His ownership of the painting was not, however, publicly acknowledged until 1890, a year after Yohanne’s death; and it was not until 1905 that a photograph of the icon was allowed to appear in The Burlington Magazine, an art journal with which Holmes was associated. The reproduction bore the revealing caption:
“Head of Christ formerly in the possession of King Theodore of Abyssinia, now in the possession of Sir Richard Holmes, KCVO.”
By then, the request by Emperor Yohannes for the restitution of the icon had, of course, long since been filed away!
IX. Lady Meux
The most famous private collection of Ethiopian manuscripts from Maqdala was that acquired by an English woman, Lady Valorie Meux, who had several of them published in London, in facsimile editions, with translations by Sir Ernest Wallis Budge. These manuscripts were seen by Emperor Menilek’s envoy Ras Makonnen, who had come to England in 1902 for the Coronation of King Edward VII. When the Ras saw these manuscripts, he expressed great admiration, stating that he had “never seen any such beautiful manuscripts” in his country, and declared that he would “ask the Emperor to buy them back”.