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Extremely rare Passions of Christ at risk of export

09 May 2013

Categories:
Museums and Libraries

Four 14th century paintings by Niccolo di Pietro Gerini, the only known remaining works of their kind in existence, have had a temporary export bar placed on them to provide a last chance to raise the £1,105,250 needed to keep them in the UK.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey took the decision to defer granting an export licence for the paintings 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 they were of outstanding significance for the study of Italian painting of the Trecento and the techniques of painting on linen.

Painted on linen, each of these four large pictures depicts an episode from Christ’s Passion. The four scenes depicted are:

  • Peter Protesting at Christ Washing the Feet of the Disciples
  • The Betrayal of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane
  • The Mocking of Christ
  • The Flagellation

Two of the scenes, The Mocking of Christ and The Flagellation, immediately follow each other in the Passion narrative, suggesting that these four works originally formed part of a much larger group.

Worldwide, these paintings are the only known examples of a Tuscan 14th century narrative cycle painted on fabric in existence. In total, less than twenty paintings on fabric survive from all of 14th century Italy, as most narrative paintings from this period were frescoes which can still be found on the walls of the churches, chapels and civic buildings where they were painted. This makes this cycle all the more remarkable and of outstanding significance for any study of the techniques and materials of Italian Trecento painting, as well as of exceptional interest for scholars of narrative paintings.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said:

“These paintings, having hung in a parish church until recently, now face the very real prospect of being exported abroad. They would make a magnificent addition to any collection, and I hope that a UK buyer for them can be found so they remain in the country to be studied and enjoyed by all.”

The decision on the export licence application for the paintings will be deferred for a period ending on 8 August 2013 inclusive. This period may be extended until 8 December 2013 inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the paintings at the recommended price of £1,105, 250 (£950,000 representing the hammer price at auction, plus £155,250 representing the buyer’s premium at auction), plus VAT on the buyer’s premium which could be reclaimed by an eligible institution.

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Notes to editors

1. Organisations or individuals interested in purchasing the paintings should contact RCEWA on 0845 300 6200.

2. 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.

3. Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. Between 2010 and 2015, it will invest £1.9 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1.1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. www.artscouncil.org.uk