Raphael, Murillo, Pierino da Vinci… An update on export bans in the United Kingdom

1. Raphaël (1483-1520)
Head of a Muse
Black chalk - 30.5 x 22.2 cm
Export permit from the United Kingdom
Photo : Christie’s

14/8/10 – Heritage – United Kingdom – We have already spoken on several occasions about the British system of exporting art works. Export bans are much shorter than in France, lasting only three months, unless a British purchaser comes forward with the firm intention of buying the object. The deadline can then be extended for a few months in order for the person to raise the needed funds [1].
This was not the case for a sheet by Raphael, Head of a Muse (ill. 1), preparatory for the Parnassus in the Vatican chambers, auctioned off at Christie’s on 8 December 2009 for 29.161.250 pounds (including charges), setting a world record for a drawing. The export permit was issued after 25 May 2010, the end of the three-month period. Given the high price for this work, the limited means of British museums and the fact that they already own an extensive array of Raphael drawings, this did not come as surprising news to anyone.

Three export bans for important works which fall chronologically under The Art Tribune’s field are currently still in progress.
The most recent one concerns a Virgin with Child by Murillo (ill. 2) which dates from the early 1650’s. A potential buyer has until 18 September 2010 to step forward (the deadline could be extended until 18 January 2011) and offer 3 million pounds, if not this painting could very well leave the United Kingdom. Since it was exhibited for many years in two museums (Birmingham City Art Gallery from 1978 to 2002 and especially the National Gallery of Scotland from 2002 until 2008), it might possibly interest the Getty Museum which in fact only owns one Murillo for the moment, the Vision of Saint Francois de Paule, dating from about 20 years later (see news item of 17/3/04 in French).

1. Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
Virgin with Child
Oil on canvas - 166.5 x 110.5 cm
Export permit from the United Kingdom
Photo : MLA

3. Pierino da Vinci (1529-1553)
Ugolin and his Children, c. 1448-1450
Bronze - 64.5 x 46 cm
Export bans from the United Kingdom
Photo : MLA

A bronze relief by the Florentine artist, Pierino da Vinci representing Ugolin and his Children (ill. 3) was detained on 18 June 2010. A nephew of Leonardo, he is one of the most important sculptors of the first half of the 16th century and his known works are very rare. This relief [2] is quoted by Vasari in his life of Pierino da Vinci where he also gives the name of the person who commissioned it, Luca Martini dell’Ala, and the date of execution, around 1549. It soon lost its attribution and was ascribed to Michelangelo, then arrived in England, probably before 1719. In 1764 it joined the Duke of Devonshire’s collection. The correct attribution and provenance were identified only recently after discovering Martini’s coat of arms on the back. Once again, this is a major work from Chatsworth [3], for which a museum or private individual would have to spend no less than 10 million pounds.

William Hoare of Bath (vers 1702-1772)
Portrait of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, calledt Job ben Solomon
en costume africain

Oil on canvas - 76.2 x 64.2 cm
Export bans from the United Kingdom
Photo : MLA

Finally, the National Portrait Gallery in London has launched a fundraiser for the acquisition of a painting by William Hoare of Bath, the Portrait of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, the first known English portrait of a freed slave. The model, from Senegal, had also dealt in the slave trade with Europe before being captured in turn and sold to work on a tobacco plantation in Maryland. He ran away to England and was freed thanks to public subsciption. After living for a while in London (he was even presented at court), he returned to Africa where he worked for the Royal African Company and once again hired slaves. Despite this, he became a symbol for English abolitionists. The work was sold at Christie’s London on 8 December 2009 for 541.250 pounds and its export ban was to expire on 25 May. As the National Portrait Gallery stated its interest in acquiring it and is trying to raise the funds, the deadline has been extended to 25 August 2010. The Heritage Lottery Fund has already pledged 330.000 pounds and 100.000 by the Art Fund. Another 100.000 pounds are therefore still needed.

We thus notice, alas, that important and expensive works banned for export cannot be acquired by British museums. Quite recently, the large Saint John the Evangelist by Domenichino was saved from export thanks to a private collector (see news item of 21/6/10). While there is a very good chance that the painting by William Hoare will finally go to the National Portrait Gallery, we fear that the Murillo and, above all, the Pierino da Vinci will follow in the steps of the Raphael drawing.

Didier Rykner, samedi 14 août 2010


[1] To be clear, these are not set deadlines as we had stated in an earlier news item. They are generally three months long initially, then renewed for another three months but can vary slightly depending on the value of the object. A committee, the RCEWA (Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest), recommends the temporary export ban and the deadline in conjunction with the minister.

[2] We point out that there are at least two terracotta versions of this composition, one at the Ashmolean Museum which would seem to be a working proof according to Nicholas Penny (in his catalogue on the sculptures at Oxford), and another at the Bargello in Florence.

[3] On 5,6, and 7 October 2010, Sotheby’s London will auction an ensemble of about 20.000 objects held at Chatsworth, from different estates formerly owned by the Devonshire family and “forgotten” for decades in the attic of the castle. Many of them come from Devonshire House in London, destroyed in 1925. We no doubt will talk about them again soon.

imprimer Print this article

Previous article in News Items : A painting by Benigne Gagneraux purchased by the Musee de la Revolution Francaise

Next article in News Items : Some photograph databases