Rialto Bridge with the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi, Francesco Guardi. Photograph: Crown Copyright
A huge painting of Venice’s Grand Canal by Francesco Guardi has had a temporary export bar placed on it by ministers in an attempt to prevent it leaving the UK.
‘Rialto Bridge with the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi’ was owned by successive generations of the Guinness family before it was sold last summer to an overseas buyer at a Christie’s auction for £26.2m.
The export bar is to allow time for a UK buyer to come forward to match the asking price which, with VAT of £591,000, is just shy of £26.8m.
The arts minister John Glen said he hoped the 2-metre wide painting could be kept in the UK “where it can be appreciated and admired by future generations for many years to come.” He called it “magnificent” and a “true masterpiece that encapsulates the vibrant atmosphere and light of 18th-century Venice”.
Guardi was one of the greatest Venetian view painters of the 18th century and the huge painting is considered his masterpiece. Busy with commerce and gondolas it shows familar landmarks such as the Rialto Bridge, the fruit market and the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi.
The decision to place a temporary export bar was based on a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA).
Aidan Weston-Lewis, a member of the committee, said: “Commissioned by a British visitor to Venice in the late 1760s, it has remained in the UK ever since and has frequently been on public display. Its departure from these shores would be a regrettable loss.”
The search is on for a UK buyer but, in truth, the chances of so much money being paid for it are slim.
In 2011, a similar export bar was placed on the painting’s companion piece ‘Venice. a View of the Rialto Bridge, Looking North from the Fondamenta del Carbon’. It sold for a record £26.7m at Sotheby’s. No UK buyer was found.
The painting was commissioned in around 1768 by the English MP and Jamaican sugar plantation owner Chaloner Arcedeckne. It remained in his family until bought by Edward Guinness, the 1st Earl of Iveagh many of whose paintings are on free public display at Kenwood in north London and was passed down through the family.
A decision on an export licence has been deferred until July to allow time for a potential buyer to come forward.