Historic Items Worth £4.2 Million Saved Following Export Deferral


Eleven items worth £4.2 million, including a portrait by Joseph Wright of Derby, an armchair and dressing table designed by Marcel Breuer, and a bronze incense burner attributed to Desiderio da Firenze, were kept in the country following export deferral during 2002-3. All these items will now become available for the public to enjoy, some where they hold a particularly strong local significance.

During the year, the Minister of State for the Arts placed temporary bars on the export of 23 objects of outstanding significance, including paintings, armour, jewellery, sculptures, statues and personal papers. As a result of the Committee's recommendations, high profile campaigns were launched to save important works of art, such as Raphael's Madonna of the Pinks, and the portrait of Omai, by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Details of each case are contained in the 49th annual report, published today, of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art, which provides independent advice to the Minister of State for the Arts on the pre-eminence of cultural and historic objects seeking export licences.


Arts Minister Estelle Morris said:

"I am delighted that the value of items saved for the Nation this year has almost doubled on last year. A wide range of culturally important objects from a Roman well-head made around 100 BC, to furniture created by the architect Marcel Breuer in 1936 for Highpoint, Highgate, have passed through our well balanced deferral system. I would like to congratulate Sir John Guinness, who recently retired as Chairman, and the Reviewing Committee for their work"

"It is a credit to our much admired deferral system that such important items have been saved for the nation, and I find it especially gratifying that some items, such as the portrait of Richard Arkwright junior and his family by Joseph Wright of Derby, and a miniature album of photographs by Mary Dillwyn, have been returned to the regions where they hold a particular significance for local people."


The 11 saved items have been acquired by museums, galleries and libraries in the United Kingdom. They include:

  • A portrait, Richard Arkwright junior with his wife Mary and daughter Anne, by Joseph Wright of Derby,1790, painted as part of a series of family portraits, for the famous cotton manufacturer Sir Richard Arkwright. Purchased by Derby Museum and Art Gallery (£1,217,500);
  • A bronze incense burner attributed to Desiderio da Firenze, c. 1540, previously held in the Werner collection it was purchased by the Ashmolean Museum (£980,000);
  • A portrait, by Benjamin West, 1764, Lieutenant General, the Hon Robert Monckton. This portrait of one of the principal British officers who fought for control of the Americas during the Seven Years' War was purchased by the National Army Museum (£539,130.95);
  • A Meissen porcelain figure of a crouching King vulture, originally made for Augustus the Strong's Japanese Palace at Dresden, c.1732. Purchased by the Victoria and Albert Museum (£510,688);
  • A miniature of the Nativity, taken from a Book of Hours, attributed to Jean Bourdichon of Tours, c.1510, purchased by the Victoria and Albert Museum (£250,000);
  • A Roman well-head, the Guilford puteal, decorated in remarkable low-relief carving, c.100 BC, purchased by the British Museum (£294,009.30);
  • A pair of George IV ormolu and mother of pearl inlaid black and gilt-japanned papier-mâché vases, c. 1830, the vases by Jennens and Bettridge, the mounts attributed to Edward Holmes Baldock. The vases were recorded at Temple Newsam House in Leeds in 1869, and have been purchased to return there (£185,000);
  • Letters and diaries of Claudius James Rich, (1787-1821). A pioneer in the field of Near Eastern archaeology, he was credited with the discovery of the ruins of Babylon. Whilst Resident for the East India Company at Baghdad he collected coins, manuscripts and pottery fragments, these were later to form the basis of the British Museum's collections from the ancient Near East. His personal papers were purchased by the British Library (£61,575);
  • A miniature photograph album by Mary Dillwyn, who made a significant but largely, overlooked contribution to the development of the art of photography  (1816-1906). This album of informal portraits gives an insight into the social, artistic and scientific history of South Wales. Purchased by the National Library of Wales (£49,165);
  • An armchair and dressing table commissioned from Marcel Breuer in 1936, for a flat in the then ultra modern block at Highpoint, North London. Purchased by the Victoria and Albert Museum, (£41,790 armchair, £44,248 dressing table);

The Reviewing Committee is pleased to note significant grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund/National Heritage Memorial Fund and the National Art Collections Fund, which made most of these purchases possible. Generous support was also received from Resource/Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund, the Friends of the National Libraries, the Friends of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Museum Caryatid Group, Henry Moore Foundation, Society of Dilettanti and Waste Recycling Environmental co-ordinated by Derbyshire Environmental Trust.

Further Information:

The 49th Report of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art


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