An English provincial museum has been able to acquire an export-stopped Old Master painting for a knockdown price of £1.61m thanks to the vendor striking a tax deal.
Had the original buyer, New York dealer
Richard Feigen, already paid for the work instead of waiting for
the export licence to be granted first, such a deal would not have
been possible and the museum would have been faced with raising the
full auction price of £4.5m hammer (£5.08m including buyer's
The gold ground devotional panel Christ
Between Saint Paul and Saint Peter by Pietro Lorenzetti
(fl.1306-45) originally came up at Christie's in July 2012
estimated at £1m-1.5m.
A temporary export bar was placed on the
picture earlier this year and it was announced last month that it
had been acquired by the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull.
After receiving grants from the Art Fund and
the Heritage Lottery Fund, the gallery was able to acquire the work
for 'only' £1.61m thanks to a private treaty sale being arranged
which included major tax breaks for the vendor.
Mr Feigen told ATG he had waited to receive
an export licence before paying for the picture but added that, in
retrospect, it would have been better to pay for it upfront, take
possession of the work and then apply for an export licence
Under those circumstances, any public body
wishing to purchase the item would have had to match the full
auction price (although the VAT on the premium would likely be
waived), because title would have passed from the vendor, so a deal
offsetting tax liabilities would not have remained an option.
"I'm totally sympathetic with efforts to
keep great works of art in the UK or any other country," said Mr
Feigen, "but, looking at it purely in the interests of my client, I
probably made a mistake."
Rare Autograph Work
The work itself was thought to date from
c.1320 and was probably conceived as part of an altarpiece. Little
was known about the painting before it emerged at Christie's,
although it was thought to have been purchased in the 19th century
by the 7th Earl Cowper (1834-1905) and then descended through the
It was, in fact, the only fully autograph
work by Lorenzetti in the UK and demonstrated the kind of
naturalism for which painters like the Sienese artist are credited
with foreshadowing the Renaissance.
The work will now undergo a year of
conservation at the National Gallery, which will include structural
stabilisation, cleaning and restoration, before being put on
permanent display at the gallery in Hull.
Meanwhile, the UK government has also placed
a export bar on another important Old Master, the Rembrandt
(1606-69) self-portrait which sold in October 2007 at
Gloucestershire saleroom Moore, Allen & Innocent for £2.2m
(outstripping a £1000-1500 estimate and setting a record for a
picture sold in the UK provinces).
The buyer of the picture back then was never
revealed but was believed to be leading London dealership Hazlitt,
Gooden & Fox, who were credited when it was loaned for an
exhibition at the Toledo Museum of Art in 2011.
As reported in May, the 1628 oil-on-copper
Rembrandt Laughing has
been bought by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and now,
as expected, an attempt to export the picture permanently has been
The export licence application for the
painting will now be deferred until October, giving any public body
or individual wishing to keep it in the UK three months to show a
serious intention meet the recommended price of £16.5m.
However, one work that has now been granted
an export licence is Raphael's drawing Head of a Young
Apostle, which sold for £26.5m hammer at Sotheby's in December
2012. The buyer was reported to be the American collector Leon
Black and the deferral period restricting the export expired in
It was previously part of the Duke of Devonshire's collection at
Chatsworth, the same source as the 15th century illuminated
manuscript The Deeds of Sir Gillion de Trazegnies in the Holy
Land, which sold for £3.4m at the same Sotheby's sale. Having
been bought by The J. Paul Getty Museum, an export licence has now
been granted for this item as well.