Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Elephant in The Room

"Nature's great masterpiece, an Elephant; the only harmless great thing." John Donne

I can't begin to tell you how much I love elephants and I can't begin to tell you how often I have loved seeing art made out of ivory. And I'll bet I'm not the only one.

One of my favorite museums, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, has incredible things carved in the most intricate detail out of ivory. Certainly there are collections worldwide. I don't believe any of them have any inclination to rid themselves of their ivory masterpieces. Even though the killing of elephants for ivory is a travesty.  Something that is more in our consciousness now, when in the fairly recent past I think it fair to say we all took ivory for granted and never questioned how it came to be the artifact we so admire.

Ivory Memento Mori  Rosary Circa 1500 - Metropolitan Museum of Art
So what does one do when one loves elephants and owns beautiful things made of ivory?
I don't have an answer. Ivory miniatures and ivory used in making miniatures are centuries old.  And we love them. But the very sad fact remains that today love for ivory is not helping elephants. 

This piece is about ivory miniatures that I want to share here. I wish I could say they were made from the tusks of my pet elephant who passed away in sleep after a very long and happy life. Who lived out on the African plain with family and who came to visit me once a day to be petted. But I can say that the magnificent miniature pipes below came from ivory scraps used in restorations and subsequently sold on eBay. Where the selling of ivory is now banned. 

Enjoy the photos and think about the elephants who gave it.

All these meerschaum pipes are carved by Cliff Feltrope. They came out of the Adell Venus auction and they are breathtaking. Hard to believe they were made by human hands. With help from elephants of course.

Hand Carved Meerschaum Pipe by Cliff Feltrope



This meerschaum pipe by Cliff Feltrope has a gold helmet that opens.

The following photos are some other ivory miniatures in my collection. I was told that the tiny netsuke came from mammoth ivory so thought they were OK to buy.  The tiny animals are antiques. The snuff bottles, which have removable tops, were done by Ligia Durstenfeld.

I'd love to hear your thoughts regarding this touchy subject. Please comment below.

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  1. Yes, they are exquisite. Yes, I think about the poor elephants. cruel.

  2. I also hate the thought of killing an elephant just for their ivory. They are such wonderful animals. So intelligent and even compassionate. I have read such incredible reports that confirm it. Some of those stories will melt your heart.

    I too have some beautiful things made of ivory. I wouldn't consider getting rid of it. I also wouldn't consider buying something that was made out of it after the ban. UNLESS it was made out of something that was broken (before the ban).

  3. Exquisite carvings, but how can one prove how old the ivory is, my simple answer would be quite controversial, ban sales of anything made from ivory completely no matter how old it is, this should then hopefully stop new ivory slipping through the net.