News story

At risk of export: Marble statue of Aphrodite

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

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on a Roman Imperial marble statue of the goddess Aphrodite.

Marble Statue- Aphrodite
Marble Statue- Aphrodite

The work from the early first century AD will be exported overseas unless money can be found to match the asking price of £9,594,200.

The statue by an unknown sculptor is based on a Greek original from 430-420 B.C. Formerly an ornament of one of Robert Adam’s finest interiors, the entrance hall at Syon House, it is a prime example of the Roman sculptures collected by English aristocrats in the eighteenth century that influenced art and taste in the great period of neoclassicism in Britain.

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, and outstanding significance for the study of Greek sculpture, the interpretation of Greek art during the Roman period and the history of collecting.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said:

This statue is an extremely finely carved piece and one of only a small number of full-length statues representing Greek goddesses in British collections. I sincerely hope that efforts can be made to raise funds for a matching offer to keep the sculpture in the UK.

Richard Calvocoressi from the RCEWA said:

This is exactly the kind of classical statue that would have inspired Henry Moore, Britain’s greatest twentieth-century sculptor. The almost miraculous carving of the goddess’s rippling drapery, and the need for the sculpture to be viewed in the round, are echoed in Moore’s draped figures of the 1950s.

The decision on the export licence application for the statue will be deferred for a period ending at midnight on 10 March 2015. This period may be extended until 10 September 2015 if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the piece is made at the recommended price of £9,594,200.

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

For media information contact: Claire Coveney, Media Relations Officer, Arts Council England Tel: 0207 268 9572 Email: Claire.Coveney@artscouncil.org.uk

Background Information

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

  • Details of the work are as follows: Marble Roman adaptation of a late fifth-century B.C, Greek statue representing the goddess Aphrodite. By unknown sculptor from the early first century AD. Marble, Height: 203.2cm

  • 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. www.artscouncil.org.uk

Published 11 December 2014