Friday mystery object #211

The mystery object has been a bit boring recently, mainly because I’ve been tied up with other projects (like the After Life exhibition I’ve been curating with the excellent fine art photographer Sean Dooley) and haven’t been in the stores much. So this Friday I thought I’d give you a bit of a fun object that my brilliant colleagues at the Horniman (check out their Tumblr) came across when reviewing the Anthropology collections:


Any idea what this weird piece of art (a Vicar, or perhaps Nicholas Cage?) has been painted on to? I’ve added a few more images below to help you work it out.

As usual you can put your suggestions in the comments section below – I can’t wait to hear what you think!


24 thoughts on “Friday mystery object #211

  1. I agree with Neanth. Looks like a pious preacher, made using an ox vertebrae, possibly 18th century. Keep up the great work Paulo, mystery Friday is brilliant.

  2. It does seem to be a vertebra of a large animal like a cow.
    The painting is of course the interesting bit isn’t it? It reminds me of Latin American style folk paintings of catholic saints, an art particularly popular in Mexico….

  3. Given the roundness to the body of the vertebra, I say it’s horse cervical vertebra lower than c1 and c2 possibly c4, c5, or c6. If one zooms in on the label in the photo, it reads “Oxford Margate Hotel 25 May 84” presumably that is 1884 and not 1994. A whole different kind of Madonna might have appeared here otherwise. I think it is clearly a vicar hand-painted and jubilant. Jubilant over the tithe basket or most probably Easter services. Why on Earth would anyone paint a vicar on a horse cervical vertebra? Voo-doo, curse, magic? No! I think it represents a time-honored British tradition of a home-craft entry for one of the many Summer festivals in Oxfordshire, although given the material, I’d go with an even more rural county.

  4. I wonder if it is from a marine mammal – it says Margate on it which is by the sea. You sometimes find dolphin vertebrae on the beach.

  5. From the chipped areas the paint looks rather like lacquer on wood (though it looks like the material itself has been affected). But I’m surely wrong – the piece has such a specific and unusal shape. Based on the other comments, if it is bone, I remember seeing images of ox scapula (used for divination in ancient China) that (to my completely untrained eye) look like it could bear some resemblance. Though I suppose that would be larger than this.

  6. Hello there, it seems to be the cervical vertebra of Camel/id like ermineofthenorth said earlier. For me it´s from a girafe, giraffa camelopardis, Cumps.

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