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The first buyer of the painting was James, the 13th Lord Somerville (1698-1763) and in 1924 at the sale of the Somerville Collection it was bought by the famous dealer Lord Duveen who is believed to have passed it on to Marczell von Nemes in Munich, shortly before the latter’s death.

It then went to the reclusive financier Dr Axel Wenner-Gren of Stockholm, who held the patent on the Electrolux vacuum cleaner, and at the Wenner-Gren estate sale of 1964 it sold to Julius Weitzner and the Hassborough Galleries of London, who in turn sold it to a French collector.

Minerva was last offered publicly in a Paris auction in 1975 when it was purchased by Baron Bich, holder of the Bic pens patent. Title passed to a Japanese company who sold it to Otto Naumann last Spring.

When bought by Naumann the painting was covered by a thick layer of discoloured varnish but cleaning has revealed the painted surface to be in almost perfect condition.

It is thought likely that this will be the last important history painting by Rembrandt to come on the market.
Just two other historical works by the Dutch master remain in private hands, both in UK private collections and unlikely to be granted export licences.

The Maastricht fair runs from March 8 to 17.