The recent discovery of a huge gold hoard in the English countryside was not as rare as we might imagine. Georgina Adam reminds us in this weekend’s Financial Times that a large cache of silver was unearthed in France in 2006. It just sold to the French government in the nick of time:
In a last-minute rescue, the French State has paid €1.4m for the Trésor de la Meuse, a stunning cache of French Renaissance silver which was due to be sold at Sotheby’s Paris next Monday.
The 15th- and 16th-century parcel-gilt silver treasure – a ewer, spoons, cups, beakers and two salts – was dug up in 2006 in the Lorraine countryside. The finder took them to his local museum and negotiations for sale started with the French state. But when the talks dragged on, the finder decided to sell at auction, with an “on request” estimate of about €1m. As France promptly classified the cache as a “National Treasure”, it would not be allowed to leave the country.
But behind all of this, other talks were going on. French auction houses are not allowed to carry out private treaty sales, so a Sotheby’s company outside the country was negotiating a sale. In the end the French state, local bodies and sponsors came up with the money, and have bought the treasure for the Lorrain Museum in Nancy. Sotheby’s compensation? Under the private treaty arrangement, it just gets the vendors’ premium, but no buyers’ premium. But the firm’s specialist, Thierry de Lachaise, says he is privileged to have handled the treasure: “It is breathtakingly beautiful, and extremely rare,” he said. “The ewer is the oldest known with a Paris hallmark, and the set of 12 spoons are 150 years earlier than any other known sets.”
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