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Culture Minister defers export of a rare 700 year old panel painting depicting Christ between Saints Paul and Peter by Pietro Lorenzetti

14 January 2013

Categories:
Museums and Libraries

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on a 700 year old panel painting by Pietro Lorenzetti, Christ between Saints Paul and Peter. The painting is the only picture in a British collection with an unquestioned attribution to this important medieval artist. The temporary bar will provide a last chance to raise the money to keep the painting in the United Kingdom.

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.

Notes to editors

  1. Anyone interested in making an offer to purchase the painting should contact:
    The Secretary

    The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest

    Arts Council England

    Great Peter Street

    London

    SW1P 3NQ

    Tel: 0845 300 6200


  2. For enquiries on the operation of and casework arising from the work of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA) please contact the Enquiries team on enquiries@artscouncil.org.uk or 0845 300 6200.

  3. The details of the painting are:
    Pietro Lorenzetti (active 1306(?); died probably 1348)

    Christ between Saints Peter and Paul, c. 1320

    Tempera on panel, 32.2cm x 70.4cm


    Provenance:
    (Possibly) purchased in Italy by Francis Thomas de Grey Cowper, 7th Earl Cowper (1834-1905), Panshanger, Hertfordshire; and by descent through his niece, Ethel, Lady Desborough (1867-1952); sold, Christie’s, London, 3 July 2012, lot. 28.


  4. Further details about the painting can be found in the auction catalogue at the following link: http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/paintings/pietro-lorenzetti-christ-between-saints-paul-and-5584806-details.aspx?from=salesummary&intObjectID=5584806&sid=fa0f13b2-96dd-4a73-b3c3-28716f18b6d2

  5. The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest is an independent body, serviced by Arts Council England, which advises the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on whether a cultural object, intended for export, is of national importance under specified criteria. Where the Committee finds that an object meets one or more of the criteria, it will normally recommend that the decision on the export licence application should be deferred for a specified period. An offer may then be made from within the United Kingdom at or above the fair matching price.

  6. Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. They support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Between 2011 and 2015, it will invest £1.4 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. www.artscouncil.org.uk