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A Vietnamese Carved Ivory Tusk
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A Vietnamese Carved Ivory Tusk
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Details & Cataloguing

The White House Years of Robert S. McNamara

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A Vietnamese Carved Ivory Tusk
A carved ivory tusk (height 25 1/2 in.; 648 mm), ca. 1960, depicting Ông Tho, the god of longevity, holding a peach and a walking stick which extends above his head forming an openwork tangle of branches, a double gourd suspended from one branch, the branches all laden with ripe peaches and interspersed with bats, the composition curved to follow the natural outline of the tusk. Mounted on a carved wooden stand, which has a presentation plaque affixed to the underside reading "From Vice Air Marshal Nguyen-Cao-Key Chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the Republic of Viet-Nam."
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Catalogue Note

A carved ivory tusk presented to Secretary McNamara by Vice Air Marshall Nguyen Cao Ky.
Nguyen Cao Ky served as the chief of the Vietnam Air Force in the 1960s, before leading the nation as the prime minister of South Vietnam in a military junta from 1965–1967, which brought an end to the countless coups that plagued South Vietnam after Diem's overthrow. Until his retirement from politics in 1971, he then served as Vice President to bitter rival General Nguyen Van Thieu. Ky intended to run against Thieu in the 1971 elections but the latter introduced laws that virtually prevented his rivals from running. Realizing that the poll had been engineered for an overwhelming Thieu victory, Ky withdrew from politics. When Saigon fell in 1975, Ky fled to the United States, settling in California, where he ran a liquor store. He made headlines in 2004 by being the first South Vietnamese leader to return to Vietnam after the reunification. He died in 2011 at the age of 80 and is buried in California.

The White House Years of Robert S. McNamara

|
New York