News story

Minister blocks export of 17th century painting

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

St Paula prepares for another voyage

Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey, has placed a temporary export bar on a 17th century painting by Claude Lorrain, providing a last chance to keep it in the UK. Considered to be one of the finest examples of the painter’s seaport and harbour scenes, the painting is now due to leave British shores unless a matching offer of £5,066,500 can be raised, following its purchase by an overseas buyer.

“A Mediterranean port at sunrise with the Embarkation of Saint Paula for Jerusalem” portrays the story of Saint Paula, as told in Jacobus de Voragine’s Golden Legend, a subject rarely depicted in 17th century art. After the deaths of her husband and eldest daughter, Paula, a Roman matron of noble birth, underwent a powerful spiritual conversion, renouncing all worldly possessions and leaving Rome for the Holy Land in 385. Claude chose to represent the intimate moment just before Paula’s departure, when her brother, children and others close to her lament her departure.

Claude was famous for the subtlety and beauty of his lighting effects and in this work the light, with its symbolic associations with divinity, reinforces Paula’s conversion and extreme piety.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said:

I hope that my placing a temporary export bar on this striking painting will allow time for a UK buyer to come forward and acquire it for the nation. It is of outstanding beauty and it would be tremendous to see it permanently on display in a UK gallery where it can be appreciated by all.

Aidan Weston-Lewis from the RCEWA said:

This recently rediscovered picture is a classic harbour scene by the greatest landscape painter of the seventeenth century. For all its narrative interest and incidental detail, its real subject is light – the glorious, golden light of the sun rising over the sea which bathes the entire scene and imbues it with an extraordinary poetic beauty.

The decision on the export licence application for the painting will be deferred for a period ending on 1 May 2015 inclusive. This period may be extended until 1 November 2015 inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the painting is made at the recommended price of £5,066,500 (plus VAT which could be reclaimed by an eligible institution).

Organisations or individuals interested in purchasing the painting should contact RCEWA on 0845 300 6200.