Ivory

This past year the Boston Museum of Fine Arts was given some very important bronze, brass, and ivory objects from the Lehman African Art Collection. I have listed below the ivory objects listed by Boston as being part of this donation. It is interesting to speculate how this appraisal would have happened had it taken place after February 24, 2014. As an appraiser that has looked at this material for over thirty years, I am not certain that I could legally appraise it if the donation occurred after the 24th. Before I accepted the assignment I would get a legal opinion that provided guidance on any potential liability. I can say unequivocally that the value of these ivory objects is lower today than it was in January of this year. The ivory saltcellar which is illustrated here is 16th century and sold at Sothebys London for 6000 pounds in 1974. We don't know when this came into the United States but assuming it was the same year then under the old rules it would be described as "pre act". Under the new rules it is my understanding that it could only be sold within the state in which the owner resides. I haven't researched objects like this but it seems reasonable to me based on other objects of comparable importance and quality that the fair market value could be in excess of $1,000,000. After February 24th the market shrinks considerably to buyers within the owner's state. Many museums will need now to reassess their collections and their loans to ensure that they comply with the new direction of ESA.


1. Container
Edo peoples, Benin kingdom, Nigeria, 19th century
Ivory
Length x width: 11.4 x 6.4 cm (4 1/2 x 2 1/2 in.)
Robert Owen Lehman Collection
Provenance:
Merton D. Simpson Gallery, New York; sold by Simpson to Robert Owen Lehman; 2012, promised gift of Robert
Owen Lehman to the MFA.


2. Saltcellar
Sapi peoples, Sierra Leone and Guinea, late 15th–early 16th century
Ivory
Height x width: 6 x 3 3/4 in. (15.2 x 9.5 cm)
Robert Owen Lehman Collection
Provenance:
With Charles Ratton (b. 1895 – d. 1986), Paris. J.J. Klejman (b. 1906 – d. 1995), New York. 2012, promised gift
of Robert Owen Lehman to the MFA.


3. Saltcellar
Sapi peoples, Sierra Leone and Guinea, late 15th–early 16th century
Ivory
Height x width: 10 x 4 in. (25.4 x 10.2 cm)
Robert Owen Lehman Collection
Provenance:
July 8, 1974, anonymous (“various properties”) sale, Sotheby’s, London, lot 84, sold for £6000 to Robinson. 2012,
promised gift of Robert Owen Lehman to the MFA.


4. Pendant with a Queen Mother (Iyoba) playing a gong
Edo peoples, Benin kingdom, Nigeria, late 17th–early 18th century
Ivory
Length x width: 17.1 x 10.2 cm (6 3/4 x 4 in.)
Robert Owen Lehman Collection
Provenance:
Early 20th century, brought from the Kingdom of Benin to England. 1961, Colonel Albert Horton, England;
February 6, 1961, Colonel Horton sale, Sotheby’s, London, lot 152, sold for £ 880 to K. John Hewett (b. 1919 – d.
1994), London. 2012, promised gift of Robert Owen Lehman to the MFA.


5. Staff showing a military commander on horseback
Edo peoples, Benin kingdom, Nigeria, 18th century
Ivory
Height x width: 16 x 4 in. (40.6 x 10.2 cm)
Robert Owen Lehman Collection
Provenance:
April 4, 1898, sale, J. C. Stevens Auction Rooms, London, lot 155, sold for £ 25.70 to Lt.-General Augustus Henry
Pitt-Rivers (b. 1827 - d. 1900), Farnham, England; until the 1960s, kept at the Pitt-Rivers Museum, Farnham, and
passed by descent within the family [see note]; 1970s, sold upon the dispersal of the collection. 2012, promised gift
of Robert Owen Lehman to the MFA.
NOTE:
The collection of the privately-owned Pitt-Rivers museum passed by descent through Augustus Henry Pitt-Rivers’s
son Alexander Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers to his grandson, Captain George Pitt-Rivers (1890-1966) and his common law
wife, Stella Howson-Clive (Pitt-Rivers). The museum closed in the 1960s and the collection was sold.