The government has placed a temporary bar on the export of a photograph taken by pioneering British photographer Roger Fenton, famous for his images of the Crimean War.
The unusual move, by Culture Minister Margaret Hodge, aims to allow time to raise enough funds to keep the ‘Pasha and Bayadère’ photo in Britain.
The precious image is valued at 108,506 pounds.
The export licence application decision has been deferred until 1 May but may be extended until 1 August if a ‘serious intention to raise funds with a view to making an offer’ is expressed.
Fenton, who died in 1869, is credited as one of the first war photographers.
He recorded Pasha and Bayadère in 1858 as part of a series of 50 Orientalist photos, inspired by his expedition to the Crimea.
‘The committee recommended that the export decision be deferred on the grounds that the photograph is of outstanding aesthetic importance and of outstanding significance for the study of the history of photography,’ said the Department for Media, Culture and Sport in a statement.
The photo, which was staged in a London studio, shows the photographer (pictured centre) dressed as a Turkish military or civil official (Pasha), watching a dancing girl (Bayadère) perform.
‘The photograph is one of only two examples of this image, the other being in the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles,’ added the government statement. ‘The Getty’s version is uncropped and believed to be a proof, making this version (pictured), cropped for exhibition in a sense unique.’
The ruling followed a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest.
The committee’s chairman, Lord Inglewood, said: ‘Photography is sometimes undervalued in this country but Pasha and Bayadère demonstrates how the best photographs can hold their own aesthetically against other art forms.
‘As well as being a remarkable image, the work is also important for the study of the history of photography.’
Picture credit: Roger Fenton