Government blocks sale of rare Wedgwood vase

 
Alys Key
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The "Basaltes" vase was made by Josiah Wedgwood himself (Source: Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

The culture minister has blocked a rare Josiah Wedgwood vase from leaving the country.

The “Basaltes” vase was sold in July to an unnamed bidder for almost half a million pounds. However, it is hoped that an alternative buyer from the UK can raise an equivalent amount of £482,500 (plus £16,500 VAT) in order to keep the piece in the country.

The minister for digital and culture, Matt Hancock, has placed a temporary export bar on the object until March 14 of next year, following a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA).

This may be extended to July 14 2017 if a serious attempt to raise the funds has been initiated by the March deadline.

The vase was created on the day Wedgwood’s factory opened on June 13 1769. It is one of only four created by the famous potter himself on the day, known as the "First Day's vases". The other three are all still in the UK.

Hancock commented: “I hope a buyer comes forward so we can keep all four First Day’s Vases in the UK for the public to enjoy.”

Tristram Hunt, MP for the area most closely associated with Wedgwood’s pottery said when the vase was sold in July that it was a sad day for Stoke-on-Trent.

Writing in local paper The Sentinel, he said: “there is something deeply regrettable about seeing the finest pieces of our cultural heritage disappear to some private collection overseas.”

Similar efforts have previously proved successful for keeping items in the UK. In 2013, Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton raised enough donations during the export embargo period to buy a ring which had belonged to the writer, preventing it from being exported to American singer Kelly Clarkson.

Organisations or individuals interested in purchasing the vase should contact the RCEWA on 0845 300 6200.

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