Getty Museum Temporarily Prevented From Exporting British Rembrandt

Getty Museum

A last ditch chance to raise the £16,500,000 is needed to keep a newly discovered Rembrandt painting in the UK. The Culture Minister Ed Vaizey took the decision to defer granting an export licence for the painting following a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), administered by Arts Council England, on the grounds that it was it was of outstanding aesthetic importance and of outstanding significance for the study of Dutch painting and in particular the work of Rembrandt in the 1620s.

Rembrandt Laughing represents a genre of painting known as a tronie, a head study intended to depict a particular emotional state rather than a specific person, although it’s thought this may well be a self-portrait. The painting is a strikingly beautiful example of Rembrandt’s early work, and the sophisticated play of light and shadow, even on a small scale, conveys Rembrandt’s characteristically daring and assured brushwork.

It is one of only a handful of paintings the artist made on copper, and while Rembrandt’s paintings are well represented in UK public collections, the vast majority of these works post-date 1631 and demonstrate a mature and confident master at work. This is a key work from the only period of Rembrandt’s career not already represented in a public collection in this country.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said: The UK’s galleries may already have an impressive array of Rembrandts, but nothing from this period of this great artist’s career. I hope that my deferral of the export licence will allow time for a buyer to come forward and secure this exquisite painting for the nation, where it can be studied and enjoyed by all.

The decision on the export licence application for the painting will be deferred for a period ending on 15 October 2013 inclusive. This period may be extended until 15 April 2014 inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the painting is made at the recommended price of £16,500,000 (plus VAT which can be reclaimed by most institutions).

Meanwhile the Getty Museum of Los Angeles has announced it acquired a self-portrait by Rembrandt  “Rembrandt Laughing,” a small oil on copper work probably done around 1628, came onto the art market in 2007 after spending centuries as part of private collections. It was at first attributed to contemporaries of Rembrandt, but later authenticated by the Rembrandt Research Project. The painter, then around 22, is dressed as a soldier and smiling broadly. The museum already had four works by Rembrandt. “The Getty Museum possesses the most significant collection of early Rembrandts in the United States, and if you had asked what addition would best cap it off, the answer would have been a self-portrait, which many regard as his greatest and most sustained achievement,” said museum director Timothy Potts. Founded by oil baron John Paul Getty, the Getty Museum is part of the world’s richest art foundation, with assets worth an estimated $7.9 billion in 2011.

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