British government temporarily halts export of 700-year-old painting

British government temporarily halts export of 700-year-old painting

An early 14th-century painting by Pietro Lorenzetti will not be allowed to leave the United Kingdom, at least temporarily, while an attempt is made to raise over £5 million to purchase the art-piece.

British Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on Christ between Saints Paul and Peter, which is the only painting by the Sienese artist that is currently held in the country.

The Minister’s ruling follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, administered by Arts Council England. The Committee recommended that the export decision be deferred on the grounds that the painting was of outstanding aesthetic importance and outstanding significance for the study of early fourteenth century Sienese painting.

This small panel painting is an exemplary work by one of the most important artists of late medieval Italy. Pietro Lorenzetti was one of the most important and original Sienese painters of the fourteenth century, and he and his brother Ambrogio are often said to have foreshadowed the art of the Renaissance.

Painted around 1320 it depicts Christ with Saint Paul to his right clutching a sword wrapped with a bright red belt, and Saint Peter to his left clenching a prominent set of keys. The panel is painted in tempera, with gold leaf covering a background of three arches and fine gilding used to decorate Christ’s robes. The panel is thought to have originally been part of one of Lorenzetti’s most important altarpieces. Christ between Saints Paul and Peter provides a rare example of the artist’s work, famous for its naturalism and subtlety.

Aidan Weston-Lewis, Reviewing Committee member, said: “This is an exceptionally rare and interesting early work by Pietro Lorenzetti, redolent of his celebrated frescoes at Assisi. It has only recently come to light and offers many avenues for further study and research.”

The decision on the export licence application for the painting will be deferred for a period ending on 13 April 2013 inclusive. This period may be extended until 13 August 2013 inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds with a view to making an offer to purchase the painting at the recommended price of £5,197,500 (£4,500,000 representing the hammer price at the auction, plus £581,250 representing the buyer’s premium at the auction, plus £116,250 representing the VAT on the buyer’s premium, which could be reclaimed by an eligible institution).

Offers from public bodies for less than the recommended price through the private treaty sale arrangements, where appropriate, may also be considered by Mr Vaizey. Such purchases frequently offer substantial financial benefit to a public institution wishing to acquire the item.

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