A Young Man Standing was purchased last year at Christie’s sale of works from the Rugby School collection on December 4.
But an export licence for the work has been blocked by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) which is calling for a new buyer to be found to pay £11.5m and keep it in the country.
The 11 x 5in (28 x 13cm) black chalk sketch had come to the fee-paying independent school as part of the impressive collection left to the institution in c.1880 by an alumnus, Matthew Holbeche Bloxam (1805-88). Bloxam was a distinguished antiquarian and also the nephew of Sir Thomas Lawrence, also a great collector of Old Masters.
It is one of only 28 surviving drawings by van Leyden and is believed to be the last example outside a museum.
The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA) recommended blocking its export on the grounds of the drawing’s “outstanding aesthetic importance and its significance for the study of the works of Lucas van Leyden”.
Aidan Weston-Lewis, a RCEWA member, said: “Van Leyden’s inclusion of credible, contemporary characters like this in his narrative compositions lends them an appealing conviction, and anticipates the work of Pieter Bruegel the Elder later in the century.
“One of a small group of the artist’s drawings to have come down to us, this sheet is unlike any of the others in this country and every effort should be made to retain it.”
The decision on the export licence application for the drawing will be deferred until July 17 and this could be extended to December 17 if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase it is made.
The sketch was purchased for a hammer price of £10m in December but, with fees and VAT, a price of nearly £11.78m is sought.
The hammer price last year ranked only behind two works by Raphael, one sold at Sotheby’s and one at Christie's, in terms of the most expensive Old Master drawings ever auctioned.