Press release

£3.3m masterpiece banned from leaving UK

Export bar placed on Dieric Bouts’ St Luke Drawing the Virgin and Child

The painting St Luke Drawing the Virgin and Child from Dieric Bouts’ workshop is at risk of being exported from the UK unless a buyer can be found to match the asking price of £3,300,000 (plus VAT of £83,320).

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on the 15th century oil painting to allow time for a UK buyer to come forward.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said:

This distinctive painting is the only example of St Luke drawing the Virgin Mary and Christ by a Northern European artist on display in this country. I hope that a buyer comes forward to save this iconic piece for the UK.

The painting depicts St Luke drawing the Virgin Mary and Christ, a popular subject in 15th Century Netherlands. Dieric Bouts was one of the leading and most influential Netherlandish painters of this period. He was one of the pioneers of the oil painting technique and was also one of the first of his Northern European contemporaries to make use of single-point perspective, both of which are seen in the painting.

The decision to defer an export licence follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), administered by the Arts Council.

The RCEWA made their recommendation on the grounds that the painting was of outstanding aesthetic importance and that it was of outstanding significance for the study of painting in the 15th century Netherlands.

RCEWA member Lowell Libson said:

This extremely rare and expressive depiction of ‘St Luke drawing the Virgin’ allows an important opportunity to explore the activities of the influential Bouts family and their workshop in the second half of the fifteenth century as well as studio practice in the Netherlands.

This painting includes not only a painter making a drawing - a study from ‘life’ - but also a delightful passage which reveals a tantalising glimpse of a painter’s studio. This adds to our knowledge of how a Flemish workshop was laid out and organised. Its retention in the UK would enhance the study and our understanding of Flemish painting of the period.

The decision on the export licence application will be deferred until the 26 February 2016. This may be extended until 26 June 2016 if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the painting is made at the recommended price of £3,300,000 (plus VAT of £83,320).

Offers from public bodies for less than the recommended price through the private treaty sale arrangements, where appropriate, may be considered. Such purchases frequently offer substantial financial benefit to a public institution wishing to acquire the item.

Please contact the RCEWA Secretariat on 0845 300 6200 for further information.

An image of the painting can be downloaded here