British photographic history

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BPH reported that the Culture Minister had placed an export bar on a Fenton orientialist photograph sold at at auction. The Art Newspaper reports that the National Media Museum in Bradford, Britain’s main collection of photography, hopes to raise the money, and a spokeswoman told us it is “assessing potential funding opportunities”.

Pasha and Bayadère was staged in Fenton’s London studio, with the photographer posing as a pasha (Ottoman official) watching a bayadère (dancing girl). The role of the musician was taken by Frank Dillon, an artist friend of Fenton. The photograph passed to one of Dillon’s descendants, and it has just been sold privately to a foreign buyer for £109,000. An export licence is being deferred until 1 May, to enable a UK buyer to match the price, and this period could be extended for a further three months. Only one other example of this important Orientalist photograph survives, which was bought by the Getty Museum in 1984.

Photographs are only occasionally subject to UK export licence deferral (they have to be over 50 years old and worth above £12,160 before this can be considered). In one case a vintage photograph which did not have an export licence was exported illegally. Alice wearing a Garland, by Charles Dodgson (the writer Lewis Carroll), was sold for £55,000 in 2001 and then illegally shipped to the United States. The UK authorities would welcome information on its present whereabouts.

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Comment by Michael Wong on June 4, 2010 at 11:44
It has been reported in Amateur Photographer today that the iconic 'Pasha and Bayadère' by pioneering British photographer Roger Fenton, famous for his images of the Crimean War, is a step closer to being saved for the nation.

A spokesman for the Museums Libraries & Archives has since confirmed that it has received a 'serious expression of interest' from a potential purchaser for the image valued at £108,506. The move has led the Government to extend the export licence application decision until 1 August.

The full report can be found here.

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