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Culture Minister defers export of an outstanding mid-sixteenth century south German marquetry table top

Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on an extremely rare mid-sixteenth century south German marquetry table top

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

This will provide a last chance to raise the money to keep the table top in the United Kingdom. 

The Minister’s ruling follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (Reviewing Committee), administered by Arts Council England. The Reviewing Committee recommended that the export decision be deferred on the grounds that the table top is of outstanding aesthetic importance and outstanding significance for the study of early European marquetry.

The table top, which dates from the mid-sixteenth century, was intended to celebrate the military acumen and political courage of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, who abdicated voluntarily in 1556. It is likely to have been commissioned by a very senior member of the imperial court and made by one of the most accomplished workshops in Augsburg - a German city that was home to some of the most important developments in sixteenth century marquetry.

The table top is an exceptionally rare and complex example of south German marquetry, shows very fine workmanship and remains in unusually good condition. The design is intended to be seen from all sides, perhaps suggesting the multi-facetted challenges of imperial rule. Unlike a lot of early furniture, it retains much of the pristine impact that it would have had when originally produced as an exceptional luxury object.

Ownership of the table top can be traced as far back as the early to mid-nineteenth century. Gregory de Ligne Gregory, an energetic and eclectic collector, acquired the table top for Harlaxton Manor in Lincolnshire as part of a nineteenth century interest in collecting German Renaissance furniture.

Simon Swynfen Jervis, Reviewing Committee member, said:

“This spectacular and historic marquetry table top is a masterpiece of international significance, both for the virtuoso quality of its execution and the rich complexity of its design. There is nothing comparable in the UK.”

The decision on the export licence application for the table top will be deferred for a period ending on 12 February 2013 inclusive. This period may be extended until 12 May 2013 inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds is expressed with a view to making an offer to purchase the table top at the recommended price of £274,300 (inclusive of VAT; but please note that any institution which is able to reclaim VAT would need to match £265,250 plus VAT at 20%, the latter of which could be reclaimed).

For media information contact:

Sam Gough, Media Relations Officer, Arts Council England
Tel: 020 7973 5189 or 07872 416679

Notes to Editors

  1. Anyone interested in making an offer to purchase the table top should contact:

The Secretary
The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest
Arts Council England
Great Peter Street
Tel: 0845 300 6200

  1. Anyone interested in making a matching offer and who requires further information about the table top from the Champion should contact The Secretary to the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest at the above address.

  2. For enquiries on the operation of and casework arising from the work of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA) please contact the Enquiries team on or 0845 300 6200

  3. The details of the table top are:

A south German sycamore, walnut, olive, yew-wood and pen-engraved fruitwood marquetry table top
Augsburg, c.1556-60
74cm high, 129cm wide, 124cm deep


Acquired by Gregory de Ligne Gregory (d. 1854) for Harlaxton Manor, Lincolnshire, by descent to Sir Glynne Earle Welby-Gregory Denton (1806-75) and listed in the 1864-66 inventory of Harlaxton Manor as in the Tapestry gallery (National Archives, Kew, Ms. J 90/1217).

Not sold in the 1878 sale of contents of Harlaxton.

By descent in the family.
Sold Christie’s, London, 5 July 2012, lot 7.

  1. 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. Where the Committee finds that an object meets one or more of the criteria, it will normally recommend that the decision on the export licence application should be deferred for a specified period. An offer may then be made from within the United Kingdom at or above the fair market price.

  2. Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries - from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2011 and 2015, we will invest £1.4 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

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Published 13 December 2012