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At risk of export: Portrait of the ill-fated Prince

07 January 2014

A portrait of Prince Don Diego (1575 – 1582), who died at the age of seven and was the son of King Philip II of Spain, has had a temporary export bar placed on it to provide a last chance to keep it in the UK. Unless a matching offer of £4,250,000 can be raised, the painting will be exported.

Portrait of Don Diego, son of King Philip II of Spain (1577) painted by Alonso Sanchez Coello, is a rare example of Spanish court portraiture of a child from this period, and is credited with having being an important precedent for Velázquez who was to paint many portraits of the Spanish Royal children during his time as court artist for King Philip IV.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey took the decision to defer granting an export licence for the painting 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 RCEWA made their recommendation on the grounds that it is of outstanding aesthetic importance, and that it is of outstanding significance for the study of Spanish court portraiture in the sixteenth century and the history of the Hapsburg monarchy.

Alonso Sanchez Coello was the most important Spanish portrait painter of the second half of the sixteenth century. He entered the service of members of the Spanish Royal family in 1552, working for the widowed Infanta Juana before being appointed official court artist by King Philip II in 1560. Although a prolific painter, there are relatively few surviving Coello portraits, mainly due to the fires in the palace of El Pardo (1604) and in the old Alcazar de Madrid (1734) which destroyed many of his works.

Painted in Coello’s customary meticulous style and in excellent condition, this portrait of the infant Don Diego is memorable for its combination of dignified formality befitting the heir to the Spanish throne, and a two-year old child’s natural inclination to play, as indicated by the hobby horse and the glimpse of garden beyond the balcony.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said:

“It would be a great shame if this remarkable work, one of very few surviving royal portraits by Coello, was to leave the UK permanently. There are very few Coello paintings in UK public collections, so I hope a matching offer to keep this work in the UK can be found.”

RCEWA Chairman Lord Inglewood said:

“This is an evocative and remarkable survival of Spanish Court portraiture, painted by a virtuoso artist at a time when England and Spain’s fortunes were closely interlinked, first by Mary Tudor’s marriage to Phillip II, and then by her half sister Elizabeth’s protestant England’s drawn out squabble with Roman Catholic Spain.”

The decision on the export licence application for the painting will be deferred for a period ending on 5 March 2014 inclusive. This period may be extended until 5 July 2014 inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the painting is made at the recommended price of £4,250,000 (net of VAT.)

Notes to editors

1. Organisations or individuals interested in purchasing the painting should contact RCEWA on 0845 300 6200.

2. Details of the painting are as follows:

Portrait of Don Diego, son of King Philip of Spain II
Alonso Sanchez Coello
Oil on canvas
108cm x 88.2cm

3. 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.

4. 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

5. Images can be found at - www.gov.uk/dcms http://www.flickr.com/photos/thedcms

Contact information

Tamara Salhab
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Tamara Salhab
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Media Relations Officer
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Arts Council England
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07712 854903
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Arts Council England
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Arts Council England
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Duty Press
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