The mayor of Saiut-Yrieix-La-Perche, a village home to 7000 inhabitants, ordered a letter to be sent to the New York museum on the 10th of January officially demanding that the relic be returned to its rightful home in the Haute-Vienne department.
The 13th century bust of Aredius, encrusted with precious stones is said to contain the skull of Saint Yrieix, also known as Saint Aredius.
Currently exposed in the Metropolitan Museum of New York and having been on exposition there for more than 100 years, the museum claims to be the undisputed owners of the bust.
But two local local French historians, Brousse and Grandcoing, have discovered that the artefact was purchased by the famous banker and art enthusiast, JP Morgan.
The act of purchase found in the JP Morgan collection states that the bust was sold in 1907 by an English antique dealer for 300, 000 gold francs, who himself acquired the bust from a French antique dealer.
It remains a mystery as to how the Frenchman seized the antique in the first place.
Having been described as a “national treasure” by Judith Kagen, the curator of the Office of the Preservation of the Movable and Instrumental Heritage, she claims that the bust of Aredius had been taken in an “illicit” way.
According to the expert, the legitimate owners of the artefact remain the commune of Saint-Yrieix.
The mayor of the town hopes to resolve the situation “amicably” with the New York museum, but warns that the village is within its right to take civil action if the bust is refused return to its rightful home.