Painted in 1849-50, Ferdinand Lured by Ariel has been in the family of its current over since 1897 but it was recently offered for sale and an export licence to take it overseas was applied for.
Arts minister Rebecca Pow issued a temporary block on its export until November 15 in the hope a museum or gallery can raise the necessary funds to keep it in the UK. She said: “Millais is one of the most famous and recognisable members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. This artistic movement is a key part of British history and this is why we must keep this important work in the country.”
Pow’s decision follows advice from the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA). The committee made its recommendation on the grounds of the painting’s “outstanding importance for the study of the history of collecting, the pre-eminent place of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in the development and influence of 19th century British art and the brilliance of its composition and execution”.
“Epitome of Englishness”
Committee member Peter Barber said: “This beautiful painting is a summation of everything English. A novel interpretation of an episode from Shakespeare, it is set in a minutely observed English garden in the summer. The more one looks, the more one sees… An epitome of its type and of Englishness, I hope a British institution will find the means to keep it in this country.”
Millais, a child prodigy who entered the Royal Academy at the age of 11, was one of the founders of the influential Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
Founded in 1848, the brotherhood was made up of English painters, poets and art critics.
Ferdinand Lured by Ariel is one of only four Millais works completed during the short lifetime of the brotherhood to remain in private hands.
According to The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, it was purchased by HF Makins in 1897 (Makins Collection) and has then been owned by descent to the present owner. The decision on the export licence could be extended until May 15, 2020.