Monday 24 December 2012

From Santa Claus to Fanny Claus: Manet saved by the Brits

"Manet work among £29m of treasures saved for the UK" was the headline of this recent piece on the BBC website.  This saving was achieved just in time for Christmas by the crude but effective device of the export ban.
"An Edouard Manet portrait is among four treasures which have been prevented from leaving the UK in the last year. The items, worth a collective £29m, include a Benjamin Britten draft score, two Italian console tables and a sculpture by John Nost the Elder. The public will now have access to the works, according to a new report. They were bought for a combined £9.3m, after the secretary of state enforced an export ban giving museums and galleries more time to raise funds.

If an object is more than 50 years old and requires a licence for export out of the UK, the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, managed by Arts Council England, can decide whether the object is of national importance.

Its latest report said between 1 May 2011 and 30 April 2012 eleven items were considered, seven of which were referred to the secretary of state..

Manet's portrait of Mademoiselle Claus, a major work in the development of impressionist art by the 19th Century French painter, is worth an estimated £28.4m but was purchased for £7.8m by the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford in April. ...

The portrait's subject is Fanny Claus, a close friend of Manet's wife, and was a study for one of his most famous paintings Le Balcon.  Chairman of the Reviewing Committee, Lord Inglewood, said:
"This shows the benefits that can arise from the workings of a tax system which encourages the retention of treasures like these in this country. I would encourage the Treasury to look sympathetically and constructively at how the nation in the future can benefit even more from such schemes."
... Alan Davey, chief executive of Arts Council England, said it is "wonderful" that these rare objects have been saved for the nation.... Culture minister Ed Vaizey added:
"The export licensing system is a valuable tool in preventing items like these from disappearing abroad and ensuring they will be enjoyed for generations to come." ...".
It is is curious to reflect that, in these days of increasing globalisation of information and access to it, the "retention of national treasures" should remain a hallowed value in the UK to the extent that a painting of a French woman, executed by a French artist, should be regarded as a British treasure rather than a French one.  Future generations of Frenchmen can access the Ashmolean Museum quite handily via Heathrow Airport ...

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