Court ruling likely to end battle for statue: 'Three Graces' set to stay in UK

A FIVE-YEAR campaign to keep Antonio Canova's The Three Graces in Britain yesterday appeared to have succeeded after a High Court judge rejected a last-minute attempt by the J Paul Getty Trust to secure the statue for its museum in California.

Mr Justice Laws ruled that Stephen Dorrell, the Secretary of State for National Heritage, had not acted unfairly when he decided in August to defer the granting of an export licence by three months, giving the Victoria and Albert Museum, assisted by the National Gallery of Scotland, more time to raise the required pounds 7.6m.

That figure was finally reached earlier this month when Baron Heinrich Thyssen Bornemisza donated pounds 800,000, seemingly thwarting the offshore company that bought it from the Marquess of Tavistock in 1984 for pounds 1.25m, and which planned to sell it to the trust for pounds 7.6m.

The court action delayed the celebrations, but although the trust plans to appeal, this judgment almost certainly means that the statue will now be exhibited in Edinburgh and London.

In a further setback for the trust, the judge also ruled that the payment of pounds 3m by the National Heritage Memorial Fund to the Victoria and Albert Museum and the loan of pounds 600,000 to the National Gallery of Scotland, were not in breach of EU rules. 'It is beyond argument that neither the Victoria and Albert nor the National Gallery of Scotland is a commercial undertaking under the terms of the Treaty.'

Awarding costs against the trust, the judge rejected its claim that Mr Dorrell had said the first deferral of six months was a final one. He said: 'The case is that the Secretary of State (Mr Dorrell's predecessor, Peter Brooke) assured the applicants in February that the six- month deferral would be final. The respondents deny there was any such promise and I am inclined to think that is right.'

He said Mr Dorrell was entitled to give great weight to the cultural importance of the statue and was reasonable in concluding that a British offer was at that time within striking distance of the trust.

The art world is now speculating on the identity of the people behind Fine Art Display and Investment, the company that will receive the pounds 7.6m.

Registered in the Cayman Islands, a tax haven, the company is believed to have been set up solely for the Three Graces transaction. The firm is represented by a Swiss lawyer, Luc Hafner, who will not disclose his client's name.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions
Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions