The Court of Appeal rejected a last-ditch attempt by the Getty Museum of California to challenge a decision by Stephen Dorrell, Secretary of State for National Heritage, extending the time for matching money to be raised to keep it in the UK.
Trustees of the Getty Museum successfully bid pounds 7.6m to buy the sculpture - but the way is now open for London's Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Gallery of Scotland to make a matching offer to the statue's owners.
John Russell, London spokesman for the Getty Museum, said the court ruling was 'the end of the line' because there was no right of appeal to the House of Lords. 'You cannot go any further than this. We are naturally very disappointed. Everybody knows the museum has been treated unfairly but that was not a matter of concern for this court.'
He added that the Getty Museum would 'now review its policy on the buying of works of art in this country. The trustees have always had faith in the export licence system here. This whole thing about The Three Graces demonstrates perhaps that that faith has been misplaced.'
In August, Mr Dorrell delayed for three months - in addition to the six months announced by his predecessor Peter Brooke in February - the granting of an export licence that would allow The Three Graces, by the 19th-century Venetian artist Antonio Canova, to be acquired by the Getty Museum.
The museum failed in its original High Court attempt to challenge the delay, and yesterday Lord Justices Neil, Hoffmann and Henry rejected renewed argument that Mr Dorrell's decision ought to be reviewed by the courts because it was 'irrational and unreasonable'.
The marble statue of the three naked daughters of Jupiter - Grace, Beauty and Joy - was commissioned by the sixth Duke of Bedford in 1815 and arrived from Italy four years later.
Its present owner is Fine Art Investment and Display, which had accepted the Getty Museum offer.Reuse content