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Culture Minister defers export of an extremely rare Chinese porcelain casket

13 December 2012

Categories:
Museums and Libraries

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on a spectacular Chinese porcelain casket with European mounts. This will provide a last chance to raise the money to keep the casket 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, administered by Arts Council England. The Committee recommended that the export decision be deferred on the grounds that the casket is of outstanding aesthetic importance and outstanding significance for the study of trade in Chinese porcelain in the 18th century and the history of taste in European Courts.

This magnificent object is cleverly formed of three different styles of Chinese porcelain plaques, made during the Kangxi period (1662-1722). Its design includes: peonies and butterflies, prunus with birds, stunning landscapes and the ‘hundred antiques’ pattern – a design featuring objects which symbolise Chinese culture. The colourful porcelain plaques, cut down from existing objects, are framed within bands of engraved European gilt bronze strap work, which transform it into a beautiful, visually compelling artefact.

The casket is first recorded in the collection of Charles Alexandre de Lorraine (1712-80), the youngest son of Leopold, Duke of Lorraine and Elisabeth Charlotte d’Orleans, brother-in-law of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria.

Lord Inglewood, Chairman of the Reviewing Committee said: “This is a beautiful, evocative and extremely rare object. It tells us a great deal about the appreciation, consumption and influence of Chinese porcelain in early 18th century Europe in a way no other object can.”

The decision on the export licence application for the casket 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 casket at the recommended price of £193,250 (plus VAT at 20% which can be reclaimed by most institutions).

Notes to editors

  1. Anyone interested in making an offer to purchase the casket 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
    London
    SW1P 3NQ
    Tel: 0845 300 6200

  2. Anyone interested in making a matching offer and who requires further information about the casket 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.

  3. 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 enquiries@artscouncil.org.uk or 0845 300 6200.

  4. The details of the casket are:
    A rectangular casket formed of Chinese porcelain plaques and European gilt bronze mounts, with gilt bronze lockplate, gilt bronze carrying handles, the inside lined with wood
    Height 24 cm, width 37.5cm, depth 23.5cm
    The porcelain plaques by an unknown maker in Jingdezhen, China, Kangxi reign period (1662-1722)
    The gilt bronze mounts by an unknown maker, possibly Vienna, 1710-20

    Provenance:
    Charles Alexandre de Lorraine (1712-80), youngest son of Leopold, Duke of Lorraine and Elisabeth Charlotte d’Orléans; husband of Maria Anna of Habsburg. His property was sold at auction in Brussels in May 1781.
    Subsequent owners: William Lowther, 2nd Earl of Lonsdale (1787-1872), and by descent with the Earls of Lonsdale. Bequeathed by James Lowther, 7th Earl of Lonsdale (1922-2006) to Caroline, Countess of Lonsdale, and subsequently sold on her instructions
    Further details about the casket can be found in the auction catalogue at the following link: http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/lot/a-regence-ormolu-mounted-chinese-porcelain-casket-the-5585048-details.aspx?from=salesummary&intObjectID=5585048&sid=249bb7d0-6103-4038-9013-049cb6e6007a

  5. 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.

6. 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. www.artscouncil.org.uk