Export block on £9.5m key Millais

The export of a painting by John Everett Millais has been halted to allow a UK buyer to raise £9.5m to keep it in the UK on public display.

Millais was a central figure in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of the mid-19thcentury, and the picture,Ferdinand Lured by Ariel, is seen as a key work.

The composition shows Ferdinand in Shakespeare’s The Tempest after being shipwrecked on the enchanted island of the magician Prospero whose servant Ariel is trying to tempt him towards his master 

Painted in 1850 when Millais was still only 21, it is an important early work in the PRB’s history, radical for its use of colour and detail, and it was the first Millais completed in the open air. 

Arts minister Rebecca Pow has temporarily withheld an export licence on the painting on the advice of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA) on the grounds of the painting’s outstanding importance for the study of the history of collecting, the pre-eminent place of the PRB in the development and influence of 19th century British art and the brilliance of its composition and execution. 

Committee member Peter Barber commented: This beautiful painting is a summation of everything English. A novel interpretation of an episode from Shakespeare, it is set in a minutely observed English garden in the summer. The more one looks, the more one sees.  

“You can almost hear the singing of the birds, the fluttering of the butterflies, the rustling of the insects and smell the scent of the flowers. Such close observation was unique to the Pre-Raphaelites, one of the very few distinctively British art movements. An epitome of its type and of Englishness, I hope a British institution will find the means to keep it in this country.”

The export licence's deferral is until November and can be extended to 15 May 2020.

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