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The head is made from two elaborately pierced and delicately carved pieces of walrus ivory and depicts two figures among intricately woven foliage.

On one side St Olav, King of Norway, is represented in a late Gothic style, holding an axe in his right hand and an orb in his left. On the other side, the archbishop, tentatively identified as St Eystein, is represented in an earlier, less naturalistic style. Both figures are encircled within the curling head of the crozier, which is richly decorated with leaves, pomegranates and clusters of grapes.

Known as the Digby Crozier, the head has been in the possession of the Wingfield-Digby family for more than 300 years and has been on loan at the V&A since 1930. It is thought to have been brought to England from Ireland in the 17th century by The Right Reverend Essex Digby, Bishop of Dromore, the sixth son of Sir Robert Digby of Coleshill, who died in 1683. Prior to its arrival at the V&A, it was preserved in the Muniment Room of Sherborne Castle in Dorset for many years.
Other negotiated pieces announced last week by Christie’s include an important oil sketch by van Dyck, The Grand Procession of the Order of the Garter with King Charles I, which has been donated to the nation in lieu of inheritance tax payable on the death of the 10th Duke of Rutland. It is expected to go to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

In addition, Christie’s have negotiated the donation of the papers of the late Lord Amery of Lustleigh (Julian Amery, 1919-96), and those of his father, Leopold Stennett Amery (1873-1955), also in lieu of inheritance tax. The papers are expected to be housed in the Churchill Archives Centre at Churchill College, Cambridge.
Two wax sculptures by Giambologna, negotiated in lieu of tax from the collection of the late Sir Brinsley Ford, will also go to the V&A where they have been on loan for a number of years.