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UK bars export of ancient tapestry with Indian influence

Britain has placed a temporary bar on the export of a rare tapestry by 17th century weaver Michael Mazarind, described as being inspired by Indian, Chinese and Japanese designs and woven “in the Indian manner”.

world Updated: Oct 20, 2016 22:53 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
File photo of a rare tapestry by 17th century weaver Michael Mazarind whose export has been  barred by UK government.
File photo of a rare tapestry by 17th century weaver Michael Mazarind whose export has been barred by UK government.(UK government)

Britain has placed a temporary bar on the export of a rare tapestry by 17th century weaver Michael Mazarind, described as being inspired by Indian, Chinese and Japanese designs and woven “in the Indian manner”.

Culture minister Matt Hancock placed the export bar, effective till January 19, 2017, on the tapestry considered at risk of being exported unless a buyer can be found to match the asking price of £67,500, officials said on Thursday.

The tapestry is the only surviving one to feature the workshop mark of Mazarind, said to have been based in Portugal Street, London, between 1696 and 1702. Mazarind was relatively unknown but is said to have links to the better known Soho-based weaver John Vanderbank.

The tapestry includes small groups of oriental figures, buildings, exotic creatures and plants. This combination of elements was described as being “in the Indian manner”, and was one of the most popular decorative fashions of the period, the officials said.

Hancock said: “This intricate design provides us with a unique opportunity to explore the tapestry workshops of 1600s London. I hope we are able to keep it in the country so we can learn more about our nation’s textile industry, and of the decorative fashions of the time.”

The decision to defer an export licence followed a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), administered by The Arts Council.

The RCEWA made its recommendation on the grounds of significance for the study of Mazarind’s work, English tapestry of the period, and London’s history.

RCEWA member Christopher Rowell said: “This beautiful blue ground tapestry, with an equally unusual border of Chinese inspiration, dates from the late 1600s and is the only one to bear the woven signature of the mysterious Michael Mazarind, who was a rival of the more well-known London tapestry weaver, John Vanderbank.

“This type of ‘Indian’ tapestry depicting a Chinoiserie fantasy paradise in Cathay, with courtly and hunting scenes, was devised for the court, but soon became more broadly popular. Saving the tapestry for the nation will allow specialists to study it in detail and help to reconstruct Mazarind’s contribution to tapestry production in early-Georgian London.”

The decision on the export licence application may be extended until April 19, 2017 if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the tapestry is made at the recommended price of £67,500, the officials said.