Sometimes, major acquisitions come in small packages. National Museums Scotland has acquired a rare group of five ivories by the Huguenot carver David Le Marchand, who counted Queen Anne, George I and Sir Isaac Newton among his patrons. The four medallions and a miniature bust were commissioned by the Mackenzie family during Le Marchand’s brief stint in Scotland in the late 17th century and have remained in the family for more than 300 years.
The ivories are among the few known works by Le Marchand that predate his arrival in London in 1700. Before he became a celebrated ivory carver for the British elite, he faced religious persecution as a Protestant in his native France and fled the country in 1685. He was given a licence to practise the art of ivory carving in Edinburgh on the condition that he trained Scottish apprentices in the craft.
The intricately carved works will go on show next summer in one of the National Museum of Scotland’s ten new galleries dedicated to applied art, design, science and technology. The museum acquired the ivories from John Ruaridh Grant Mackenzie, Earl of Cromartie and chief of Clan Mackenzie—who wanted them to remain in Scotland—with support from the Art Fund and the National Museums Scotland Charitable Trust.