Many of the country’s most treasured artworks and antiques have followed unconventional paths to find their ways into our museums and galleries. Some have even been rescued from being sold into a collection beyond the public eye, or abroad. In part two of our shortlist, we reveal 15 of the greatest works to have been ‘saved’ in this way.

Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra’ by Benjamin Britten
Acquired: 2012

English composer and pianist Benjamin Britten (1913 - 1976) rehearsing his opera 'The Rape Of Lucretia' in the organ room at the Glyndebourne opera festival, 1946. Original Publication: Picture Post - 4139 - A New Opera For Glyndebourne - pub. 13th July 1946 (Photo by Gerti Deutsch/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

A temporary export ban was placed on this draft score by Benjamin Britten, after it was sold to an overseas buyer in 2011. The 1945 work was acquired by the British Library for £201,660 and was not known about until the point of sale.


Where to see British Library, London. 0330 333 1144.

Self Portrait by Sir Anthony Van Dyck
Acquired: 2014

Self-portrait, 1641. Private Collection. Artist : Dyck, Sir Anthony van (1599-1641). (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

With a £10m price tag, saving the final self-portrait (and one of only three self-portraits Van Dyck is known to have created in Britain) by one of history’s most renowned artists was never going to be easy. However, with more than 10,000 individual donations and financial support from numerous trusts, charities and foundations, the steep target was met.

Where to see National Portrait Gallery, London. 020 7306 0055.

Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows by John Constable
Acquired: 2013


Considering the place John Constable holds in the heart of the British public, it is not a huge surprise to learn that support quickly rallied behind the campaign to buy this iconic work and prevent its export. The painting was created following the death of the artist’s wife, in 1828. It was bought for the nation for a hefty £23.1m (with tax concessions) and acquired by the Tate. Support arrived from afar, including the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund (with a contribution from The Wolfson Foundation) and The Manton Foundation.

Where to see The painting is currently on loan to the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh. 0131 624 6200.

William Burges tulip vase
Acquired: 2016

tulip vase

Designed by William Burges, the illustrious architect, this striking vase now sits in Wales’ national collection. It was created in the 19th century for Cardiff Castle’s Marquess of Bute. After a temporary export ban, the piece was bought for £163,000 with support from National Heritage Memorial Fund, Art Fund and Headley Trust.

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Where to see National Museum Wales, Cardiff. 0300 111 2333.

Watercolour of Nonsuch Palace by Joris Hoefnagel
Acquired: 2016

LOAN:PDP ANON.1-2013 Watercolour Nonsuch Palace; Watercolour, by Joris Hoefnagel, 1568 Joris Hoefnagel (1542-1601) London 01/01/1568-31/12/1568 Chalk, pen, ink and watercolour on paper

The Surrey-based palace once belonging to Henry VIII may no longer be standing, but this charming 16th-century watercolour depicting it is still very much part of Britain’s history. The work, by Joris Hoefnagel, was created in 1568 and came up for sale in 2016. It was saved for £1m, through support from the Art Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund. In a press release celebrating the acquisition, the V&A’s curator of word and image, Mark Evans, described the work as bringing to life ‘one of the greatest monuments of the English Renaissance, now lost to us.’

Where to see V&A, London. 020 7942 2000.

Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus by Edouard Manet
Acquired: 2012

Edouard Manet, Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus, 1868, Ashmolean Museum, Art Funded 2012

It took a high-profile eight-month public campaign and support from multiple camps, including the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Art Fund, to keep this celebrated Impressionist painting in Britain. Depicting Fanny Claus, a friend of the French artist, the painting was purchased for £7.83m by the Ashmolean Museum.

Where to see Ashmolean, Oxford. 01865 278000.

Kongouro from New Holland, 1772, by George Stubbs Acquired: 2013

The Kongouro from New Holland (Kangaroo) 1772 by George Stubbs. ZBA5754

Sir David Attenborough was visible in his support for the campaign to retain these important works. The £4.5m target was met with public support, grants and a donation from magnate Eyal Ofer.

Where to see Queen’s House, London.

Portrait of a Large Dog, 1772, by George Stubbs Acquired: 2013

Portrait of a large dog (Dingo) 1772 by George Stubbs. ZBA5755

Sir David Attenborough was visible in his support for the campaign to retain these important works. The £4.5m target was met with public support, grants and a donation from magnate Eyal Ofer.

Where to see Queen’s House, London.

The Lindo lamp by John Ruslen
Acquired: 2010


Hailed as one of the most significant objects of Anglo-Jewish heritage, this silver Hanukah lamp was bought for £282,000, with help from The Wolfson Foundation, the Art Fund, the MLA/V&A purchase fund and private donors. The lamp was created in 1709 to celebrate the Jewish winter festival of light and mark the marriage of its vendors, the Lindos.

Where to see Jewish Museum, London. 020 7284 7384.

Multiple Sketch for the Banqueting House Ceiling by Peter Paul Rubens
Acquired: 2008


James I commissioned a painted ceiling for Whitehall’s Banqueting House to celebrate the union between Scotland and England. This preparatory sketch was saved after a public campaign and support from funders, including the Art Fund, raised the required £5.7m. It is now owned by the Tate.

Where to see Currently on loan to The Queen’s House. 020 8312 6565.

The Wedgwood Collection
Acquired: 2014

These vases were not the most technically advanced of their time neither are they the tallest or heaviest vases created by Wedgwood at that time. However, these vases mark a milestone in the industrial revolution. Josiah Wedgwood’s First Day’s Vases were the first fruits of the new Etruria factory, a factory that would provide the blue print for mass production. The black basalt vases made to celebrate the opening of the ornamental works at Etruria were, quiet fittingly, in the ‘Etruscan’ style in both shape and decoration. Six vases were thrown personally by Josiah, with Thomas Bentley turning the wheel. The vases are listed as shape number 49 in the Shape Number One Book. The decoration, encaustic enamelling, consists of two distinct parts. One side the vase is decorated with ‘Hercules in the Garden of Hesperides’ copied from plate 129 in the first volume of the catalogue of Sir William Hamilton’s renowned collection of antiquities. Below this scene is the motto, ‘Artes Etruriae Renascuntur’ – the Arts of Etruria are Reborn. The other side of the vase is decorated with the following inscription and the date: JUNE XIII M.DCC.LXIX One of the First Day’s Productions at Etruria in Staffordshire by Wedgwood & Bentley.The First Day’s Vases perfectly embody the zeitgeist at the time of Etruria’s opening. Not forgetting the fact that Wedgwood’s collaboration with Bentley in making the vases was symbolic of a business partnership that would go on to become arguably the world’s first global brand. Having built his business up and outgrown his two previous factories, the Ivy House and the Brick House Works both in his birth town of Burslem, Josiah decided to build a factory of his very own. Etruria was a factory to match his ambition and on June 13th 1769 Josiah celebrated his achievement. By the time of the official opening Josiah had transported his ornamental ware workers from the Brick House Works in Burslem, whilst on the 14th April 1769 he writes to Bentley telling him that he had fired “two ovenfull of Sagars at Etruria”. Demand for his products soared in 1769 and Wedgwood was eager that his new factory start to quench the increasingly insatiable thirst for his wares. The increased factory space at Etruria would undoubtedly allow for a much higher volume of production. However, Josiah then had the task of filling his new factory with capable workers. He did of course have his workforce from his previous factory in Burslem. Josiah’s workforce and machinery relating to ornamental ware were the first to me moved from Burslem to Etruria. In late 1769 Josiah writes to Bentley confessing he has now taken all three turning lathes from Burslem to Etruria as well as all of the experienced ornamental ware workers and lathe operators. He goes on to concede, “I sacrifice all to Etruria, & Vases!” Some twelve days after the official opening of the Etruria Factory Josiah writes to Bentley to discuss the possibility of hiring workers formally of Derby and Worcester. It was the shortage of workers or ‘hands’ at that time throughout Staffordshire which led Wedgwood to welcome labour from further afield than he had done previously. Despite the initial teething problems such as a shortage of workers, Wedgwood was able to quickly and efficiently get his new factory up and running. The partnership of Wedgwood and Bentley would go on to enjoy 10 years of manufacture. Indeed, the new factory would see the Arts of Etruria Reborn.

History was made when a staggering £15.75m was brought together in one month to save the Wedgwood Museum collection in 2014 (the fastest fundraising campaign in the Art Fund’s history). The collection features around 80,000 works of art, ceramics, manuscripts and pattern books. Thanks to an overwhelming display of public support, substantial backing from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and numerous private trusts and foundations, the V&A now owns the collection.

Where to see On long-term loan to The Wedgwood Museum, Stoke-on-Trent. 01782 371900.

The Wolsey Angels by Benedetto da Rovezzano
Acquired: 2015

A.4-2015 Sculpture Candle-bearing angel with diadem, by Benedetto da Rovezzano, bronze, about 1524-1529 Benedetto da Rovezzano (1474-1554) London 1524-1529

These four bronze Renaissance-style sculptures were commissioned in the 16th century to stand on the tomb of Cardinal Wolsey, the chief advisor to Henry VIII. An impressive £5m was raised by a public campaign and grants by numerous bodies, including the Art Fund, National Heritage Memorial Fund and Friends of the V&A, to acquire the angels on display at the London museum.

Where to see Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 020 7942 2000.

Scenes from the Lives of the Virgin and Other Saints by Giovanni da Rimini
Acquired: 2015


In an unusual way of ‘saving’ a painting, the American businessman Ronald S Lauder purchased this 14th-century artwork for a substantial £4.9m in 2015, preventing it from being taken out of the country. The agreement ensured that the work be loaned to Lauder during his lifetime, but it will be on frequent display at The National Gallery, London.

Where to see It is not currently on display, but is often on loan to The National Gallery, London. 020 7747 2885.

Dagger belonging to Thomas Edward Lawrence
Acquired: 2016


An export bar was placed on the sale of this dagger, owned by the British archaeologist and diplomat ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ last year. The dagger is thought to have been presented to Lawrence following a victory in Aqaba, Jordan, and features in one of the most iconic images of the famous figure. A total of £100,000 was raised from grants, including support from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

Where to see National Army Museum, London. 020 7730 0717.

The Armada portrait of Elizabeth I, artist unknown
Acquired: 2016


You may well recognise this resplendent painting from school text books or perhaps from one of the most famous public campaigns in recent years to save an artwork. This c1590 portrait depicts the victorious queen after the Spanish Armada’s defeat in 1588 and remained in the family of Sir Francis Drake until its sale last year.

The campaign to save it for a UK collection attracted an amazing 8,000 donations from the public, in addition to financial contributions from the Art Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund, the Linbury Trust, Headley Trust, Royal Museums Greenwich and Garfield Weston Foundation, with a total amount of £10.3m being reached.

Where to see After essential conservation it will hang in The Queen’s House, London. 020 8312 6565.


Discover more masterpieces and read the full feature in the June issue of Homes & Antiques. Back issues are available here.