Coello to be exported

March 10 2014

Image of Coello to be exported

Picture: DCMS

The above portrait by Coello of Philip II's son, Don Diego is to be exported from Britain. As I reported here in February, the picture was made the subject of a temporary export block by the government, with a price set at £4.25m. But no gallery came forward with a matching offer. It had been suggested that the National Gallery might have a go. But while the portrait is a fine one, I think the NG was right not to try and 'save' this one.

The picture belongs to the Prince of Liechtenstein. The last time he tried to export it, at a lower price, there was a row which led in part to the cancellation of an exhibition of his collection at the Royal Academy.

Update - a reader writes:

I would have to disagree with you and had hoped that the National Gallery would have acquired it.  Indeed, following its appearance before the RCEWA in 2006, they were looking seriously into it. At that stage it was valued at £2M but: “Prior to the end of the second deferral period, a serious intention to purchase the painting was made by a UK institution. Before the end of the second deferral period the applicant withdrew their application.”  

They clearly had a change of mind when it came before the Committee again in January last year as they made no effort to acquire it at £4.25 (there are some interesting reports in the records about the valuation including the applicant making direct representations to the Secretary of State in order to up the price).  I guess the trustees of the National Gallery were in the midst of negotiations to bring the, wholly inappropriate, Bellows to London and couldn’t afford it.  So where now are they going to get a major example of 16thc Spanish portrait painting?

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