‘Extremely Rare’ 17th-Century Painting Showing Black Woman with White Companion is Placed Under Temporary Export Ban

A 17th-century painting showing a Black woman with her White companion has been placed under a temporary export bar to reduce the risk of the artwork leaving the United Kingdom.

The anonymous painting, described in a statement by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) on Friday as “extremely rare,” is valued at £272,800 ($362,060). The block lasts until March 9, 2022 after when it could leave the country unless a UK buyer purchases the work.

Titled “Allegorical Painting of Two Ladies, English School,” the painting presents a Black female sitter and her White companion as counterparts, as they sport similar clothing, hair, jewelry and makeup.

It was uncommon for a Black female sitter to be portrayed in a painting in the 1650s, especially an adult, as opposed to a child in a position of subordination, sparking an “important debate about race and gender during the period,” according to the press statement.

The painting is also unique because both women are shown wearing similar “beauty patches,” a kind of facial cosmetic adornment which was in fashion in the 17th century. The patterns on their faces marked “a sin of pride,” according to the statement.

The style of the work correlates with popular woodcut prints at the time, meaning the composition is allegorical and is linked to satirical verse, sermons and pamphlets.

UK Arts Minister Stephen Parkinson, known as Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, decided on the export bar with the help of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA) — an independent body that offers impartial advice on objects that are of national importance to the country.

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SOURCE: CNN, Sana Noor Haq