Culture Minister Matt Hancock has placed a temporary export bar on Hogarth’s The Christening giving UK buyers the opportunity to match the asking price of £1,223,100.
The painting’s owner applied for an export licence but the application has been deferred following a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), administered by The Arts Council.
Hogarth is known for his satirical works and this example is thought to be his first painted comical scene. It shows a christening taking place in a wealthy but disorderly home.
Hancock said: “The painting provides a valuable insight into 18th century life. Satire is an important part of our cultural heritage and as a fan of Hogarth's work I hope it can remain in the UK for the public to enjoy.”
The decision to delay issuing the licence, in the hope a British buyer can be found, was on the grounds that the painting provides “outstanding significance for the study of William Hogarth” as well as for the study of the “cultural, literary and historical life of the 18th century.”
RCEWA member Lowell Libson said: “Its retention in this country would considerably add to the story we can tell of a painter who helped define our national identity.”
A decision has been deferred until February and could be extended until May next year if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase it is made. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport also said offers from public bodies for less than the recommended price may also be considered.