Export ban placed on £1.5m Florentine table tops by culture minister
A temporary export ban has been placed on a pair of antique Florentine table tops worth £1.5m so a buyer can be found to keep them in the UK, the culture minister said.
The ornate artefacts had belonged to the 3rd Earl Cowper and were at the family's house in Panshanger, Hertfordshire, until the mid-20th Century.
The current owner has not been named.
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said they had "immense academic value".
The table tops, which feature pietre dure panels - a mosaic technique which uses highly polished coloured stones to create images - depict images of the Colosseum in Rome and the Porto Mediceo of Livorno, Tuscany.
The had belonged to George Clavering-Cowper, 3rd Earl Cowper, a renowned art collector who travelled to Italy in the 18th Century and lived in Florence until his death in 1789.
His art collection, including the table tops, was brought to England where his sons put them in their country house in Panshanger which was purpose-built to house the earl's artwork.
They remained in the collection until the estate was sold and the house demolished.
The decision to defer the export licence follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest.
It deemed they were "closely connected with our history and national life", were of "outstanding aesthetic importance" and were of "outstanding significance for the study of pietre dure".
Mr Vaizey said: "These beautiful table tops have been in the UK for hundreds of years. They have immense academic value and shed light on the history of art collecting and the English Grand Tour."
The decision on the export licence application has been deferred until 3 July and may be extended until 3 November 2016 if a "serious intention" to raise the funds to purchase them is made.