THE Tate Gallery has launched a campaign to raise £12.5m to acquire Sir Joshua Reynolds’ celebrated portrait of Omai, the South Sea Islander who took London Society by storm in the 18th century.

The bid comes in the wake of a Government ban on the painting being exported after it was bought at Sotheby’s last year by London art dealer Guy Morrison for £10.3m. He was thought to have been buying on behalf of Irish millionaire John Magnier, although this has not been confirmed. The difference in price now reflects the increased value put on the painting by the Export Review Committee which advised the Minister on the ban. The portrait came from Castle Howard in Yorkshire.