A white marble bust of Queen Victoria has been placed under a temporary export ban as it faces the prospect of leaving the UK.
The extraordinary sculpture depicts the monarch in her late years. It was created by celebrated sculptor Sir Alfred Gilbert between 1887 and 1889 to mark the monarch’s Golden Jubilee.
Arts Minister John Glen, who imposed the ban, said, “This captivating likeness of Queen Victoria showcases the extraordinary skills of celebrated sculptor Alfred Gilbert.
“I would be delighted to see this unique piece on display in a UK institution where the public can enjoy and admire it.”
The magnificent piece of art is now valued at £1.2 million. Unless a UK-based buyer can be found to match this asking price, there is a possibility that it will be taken out of the country.
The government said a decision to defer the export licence came after a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), which is administered by administered by The Arts Council.
RCEWA member Lowell Libson said, “This monumental portrait bust of the Queen-Empress is not only an important icon made at the apogee of British power but a complex and hugely sympathetic image.
“It is also a tour de force of marble carving, a medium which Gilbert rarely employed.”
Commissioned by the Army and Navy Club on Pall Mall, London, the bust was based on a full-length statue of the Queen. Amazingly for a bust that looks very close to reality, Gilbert worked from photographs and used his mother to model the figure and drapery, remarking at the time, “One was queen of my country, the other queen of my heart.”
It was also said that the bust had a metal crown before Gilbert removed it. His promise to create a marble crown to match the innovation never materialised, and ever since the bust remained uncrowned.
The struggle to save the iconic sculpture comes only days after another battle to keep Queen Victoria’s coronet in the UK was won following a donation by an Irish-American hedge fund owner.