'The Three Graces' to stay in UK

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

THE SCULPTURE The Three Graces will stay in Britain after a donation of pounds 800,000 by a Swiss industrialist and collector, the Victoria&Albert Museum confirmed yesterday. Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza's donation ensured the target of pounds 7.6m was reached to prevent Antonio Canova's masterpiece going to the Getty Museum in California, writes Glenda Cooper.

Canova's sculpture, a neo-Classical depiction of Jupiter's daughters, was commissioned by the Duke of Bedford for 3,000 guineas in 1815 and displayed in Woburn Abbey. It was sold in the 1980s to the Fine Art Investment and Display Trust.

The controversy over the piece began in 1989 when the Getty Museum tried to buy it for pounds 7.6m. It became a symbol of the threat to Britain's artistic heritage from wealthy foreign buyers. The Government blocked the export licence for as long as possible to give British institutions the chance to match the price, but the bid was revived last year.

Last month the National Galleries of Scotland offered pounds 1.1m in return for joint ownership and John Paul Getty II, the philanthropist billionaire, gave pounds 1m, putting the V&A in sight of the target.

But the Getty Museum has not given up. It is still considering applying for a judicial review after the Secretary of State for National Heritage, Stephen Dorrell, delayed the export licence on 5 August by another three months.