IT is a treasure that has been in the family of the Marquess of Lothian for nearly 300 years, but yesterday it was announced that one of the great renaissance objects in Scottish hands can leave the UK.

The Newbattle Casket is a magnificent piece of furniture that dates from the Renaissance period in Germany, being created in Nuremberg in 1565.

It came to Scotland in 1735 to the Kerr family, who were the hereditary Marquesses of Lothian.

READ MORE: The Newbattle Casket was not Scottish – it was made in Germany

It stayed in the family at their home in Newbattle Abbey until the current incumbent the 13th Marquess of Lothian, the former Tory politician Michael Ancram, put it up for sale at Sotheby’s two years ago where it fetched £118,000.

Georg Laue, who runs the Kunstkammer Gallery in Munich, bought the casket and according to The Art Newspaper, Trinity Fine Art joined him as the co-owner.

Having researched the casket and undertaken light conservation, it was re-valued at £750,000 and the co-owners applied for a UK export licence – the figure was accepted by an independent valuer for the Export Reviewing Committee which recommended an export ban mainly because of its rarity.

The Department of Culture Media and Sport duly slapped an export ban order on the casket and gave museums or private individuals time to raise £750,000 to buy it. The order has expired and the casket is now free to leave the UK.

The National can reveal that the V&A museum and the National Museum of Scotland (NMS) both considered buying the casket, the former leaving the field open to the latter.

The reviewing committee of the Arts Council of England, which decides on all items up for an export ban, raved about the Casket which has not been seen in public for a century or more.

Committee member Christopher Rowell said at the time: “This remarkably beautiful and highly wrought small cabinet of architectural design, inlaid with panels of figurative and perspectival marquetry, with elegantly chased gilt bronze mounts, was probably made in Nuremberg around 1565.

“It is the sole piece of furniture of its kind in Great Britain and the most elaborate of only a dozen pieces of 16th-century German furniture to be decorated with marquetry depicting 3D geometric solids or illusionistic polyhedra. The perspectival wood, ivory, bone and mother-of-pearl marquetry derives from Italian and German engravings. One of the panels is dated 1565.

“The cabinet was designed as a repository of precious small works of art. Its British carved walnut cabriole-legged support was made for it around 1730, so it has been in this country since then.

“It may have descended to the Marquesses of Lothian from Frederick V, Elector Palatine, the so-called ‘Winter King’ of Bohemia, son-in-law of James VI of Scotland and I of England and brother-in-law of Charles I.

“The Newbattle casket was lent to prominent exhibitions in the 19th century. It is to be hoped that this great rarity, which has been in the country for nearly 300 years, can be retained in Britain.”

Even its long residence here could not save it.

A spokesman for NMS said: “After careful consideration by our Acquisitions Committee, we withdrew from discussions on acquiring the Newbattle Casket.”