UK has banned the export of rare 17th-century portrait of black female guardian in high society to give museums a chance to buy it


The British government has temporarily blocked a 17th-century portrait of a black subject from leaving the country in order to give institutions time to raise funds to acquire the rare painting.

The work, Allegorical painting of two ladies wearing beauty patches, dated to the 1650s and attributed to the English school, depicts two women in equally opulent dress, hair and jewelry. This is remarkable because it is very rare to find a portrait of the time representing a black subject, and even rarer for the subject not to be a child in a position of bondage.

The painting was valued at £ 272,800 ($ 362,000), according to a statement from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports at Engalnd’s Arts Council.

Because it portrays the two women as having equal status, the portrait contributes to the historical conversation about how race and gender were viewed in the 17th century. It also has an allegorical dimension, since women are depicted wearing moles, a cosmetic fashion that is condemned as a sin of pride by an inscription above them. UK galleries and institutions will have until March 9, 2022 to bid for the work.

If it does not find a buyer, it can be sold abroad.

“I hope that a gallery or museum in the UK can be found to purchase this painting for the nation, so that many more people can participate in the ongoing research and discussion,” said the Minister for Arts Stephen Parkinson of Whitley Bay in a statement. .

The decision to ban the export of the work follows the advice of the Commission for the Review of Exports of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest.

“While not artistically distinguished, her imagery relates fascinatingly to contemporary stereotypes of women, fashion and, through the juxtaposition of figures, race,” the committee members said. Pippa Shirley and Christopher Baker in a statement. “The fact that it only recently emerged, and only one other related painting is known to date, and that it could be used to explore important aspects of black culture in seventeenth-century Britain century, makes it particularly important that it remains in this country so that its significance can be widely studied and understood.

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