The Casket

In the Cleveland Museum of Art's permanent collection, and currently on loan to the Getty Museum of Art in Los Angeles, is a small boxwood casket that dates back to Anglo-Saxon England, around the year 1050. On the sides and top of the casket, several scenes from the life of Christ are depicted.

The casket was purchased by an English art collector in 1929, though it was without its lid, which was presumed lost. In 1936, that same collector happened upon the lid for the casket purely by chance while he was visiting a London convent. He eagerly offered to buy the lid, but the abbess of the convent refused to listen, hastily removing the collector from the premises without a word, and bolting the door after he was outside. The collector later recounted in his journal that "it was miraculous fortune that rain chose to fall that night, as the thunder and lightening served to obscure the arduous task of breaking in to [the convent] and rescuing that most precious artifact. Why those nuns chose to sully such a find by imprisoning it behind thick glass where none could see it, I shall never understand."

When the collector reunited the casket with its lid, he reported that it "clicked shut with a surprising amount of force, almost like a magnet." He was unable to separate the lid from the casket again, as he feared damaging the fragile artifact.

The casket changed hands several more times before ending up in the CMA's collection. Interestingly, photographs of the casket taken shortly after its acquisition differ slightly from current photographs and observation of the casket, though little restoration work has been done due to the frailness of the materials. The carvings on the casket have become "more realistic and sharply defined," according to published works in the CMA's Ingalls Library unavailable to the public. Also, the casket itself apparently "generates a great amount of heat" and must be handled with asbestos-treated gloves. One researcher noted that she heard a "strange rattling noise inside the casket as it was transported… Attempts have been made to open the casket, and none have been successful."


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Story Title or Titles: The Casket
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Date: Unknown. Posted by Kain Pathos Crow at the Foundation wiki on 27 Sep 2008.
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