The Nativity by Baldassare Tommaso Peruzzi (1481–1536) was temporarily stopped from being exported by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport in the hope a UK institution could raise the funds to purchase it.
A fundraising campaign was launched by National Museums Northern Ireland and the required £277,990 was raised. Funds came from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (£99,990), Art Fund (£100,000), Department for Communities NI (£70,000) and the Esme Mitchell Trust (£8000). As the painting was acquired via a tax free private treaty sale it was exempt from capital taxation.
Painted around 1515 in Rome, The Nativity is an rare surviving work by Peruzzi as the majority of his works were in fresco and have since been lost to history.
Peruzzi was one of the leading Rome artists of his day and worked with Raphael and Bramante, before returning home to work for the Republic of Siena, building fortifications and designing a dam on the Bruna River.
The export bar was placed on The Nativity following a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest.
The picture is undergoing conservation work at the National Gallery before moving to its permanent home in Northern Ireland this year.
Anne Stewart, senior curator of art at National Museums NI, said: “Currently, there are no High Renaissance paintings in any public collection in Northern Ireland, so this is truly a Christmas gift to our audiences.”
The picture was previously sold at auction at Christie’s in 1939 and 1946 and was owned by art historian Philip Pouncey (1910-90) before then entering a private collection.