News story

Long lost painting by Watteau under threat of export

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

Ed Vaizey places temporary export bar on La Surprise.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on the outstanding painting by Jean-Antoine Watteau, La Surprise, providing a last chance to raise the money to keep the painting in the UK. 

The painting, which dates from c.1718 shortly before the artist’s untimely death at the age of 37, shows a man, dressed as the theatrical character Mezzetin, playing a guitar next to an embracing couple. Watteau was associated with paintings of the fetes galantes, a genre of his invention in which elegant couples converse and flirt in outdoor settings.

The Minister’s ruling follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, administered by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA). The Committee recommended that the export decision be deferred on the grounds that the painting is of outstanding aesthetic importance.

The decision on the export licence application for the painting will be deferred for a period ending on 6 September 2011 inclusive. This period may be extended until 6 June 2012 inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds with a view to making an offer to purchase the painting at the recommended price of £17,500,000 is expressed.

Anyone interested in making an offer to purchase the painting should contact the owner’s agent through:
 
The Secretary
The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest
Museums, Libraries and Archives Council
Grosvenor House
14 Bennetts Hill
Birmingham

Further information