A temporary export ban has been placed on a late 15th century Renaissance bronze roundel made in the Lombardy city of Mantua and valued at £17 million.
The roundel, which depicts the Roman goddess of love Venus surrounded by her lover Mars, husband Vulcan and son Cupid, is at risk of being sold overseas unless a UK buyer can be found.
Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage announced the ban in a Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) statement which noted the roundel was larger, more complex and more refined than other examples produced in Mantua at the same time which are currently in British collections.
The Gosport MP said: “This piece is a stunning combination of myth and mystery.
“I hope a UK buyer can be found so that researchers can reveal its secrets and the public can see this striking design on display.”
The ban was made following advice from the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), which noted its size and unique composition made the roundel “extremely technically interesting as well as an object of outstanding beauty”.
Although the artist is not known, RCEWA member Stuart Lochead said the piece showed clear links to Donatello and Mantegna.
“The remarkable craftmanship, aesthetics and mystery of this sculpture is captivating and its export from the United Kingdom and subsequent loss to the nation would be a misfortune,” Mr Lochead added.
DCMS said he decision on the export licence application has been deferred until September 27 in hope a domestic buyer could be found.
This can be extended until March 27 if there is a serious intention from someone to raise the funds to purchase the piece. The recommended price is £17,000,000 plus VAT of £3,400,000.