Prehistoric droppings add gloss to sale of dinosaur eggs: Public's Jurassic enthusiasm to be whetted by auction of collection first unearthed in China

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The Independent Online
DINOSAUR eggs and fossilised droppings are to be sold by Bonhams next month.

The 10 eggs, laid between 70 million and 100 million years ago, make up the largest group to come on to the market and should fetch between pounds 18,000 and pounds 22,000 at auction on 15 September.

The 23 pieces of fossilised dinosaur droppings, from the same collection, have each been cut in half and polished with agate to give them a high gloss.

Kevin Conru of Bonhams said that for a couple of hundred pounds, they would make an ideal Christmas present.

The parents of the eggs were sauropod dinosaurs, herbivores similar to the brontosaurus. The grey- brown eggs, which measure 51 2 in in diameter, are within a fossilised nest - just like a bird's nest - spanning 17in by 18in.

It was excavated three years ago at Xixia in the Henan province of China, where the world's greatest variety of dinosaur eggs has been found. Bonhams believes that it is the only nest of this size in the West.

It is being sold by Jan Stobbe, 38, a Dutch amateur geologist described as a 'fanatical collector' since childhood; over 25 years, he amassed a well-known collection of fossils, minerals and meteorites.

Mr Conru said it was pure coincidence that the sale was being held at the height of dinomania.

Mr Stobbe said: 'I am sad to sell but this seems a good time to share my enthusiasms with a public who are so much more aware of all things prehistoric these days.'

From other sources, Bonhams has a complete skeleton of a Permian period pachypleurosaur, more than 200 million years old; and a 12in footprint from a large three- toed dinosaur, quarried near Swanage in Dorset. Their respective upper estimates are pounds 2,000 and pounds 300.

A painting found hanging in a Jesuit dining room, previously credited to a minor Flemish artist, was yesterday confirmed as an original Caravaggio. Donated to the order by a Dublin paediatrician, it was thought to have been a work by Gerrit Van Honthorst.

The Taking of Christ (1602) will remain the property of the Jesuits, but they have placed it on indefinite loan to the National Gallery in Dublin. It first came to the notice of the gallery in 1991 when it was asked to help clean it.

The Jesuits had first approached the assistant director of the National Gallery, Brian Kennedy. Yesterday, after the team of experts on 17th-century Italian art had concluded their research, he described it as 'a hugely important work'.

Credit for the discovery has been given to the gallery's Florentine senior conservator, Sergio Benedetti, who saw it when surveying the collection in the Jesuits' residence. A Caravaggio expert, he realised that its composition bore many similarities to the Italian master's style.

Suspicions about the identity of the work were kept secret for almost two years. Only 10 people in Ireland were aware of its real origin until reports of the investigation leaked out six months ago.

One figure in the work, done for an Italian aristocrat, Asdrubale Mattei, is thought to be the artist himself, who fled Rome for Naples after painting it to escape a possible murder charge.

(Photograph omitted)