British museums are fighting to save two important circular objects—one costing £2,000 and the other £7 million. Both have been subject to export licence deferrals, allowing UK buyers the possibility of trying to match the price.
The smaller item is a mysterious Iron Age silver coin, which may well represent the earliest surviving written inscription made in the British Isles. It dates from about 2 BC, some 45 years before the Roman invasion. The Latin inscription has been deciphered as “ALIIFF” and “SCAVO”. Although this has not been conclusively translated, it probably refers to a ruler called Scavius who was Ale’s son or grandson. The coin was discovered by a treasure hunter in Norfolk and was recently acquired by Aylsham dealer Chris Rudd. He then arranged to export it for sale in an overseas auction, valuing it at £2,000. It will probably be bought by the British Museum or Norwich Castle Museum.
The second object is a 15th-century Mantuan roundel depicting Mars, Venus, Cupid and Vulcan. The recently rediscovered relief was sold at Christie’s in 2003 to Sheikh Saud al-Thani of Qatar (No.146, April 2004, p.31). The roundel is now available until 20 July at a recommended price of £7,080,369 ($13 million); the export licence deferral could be extended until 20 November. The Art Newspaper can reveal that the Victoria and Albert Museum will try to buy it.
There is one masterpiece which is virtually certain to leave the UK: Bacon’s “Study after Velázquez” (1950), which has been subject to an export licence deferral at £9.5 million. The Art Newspaper understands that it is being sold by New York dealer Tony Shafrazi on behalf of the Bacon Estate. The Tate says it lacks the resources to acquire the picture.