Export ban placed on 18th-century golden ornament worth £1.5m

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An 18th-century golden ornament worth £1.5 million is at risk of being sold abroad if no UK buyer can be found.

A temporary export ban has been placed on the jewelled tiger head finial which adorns a throne which once belonged to the Tipu Sultan.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said the ban was imposed to allow UK galleries or other institutions to acquire the piece.

If no buyer is found the finial may be sold abroad to an unknown foreign party, the department said.

The ornament is made of gold and set with rubies, diamonds and emeralds.

The DCMS says it is a rare example of fully documented 18th-century South Indian goldsmiths’ work and was not known about until 2009.

It is thought to have been part of a collection belonging to the Tipu Sultan, known as the Tiger of Mysore, who was fond of the tiger imagery.

Following his defeat and death in 1799, many objects from Tipu’s treasury arrived in Britain, where they influenced poetry, fiction and artists, and were received with huge public interest.

Arts minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, who imposed the export ban, said: “This fascinating finial illustrates the story of Tipu Sultan’s reign and leads us to examine our imperial history.

“I hope a UK-based buyer comes forward so that we can all continue to learn more about this important period in our shared history with India.”

The decision comes following advice from the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest.

The committee said the finial’s departure from the UK would be a “misfortune” because of its close connection with the national history and is of “outstanding significance” for the study of royal propaganda and 18th-century Anglo-Indian history.

The decision on the export licence application for the finial will be deferred until February 11 2022, and may be extended further if funds can be found.

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