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According to 'Under the rules to be announced by ministers, dealers will be told to prove the age of items or face having them confiscated or destroyed.

Without documentary proof, they may be forced to use costly radiocarbon dating'. The net effect of this will be to more or less kill the market in portrait miniatures.

But it seems the new measures, as set out in this morning, are akin to a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

I'm no fan of carved ivory tusks, antique or not, but something that always gets unfairly caught up in ivory bans are portrait miniatures, which from the late 17th Century onwards are invariably painted on wafer thin pieces of ivory.

Old master paintings are a black hole in the middle of our current discussion of painting. They frustrate questions of the relationship between image and surface by satisfying both, in their own way.

An old master painting is both pure image, in how it’s been ingested into the collective visual memory, and pure object, in how it’s either seen as a souvenir (Mona Lisa mouse pad, anyone?

In a complaint filed this week in Manhattan federal court, Jeanne Marchig, an animal rights activist based in Geneva, said Christie's wrongly attributed the mixed-media profile drawing of a young woman to an anonymous 19th-century German artist working "in the taste of the Italian Renaissance." She and her late husband brought the work to the auctioneer's attention in 1997. Marchig is seeking unspecified damages; a report in London's Guardian newspaper on Wednesday said "her lawyer wants a substantial figure." The Marchig consignment was sold at auction in late 1998 to a New York art dealer, Kate Ganz, for $21,850, including a buyer's premium.