Rare painting of Henry VIII's 'lost palace' saved from export

Nonsuch Palace from the South by Joris Hoefnagel Image copyright PA
Image caption Nonsuch Palace in Surrey was dismantled about 150 years after it was built

A rare watercolour which was at risk of being exported from the UK has been bought by the Victoria & Albert museum.

The painting by Flemish artist Joris Hoefnagel is said to be the earliest depiction of Henry VIII's Nonsuch Palace in Surrey.

A temporary export bar had been placed on the artwork in the hope a UK buyer could match the asking price of £1m.

Senior curator at the museum Mark Evans said it was a "a beautiful work of outstanding importance".

He said: "Among the earliest surviving English landscape watercolours, it brings to life one of the greatest monuments of the English Renaissance, now lost to us."

Image copyright PA
Image caption The painting will go on display at the V&A from Saturday

The museum bought it with the help of the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and the Art Fund.

Sir Peter Luff, chairman of the NHMF, said: "We felt it essential that this rare and beautifully detailed artwork, documenting one of our most important lost palaces, stay in the UK for us all to enjoy."

The 1568 watercolour is said by Christie's to be the earliest and most detailed depiction of the palace.

The mansion featured a towering facade with elaborate plaster work in a Franco-Italian style and was one of the most important buildings of the English Renaissance.

The history of the 'lost palace'

  • Commissioned in 1538 to mark the king's 30th year on the throne and the birth of his son Edward
  • It was unfinished when the king died in 1547
  • It was purchased from Henry's daughter Mary I in 1557 by Henry Fitzalan, 12th Earl of Arundel
  • The earl finished the construction and is likely to have commissioned the painting by Hoefnagel
  • It was acquired by Elizabeth I in 1592
  • It was eventually demolished by Charles II's mistress, the Duchess of Cleveland, who sold its raw materials to pay off her gambling debts

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