It is hoped that a Roman mosaic from the 4th-century of a leopard attacking an antelope, which was discovered in the grounds of Dewlish House in Dorset in 1974, will stay in the country.
It is the sort of historical work of art which should not be allowed to go overseas and which should not be traded like conventional pieces of art. That’s the argument of people including Jon Murden, director of the Dorset County Museum, who is confident that the museum can raise £135,000 to match the sale price.
It should be saved for the nation but it was nearly sold abroad. It’s a floor panel measuring 6.5′ x 8′. It was sold to an antiques dealer in 2018 who agreed to sell it to a foreign buyer because there was a lack of interest in the UK. He therefore applied for a licence to allow it to be sent abroad but the government temporarily banned the export. The ban expired last week and was extended by the culture minister, Caroline Dinenage, to January 2020 after the Dorset County Museum expressed an interest in it.
The museum is hoping to receive a grant through the V&A Purchase Grant Fund in working with Arts Council England and the British Museum. The campaign to save the mosaic for the nation has been led by an ex-army soldier, John Seymour, who lives in the village of Dewlish.
The leopard wasn’t present in Great Britain in the fourth century during Roman occupation to the best of my knowledge! Neither was the antelope. However, the Romans were known to use the leopard and other big cats in games where they were fought by gladiators. At the time of the Romans the leopard’s distribution on the planet was vast. It has been severely diminished because of human activity and the speed at which the distribution of this iconic wild cat species is shrinking is exponential as is the growth of the human population.
The culture secretary said that, “This mosaic is a piece of history telling us about the lives of our Roman ancestors”. She hopes that a buyer can be found so that it can remain in Great Britain.