LONDON.- Arts Minister Michael Ellis has placed a temporary export bar on a rare Georgian baby house to provide an opportunity to keep it in the country.
The baby house (later known as a dolls house) is at risk of being exported from the UK unless a buyer can be found to match the asking price of £65,000 (plus £13,000 VAT).
The house is a rare and magnificent example from the early 18th century, one of only around thirty surviving examples of pre-1760 English baby houses. It descended through the family of William Edward Forster, the Liberal MP who introduced the Education Act of 1870 and was later Chief Secretary for Ireland.
Jesse Burtons best-selling 2014 book The Miniaturist brought baby houses to renewed attention in recent years. The book was inspired by Petronella Oortmans famed baby house, on display at Amsterdams Rijksmuseum. It was also made into a two-part BBC series, which aired over Christmas last year.
The concept of the miniature house came to England from the Netherlands and Germany in the early 18th century, and was intended for training the young daughters of wealthy families in household management. Miniature furniture, and utensils in silver, pewter and porcelain, were supplied by toy merchants, while girls were encouraged to develop sewing skills by making clothes for the houses dolls.
Due to their intricate and expensive design baby houses were more a training tool than a plaything for children until the early 19th century, when the design was simplified and production increased, resulting in the dolls houses of more recent times.
Arts Minister Michael Ellis said: This striking piece is a captivating window into the history of childhood. I hope it can remain in the UK, where it can be studied and admired further.
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 (RCEWA), administered by The Arts Council.
RCEWA member Peter Barber said: This captivating and little altered house in miniature takes us into the elegant eighteenth century home while also shedding unique light on the education of young middle class girls at that time.
The RCEWA made its recommendation on the grounds of the houses outstanding significance for the study of the history and material culture of childhood.
The decision on the export licence application for the house will be deferred until 1 May. This may be extended until 1 August if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase it is made at the recommended price of £65,000 (plus £13,000 VAT).
Organisations or individuals interested in purchasing the house should contact the RCEWA on 0845 300 6200.