Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of Catrina Hooghsaet (1607-1685), 1657

Important Rembrandt lost to private hands

Eleanor Mills, 28.10.2015
Despite efforts to fundraise to save it for the nation, seller withdraws
The Art Fund’s plan to save Rembrandt van Rijn’s Portrait of Catrina Hooghsaet (1657) for the nation has ended after an application to sell the £35m work overseas was withdrawn on 23 October, meaning the painting will go up for auction.

“Despite rapid collaborative efforts, on 23 October the vendors’ agent told the Art Fund of their intention to withdraw from the export review process, and to proceed regardless with the private sale.”

Until recently the painting has been housed at Penrhyn Castle, Wales.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) placed an export bar on the painting on 16 October. The period could have been extended until 15 October 2016 if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the painting was made.

The DCMS became aware of the potential sale of Rembrandt’s portrait in June, when Penrhyn Settled Estates (the vendor) alerted Arts Council England (ACE) of its intention to sell and applied for an export licence.

An initial agreement was entered into with Sotheby’s auction house to sell the painting, and culture minister Ed Vaizey took the decision to defer granting an export licence for it following a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), administered by ACE.

The export bar, placed on the work on 16 October, was made void when Penrhyn Settled Estates decided to withdraw the export licence application.

If the fundraising campaign had been successful, the Art Fund would have donated the painting to Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales.

A spokesperson from Sotheby’s said: “The prospective buyer is considering a loan to a UK institution so the painting can be further enjoyed by the British public. If these intentions materialise, that will mean the picture will remain – for some time to come – in the UK, very possibly on view to the public, and that no funds will need to be raised in order to make that happen.”

The Art Fund said: “It is deeply regrettable that this once in a lifetime opportunity to secure this magnificent painting for the nation – forever, and at a greatly reduced price – has not been possible and may now never be achievable. This is a huge cultural loss to the people of Wales and the wider UK.

“There is clearly a pressing need for major improvements to the systems and procedures that are intended to protect our nation’s treasures.”

Penrhyn Settled Estates cannot apply for another export licence for the work for another 10 years (if the sale of the work falls through), but the potential buyer of the painting can, so the work could yet leave the UK.

The painting is due to be sold at Sotheby’s auction house in the coming months.

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