Worldwide: Masterpiece By Bernardo Bellotto Purchased By London National Gallery Consequent To Temporary Export Bar

Co-authored by Dr. Linda Roland Danil.


Art export laws are designed to prevent art and artifacts of significant cultural value from leaving its country of origin while also preserving the home country's competitiveness in the international art market. Many countries have struggled with striking the right balance: Germany's recent amendment to its cultural heritage protection law in June 2016 was fiercely opposed by the country's private collectors and art dealers who are now required to obtain an export license for works older than 50 years that are valued over £150,000. Italy sought to achieve balance between government and individual interests by increasing the threshold for artworks from 50 to 70 years under its amendment passed in August 2017. The following article written by Dr. Linda Roland Danil explores the UK's efforts to resolve these competing interests—as complicated by the post-Brexit exchange rate—in the context of the recent, successful export ban on Bernardo Bellotto's masterpiece, The Fortress of Königstein from the North.

The Purchase

The purchase by the London National Gallery in August 20171 of a painting by the Venetian artist Bernardo Bellotto (1722 – 1780) – the nephew of Giovanni Antonio Canal, or Canaletto – who, like Bellotto, painted, amongst other things, 'vedute' or views of landscapes) – was achieved consequent to the imposition of a temporary export bar2 that allowed the National Gallery to raise the necessary funds to match the £11 million offer by a private buyer. (The National Gallery actually paid £11, 670,000 – the additional £670,000 reflected the fall in the value of the pound after the Brexit referendum).3

The painting, The Fortress of Königstein from the North (c. 1756 – 58), was one of a series of five, large-scale paintings commissioned by Augustus III, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, and depicts the renovated medieval fortress in the countryside near Dresden, Germany.4 The retention of the painting in the UK is a clear example of how the UK export licensing system for cultural goods – which has been described as one of the best in the world5 – works. The system provides that for certain cultural goods, such as those above a certain financial threshold (but not exclusively) and over 50 years of age, an individual licence is required for export. This provides the opportunity for the UK to retain cultural goods that have been deemed to be of outstanding national importance6 that would otherwise be exported, thus providing a balancing act, insofar as it is possible, between protecting national treasures in the public interest; private property rights; and the position and reputation of the UK as an international art market.7

The Waverley Criteria

In relation to whether an object could potentially be deemed a 'national treasure', an Expert Adviser may object to the granting of a licence if s/he believes that an object satisfies one or more of the three Waverley Criteria8 (with none of the criteria being more important than the other).9 If the Expert Adviser objects, the Export Licensing Unit (ELU) refers the application to the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest – a non-statutory independent body set up to advise the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on whether a cultural object that is subject to an application for an export licence is, indeed, a national treasure within the context of the Waverley Criteria.10 The Waverley Criteria are as follows:

  1. History: Is it closely connected with our history and national life?
  2. Aesthetics: Is it of outstanding aesthetic importance?
  3. Scholarship: Is it of outstanding significance for the study of some particular branch of art, learning or history?

In relation to history, the category can include objects which were produced abroad, but which have acquired national importance by association with an important person, location or event. In relation to aesthetics, the assessment of outstanding aesthetic importance does involve a subjective judgment; however, the condition, as well as the quality of the work, and the extent of the damage or restoration to which it may have been subjected may also be taken into consideration. Finally, in relation to scholarship, the object may be considered of outstanding significance for scholarship either on its own merits, or on account of its connection with a person, place, event, archive, collection or assemblage. Further, scholarship in relation to culture can cover a wide range of disciplines – and could therefore encompass art history, archaeology, ethnography, anthropology, palaeontology, science, engineering, architecture, literature, and so forth. By all means therefore, the list is merely illustrative and not comprehensive, and could cover additional disciplines.11

If a decision is made that the object does meet one or more of the Waverley Criteria, the export licence is not outright refused; rather, a delay period, generally in between two to six months, is granted in order to allow an offer to be made at or above the market price (the 'fair market price'12) The right of the Committee to deny an export licence is not absolute, and can only be upheld if a bona fide offer is forthcoming from a potential purchaser; otherwise, the licence must be granted.13


The purchase of The Fortress by Bellotto does not have any significant implications on the system of export licensing for cultural goods as it stands in the UK. However, the purchase does provide a clear example of a 'success' story in terms of the UK retaining a work of outstanding national importance whilst balancing all of the relevant parties' rights. The UK system provides a clear example of the benefits of a more liberal (but not unrestricted) approach to the export of cultural goods vis-à-vis, for example, the stricter, only recently changed Italian system. The change was brought about specifically through Law n. 124 of 4 August 2017, which came into effect 29 August 2017.14 Under previous law in force in Italy, any artwork created more than 50 years ago by a deceased artist necessitated an export licence – regardless of its market price. This was argued by critics to seriously undermine Italy's competitiveness in the international art market.15 Consequent to Law n. 124 however, the age restriction was pushed up to 70 years and a minimum monetary threshold of Euros 13,500 was also introduced, although this excludes archaeological artefacts, manuscripts, and incunabula.16 However, the minimum monetary threshold is much below, for example, the Euros 150,00017 set out for 'Pictures' in Council Regulation (EC) No. 116/2009, as per Annex I, B. In the UK, on the other hand, and specifically when an item is being exported within the EU – an individual export licence for a '[...] painting in oil or tempera (excluding any portrait of a British historical personage)'18 and over 50 years of age, for example, will be required when the value of the work is or exceeds £180,000. Paintings in any other medium other than oil and tempera and over 50 years of age for which an individual export licence would be required, one would presume, would fall under the minimum monetary threshold of £65,000.19


1 The National Gallery (2017): Saved for the nation [Online] Available at: (accessed 10 September 2017).

2 Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and Hancock, M. MP (2016) Export bar to save £11m Bellotto painting: Culture Minister steps in to prevent painting of Königstein fortress from export [Online] 18 November. Available at: (accessed 10 September 2017).

3 USA Art News, 2017. London's National Gallery Will Purchase Painting by Bellotto for Over £11m. [Online] 23 August. Available at: (accessed 10 September 2017)

4 The National Gallery (undated) The Fortress of Königstein from the North, about 1756-8, Bernardo Bellotto [Online] Available at: (accessed 11 September 2017).

5 Furness, H. (2017). Give art world 'legal muscle' to stop paintings selling abroad, experts argue. The Telegraph [Online] 20 January. Available at: (accessed 11 September 2017).

6 Arts Council England, 2016. UK Export Licensing for Cultural Goods: Procedures and guidance for exporters of works of art and other cultural goods. [Online] Available at: (accessed 27 September 2017).

7 Op. cit.

8 The Waverley Criteria were adopted in the United Kingdom in 1952, and were based on recommendations in a report chaired by John Anderson, first Viscount Waverley: Chamberlain, K. and Hausler, K. (2015) United Kingdom. In: Nafziger, J.A.R. and Kirkwood Paterson, R (eds.) Handbook on the Law of Cultural Heritage and International Trade. Cheltenham, Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, pp. 460 – 505.

9 Arts Council England, Op. cit.

10 Arts Council England, Op. cit.

11 Arts Council England, Op. cit.

12 Arts Council England, Op cit., p. 14.

13 Crewdson, R. (2006). Hypothetical on the Enforcement of Export Prohibitions and a Commentary on the Hypothetical. In: Hoffman, B.T. (ed.) Art and Cultural Heritage: Law, Policy and Practice. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, pp. 194 – 196.

14 Cipollini, G. and Favero, V. (2017). Italy Eases Export Rules for Post-War Works. Mondaq [Online] 12 September. Available at: (last accessed 27 September 2017)

15 See, for example, Arkell, R. (2015) Italian trade lobby to change export laws. Antiques Trade Gazette [Online] 12 October. Available at: (last accessed 27 September 2017)

16 Cipollini and Favero, Op. cit.

17 Cipollini and Favero, Op. cit.

18 Arts Council England, Op.cit, p. 30.

19 Arts Council England, Op. Cit.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Events from this Firm
18 Jan 2018, Seminar, Seoul, South Korea

Please join Sheppard Mullin and Lee & Ko for a cutting-edge discussion on “Trends in Intellectual Property – Keep Up or Get Left Behind” in view of key IP law developments in the United States.

18 Jan 2018, Webinar, Los Angeles, United States

Please join Sheppard Mullin for this month's Third Thursday Emerging Company Webinar educating entrepreneurs and emerging companies on the key legal issues they face during the growth of their companies. These complimentary 1-hour webinars are held through WebEx on the third Thursday of the month at noon. They will have both an audio and PowerPoint component.

30 Jan 2018, Webinar, Los Angeles, United States

Liisa Thomas will present “Preparing for a Breach When It Happens” at the Data Privacy & Security Summit 2018 in Washington DC.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions