A HIGH Wycombe artist has lovingly reproduced an Anglo Saxon casket for a Viking Exhibition which is on at the British Museum.

The first major exhibition on Vikings at the British Museum for over 30 years started yesterday (March 6) and will run until June 22.

And Andrew Lilley, who works from a studio in High Wycombe opposite the Rye, has been commissioned to reproduce a mysterious 8th century casket.

The Franks Casket is included in the exhibition and was made around 700AD in Northumbria.

It shows scenes from Roman, Jewish, Christian and Germanic tradition and Mr Lilley has reproduced it for sale in the museum's shop. He has spent three months making the moulds for the casket, which was originally made from whale bone.

The 60-year-old said: "It is a very unique piece to the British Museum in that it is the best example of its kind of which there are very few."

The casket came to light again in the 19th century where it was being used as a family work box in Auzon, France.

It was made in Northumbria and nobody really knows how it ended up in France.

It was dismantled at some point in its history and one end panel was separated from the rest of the box and can now be found in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence.

The rest of it resides in the British Museum and it was donated by Sir Augustus Franks, who rediscovered the casket.

Andrew said: "I found an image for one of the sides of the casket in a book I had. It was such a beautiful image. The thing about it, it is one of the biggest anomaly and mystery in art.

"It was obviously made to house some kind of holy relic. It is definitely religious and definitely Christian based.

"But the person who carved it has incorporated Viking, Judaic, Germanic art. They have put runes on it too."

Andrew studied fine arts in the early 1970s before travelling to India, where he set up his first studio.

He moved to Hong Kong in 1990 and set up another studio before returning to England in 2006.

Two years ago he set up his own studio just off Queens Road. He said: "I have been working with the British Museum on other projects.

Last year I did a reproduction of one of their Greek sculptures which has since become their best seller. I reproduced it on a small scale."

He has also reproduced a Viking Jelling Stone. The description on the British Museum website said of the casket: "The style of the carving, and dialect of the inscriptions, show that the casket was made in northern England, probably in a monastery, and possibly for a learned patron. Made at a time when Christianity had not long been established in England, it reflects a strong interest in how the pagan Germanic past might relate to Christ’s message, and to the histories of Rome and Jerusalem."

To find out more about the exhibition go to www.britishmuseumshoponline.org and to find out more about Andrew go to www.andrewlilley.co.uk

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