€150m Rembrandt pair

March 17 2015

Image of €150m Rembrandt pair

Picture: via Tribune de l'Art, Portrait de Marten Soolmans

Didier Rykner reports on Tribune de l'Art that a pair of full-length Rembrandts are being sold by a branch of the Rothschild family in France. The French authorities have apparently agreed to their export from France. A resumé of the story is in English on Art Market Monitor.

Update - a reader writes:

M. Rykner is absolutely right to be outraged at the granting of an export permit — not simply artistically, because these are a pair of Rembrandts, but because the French authorities are clearly violating the rule of law: their own law which, as M. Rykner says, must surely require this pair of paintings be designated a “national treasure”.  Then, and only then, the question arises of whether or not the paintings can be afforded by the state; if not, they might be exported.  But for the authorities to argue that these paintings are not a “national treasure”, motivated by financial grounds, is unlawful, untruthful, and apparently an underhanded attempt to obscure their financial cowardice —  or if it is truly financial “prudence”, if this national treasure can’t be afforded, say so, face up, honestly, don’t try to hide behind a false refusal to designate them properly.

Update II - another reader adds:

The French rules on 'national treasures' are very similar to those of the British government on the Waverley criteria, viz. a strictly impartial judgement on whether a work of art fulfils certain criteria of pre-eminence. In both cases, they should be completely irrespective of whether a national institution can afford to buy the work of art in question.  In failing to object to the export of the Rothschild Rembrandts, the Director of the Louvre has signally failed to observe the spirit (and probably the letter) of the legislation, and [is in danger of laying] himself open to charges of incompetence or corruption.

In addition, it is extremely unfortunate that the European Commission has no effective mechanism for protecting European heritage, which might enable it to supersede national governments in this, as in so many other areas of policy.

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