Ministers have stepped in to prevent a sculpted and “truly grotesque” crab with teeth being exported from the UK.

The “whimsical” ceramic creation, sporting wide eyes and a toothy leer, has been sold to a foreign buyer – but blocked from leaving the country.

Efforts are being made to save the crab, worth almost a quarter of a million pounds, and keep the unique sculpture in the UK.

MP portraits
Arts minister Rebecca Pow has announced the decision to keep the crab in UK (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament)

Ministers have moved to save the pottery crustacean, created by Victorian potters, and there are hopes the £217,000 asking price for the crab can be matched.

The sculpture was made in 1880 by the Martin Brothers, famed for their works inspired by Gothic art and the natural world.

Arts minister Rebecca Pow said: “The Martin Brothers are famous for creating unique and unusual works that are entertaining yet at the same time unsettling, which makes the crab with teeth such a whimsical and eclectic treasure.

“I hope that a buyer can be found so we can keep this work in this country to inspire future generations of potters.”

The price of the crab is £217,000, with an expected VAT of £43,000.

Export of the sculpture was recommended to be blocked by the experts on the Reviewing Committee On The Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA).

Sir Hayden Phillips, the chairman of the committee, said of the Martin Brothers creation: “A truly grotesque creature, it represents the pinnacle of their work, and we also concluded that it was of outstanding aesthetic importance reflecting the fact that this criterion does not necessarily imply that an object has to be beautiful to pass that test.”

The decision on the export licence applications for the crab will be deferred until September 16, 2019. This may be extended until December 16 2019 if a serious attempt to raise funds to purchase it is made.