Painting by Rembrandt’s favourite pupil given UK export bar

Government hopes a public collection can match £5.2m asking price for Ferdinand Bol’s Portrait of a Boy


Treasures from Castle Howard, one of England’s greatest country mansions, now look set to go abroad. Export licence applications have been submitted for an important portrait by Ferdinand Bol and a pair of pietre dure cabinets made in Rome. Both items from the Yorkshire house were sold at Sotheby’s last July.

Bol’s Portrait of a Boy (1652) is “one of the most remarkable child portraits of the Dutch Golden Age”, according to the UK culture department, which has initially deferred an export licence until 25 April to allow a UK museum to match the £5.2m price. Bol was Rembrandt’s favourite pupil. Traditionally said to depict one of Bol’s sons, the eight-year-old holds a large roemer glass of white wine. The painting was bought by the fifth Earl of Carlisle in 1801 and it is Bol’s finest painting in the UK. The Sotheby’s buyer was an anonymous Asian private collector.

The ebony cabinets inlaid with pietre dure (around 1625) were made for the Borghese family and were acquired by the fourth Earl of Carlisle on his grand tour of Italy in 1739. An export licence has been initially deferred until 19 March, at a price of £1.3m. At this early stage there is no indication whether UK public collections will try to raise funds to acquire the Bol or the cabinets.