Export blocks keep outstanding treasures worth £7m in the UK 2006/07

17 December 2007

One of JMW Turner’s finest works in watercolour, a spectacular eighteenth-century court mantua, an eighteenth century Union flag, a cabinet containing maps used to teach George III’s children and other outstanding items valued at a total of just over £7m have been saved for the nation in one year. This is revealed in the 53rd annual report of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest published today.

The Reviewing Committee, which is serviced by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), provides independent advice to the Culture Secretary on the pre-eminence of cultural and historic objects seeking export licences.  The Committee’s annual report was published today, together with the third annual report to Parliament by the Culture Secretary on the operation of the export controls on objects of cultural interest.

Following recommendations from the Reviewing Committee, the Culture Minister placed temporary bars on the export of twenty objects of outstanding significance during the period 1 May 2006 to 30 April 2007.  These objects include paintings, furniture, manuscripts and archives, sculpture, textiles, and archaeological objects. Of these, twelve items worth just over £7 million have been saved for the nation. Details of all the cases are contained in the annual report.

Culture Minister, Margaret Hodge, said:

“The Reviewing Committee process provides the last chance to save these vital pieces of our cultural heritage for the public to enjoy and learn from. Some, such as the Guild Roll of St Mary, the archive of Reverend William Gunn and the Neolithic jadeite axe-head, are now displayed in localities where they hold a particularly strong significance.”

Mark Wood, Chairman of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council said:

“This scheme has proved to be a highly effective way of ensuring the country’s finest cultural treasures cannot leave our islands before there has been a careful consideration of their value to the nation, and an effort to rally UK-based buyers to keep the most significant items here.”

The items that have been acquired by institutions and individuals in the United Kingdom, are as follows and they include all three items “starred” by the Committee to denote the every effort should be made to retain them in the United Kingdom:

  • The archive of Reverend William Gunn purchased by Norfolk Record Office for £83,050;
  • An Anglo-Saxon gilded mount with interlace decoration purchased by the Fitzwilliam Museum for £7,000;
  • An Anglo-Saxon great square-headed brooch purchased by the World Museum Liverpool for £15,000;
  • A watercolour painting by  J M W  Turner, The Blue Rigi, Lake of Lucerne, Sunrise, 1842 purchased by Tate for £5,832,000; 
  • A collection of manuscript and printed maps cut as jigsaws and housed in a mahogany cabinet purchased by the Art Fund for £120,000 and donated to be shared equally between Historic Royal Palaces and the V&A Museum of Childhood;
  • An eighteenth-century mantua and petticoat purchased by the Art Fund for £80,275 and donated to Historic Royal Palaces;
  • A felt appliqué and patch-worked album coverlet made by Ann West in 1820 purchased by the Victoria and Albert Museum for £34,450;
  • Diaries, Correspondence and Manuscript Volumes of Mary Hamilton purchased by the John Rylands University Library for £123,500;
  • A ‘jadeite’ Neolithic axe-head from Sturminster Marshall, Dorset purchased for the Dorset County Museum for £24,000;
  • Guild Roll of the Guild of St Mary purchased by Nottinghamshire Archives for £6,600;
  • A fifteenth-century illuminated manuscript of the Hours of the Passion purchased by the British Library for £635,200;
  • An eighteenth-century Union flag purchased by the National Maritime Museum for £48,000.

Unfortunately, matching funds could not be raised for four items found to be of outstanding significance: paintings by Michiel Van Musscher, John Constable and Karel Van Mander the Elder and a bronze statuette of Marsyas after Pierre Legros the Younger.
Department for Culture, Media and Sport ministers and the Reviewing Committee were pleased to note significant grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund, the MLA/Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund, charitable and private donations which made many of these purchases possible.

Copies of the report will be available from DCMS, please contact: Fiona Cameron 020 7211 6266 or in the publication section of the dcms website.


Notes to Editors

Media enquiries on the operation and casework arising from the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest and the export licence system should go to Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) Head of Media Relations, John Harrison, on 020 7273 1402, email: john.harrison@mla.gov.uk.

The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest is an independent body, serviced by MLA, which advises the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on whether a cultural object, intended for export, is of national importance under specified criteria. Where the Committee finds that an object meets one or more of the criteria, it will normally recommend that the decision on the export licence application should be deferred for a specified period. An offer may then be made from within the United Kingdom at or above the fair market price.

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