News story

At risk of export: ‘Garden of Eden’

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on a painting by Flemish artist Jan Brueghel the Elder, ‘The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man.’

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

'Garden of Eden'
'The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man' by Jan Brueghel the Elder

The work will be exported overseas unless money can be found to match the asking price of £6,963,000.

Jan Brueghel the Elder was the most important Flemish painter of cabinet pictures in the decades around 1600. The painting, which is an exceptionally well preserved little copper belongs to a small group of so called ‘Paradise’ landscapes, created around 1612-15 and which are among his most celebrated works. ‘The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man’ is the smallest but the most refined of these. It combines a woody landscape with highly detailed depictions of a large variety of animals and plants, for which Brueghel was particularly famous and which made these pictures much sought after.

The Minister has deferred granting an export licence for the piece following a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, (RCEWA) administered by Arts Council England. The Committee made their recommendation on the grounds that it is of outstanding aesthetic importance.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said:

This work is an exceptional piece, celebrating not only the beauty of the natural world, but reflecting the growing scientific interest in nature of the time. The painting’s remarkable condition further enhances the work’s importance and rarity, and I sincerely hope that efforts can be made to raise funds for a matching offer to keep the painting in the UK.

Lowell Libson from the RCEWA said:

The small paintings executed on copper by Jan Breughel the Elder are amongst the most beautiful and entrancing examples of Flemish art of the early seventeenth century. This perfectly preserved work is not only important but particularly beguiling.

The decision on the export licence application for the painting will be deferred for a period ending at midnight on 4 March 2015. This period may be extended until 4 July 2015 if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the piece is made at the recommended price of £6,963,000.

A picture of the painting can be found on our flickr site.

For media information contact: Claire Coveney, Media Relations Officer, Arts Council England Tel: 0207 268 9572 Email:

Further Information

  • Organisations or individuals interested in purchasing the works should contact RCEWA on 0845 300 6200.

  • Details of the work are as follows: Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625) The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man Oil on copper, 23.7 x 36.8 cm

  • The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest is an independent body, serviced by Arts Council England, 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.

  • Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. Between 2010 and 2015, it will invest £1.9 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1.1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

Published 5 December 2014