U.K. Officials Hope to Keep $14 Million Bellotto Masterpiece From Leaving the Country With a Temporary Export Ban

The painting was first sold at Christie's more than 250 years ago, in 1771.

Bernardo Bellotto, View of Verona with the Ponte delle Navi (1745–47). Courtesy of Christie's Images, Ltd.

The U.K. is hoping to keep one of the most expensive European Old Master paintings sold last year inside the country, having secured a temporary export ban that was announced yesterday.

The work in question is Bernardo Bellotto’s View of Verona with the Ponte delle Navi (1745–47). It was sold at a Christie’s evening sale of Old Masters in London last July for £10.6 million ($14.6 million) and ranked second among the priciest Old Master paintings sold in 2021, according to the Artnet Price Database.

The export ban was placed in order to allow time for a U.K. gallery or institution to acquire the painting, according to a joint statement from the Department of Culture, Media, & Sports, Arts Council England, and arts minister Stephen Parkinson. Describing the work as “a rare example of one of Bellotto’s masterpieces,” the statement pegged the painting’s value at roughly £11 million.

The work, which measures more than six feet wide, marks an important turning point in the young Bellotto’s career, when he began a series of journeys around Italy and received his first royal commission for Charles Emmanuel III, who was King of Sardinia and Duke of Savoy.

Bellotto was a native of Venice and a nephew of world-famous painter Canaletto. The painting was recorded in London in 1771, when it was consigned to auction at Christie’s, the first of the artist’s paintings to be recorded in Britain. A companion painting, also sold at Christie’s in 1771, is now at Powis Castle in Welshpool, Wales. “None of his works currently in this country represent the artist’s career so dramatically and beautifully, and the importance of the work to British art cannot be overstated,” according to the statement.

“This rare painting is a masterpiece for its impressive scale and striking composition,” said Parkinson. The work would make “an exceptional addition to any U.K. gallery, and I sincerely hope a buyer comes forward to save the work for the nation,” he added.

The minister’s decision to grant the temporary export ban came after the advice of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA). The committee agreed the painting is “outstandingly beautiful and innovative, and one of the most remarkable” of Bellotto’s career.

The decision on an export license for the painting will be deferred until August 3. At the end of the first deferral period, the owners will have 15 business days to consider any offers to purchase the painting at the recommended price of £11,244,000 ($14.7 million), which includes VAT. The second deferral period commences following the signing of an option agreement and will continue for six months.

Anyone interested in buying the picture can contact the RCEWA.

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