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Monday, 27 January, 2003, 15:35 GMT
Export bar delays Raphael sale
Raphael's Madonna of the Pinks
The painting has been on loan at the National Gallery since 1992
A temporary export bar has been put on a Raphael painting by the UK Government to "provide a last chance" to raise cash to keep it in the UK.

Arts Minister Tessa Blackstone ordered the ban on the painting, Madonna of the Pinks, which is at the centre of a row between its owner and the National Gallery.

The gallery is campaigning to keep it in the UK after the Duke of Northumberland, one of England's wealthiest land and art owners, accepted a 32m offer from the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

The minister's ruling follows a recommendation by the reviewing committee on the Export of Works of Art that the export decision be deferred.

The painting is of huge importance for study and historical research, as well as being "one of the freshest small images of the Madonna and Christ Child from the Italian Renaissance", according to the government.

Duke of Northumberland
The painting has been in the Duke's family since 1853

The commitee have given the painting a "starred rating", meaning that every possible effort should be made to raise funds to retain it in the country.

The deferral will enable offers to be made at the recommended price of almost 34.9m until 27 February.

That period could be extended until 27 August if there is a serious intention to raise funds with a view to making an offer to purchase.

Offers from public bodies for less than the recommended price will also be considered by Baroness Blackstone.

Madonna of the Pinks, painted in the early 16th Century, is described as "one of the greatest old master paintings still in private hands in Britain" by the National Gallery.

The painting - an oil, measuring 29cm by 23 cm, was bought by the Duke of Northumberland in 1853.

Former National Gallery curator Nicholas Penny identified the painting as being by Raphael in the early 1990s.

He believes it dates from 1507 or 1508.

In a statement, the trustees of the Northumberland estate said the decision was not a surprise and they would "wait and see" if funds would become available to keep it in Britain.

They added that the funds were needed to maintain the Duke's ancestral home of Alnwick Castle.

Spokesman Philip Gregory said: "We would like it to remain in Britain if at all possible.

"But if it has to go to the Getty it is at least open to the public and millions of people can see it."

See also:

13 Jan 03 | Entertainment
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