Press release

Museums given last chance to purchase portrait said to be by Rubens

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

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on Portrait of a Young Woman, said to be by Rubens.

This will provide a last chance to raise the money to keep the painting in the United Kingdom. 

The Minister’s ruling follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, administered by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA). The Committee recommended that the export decision be deferred on the grounds that the painting is of outstanding aesthetic importance and of outstanding significance for the study of early 17th Century portraiture.

The painting, which dates from c. 1602-04, depicts a woman in a sombre travelling cloak, embellished with elaborate lacework and expensive jewellery.  Her identity is unknown, but she was clearly an individual of high status.  The costume itself is Spanish but does not necessarily locate the painting in Spain, since some Italian courts at that time adopted the Spanish style of dress.  It is possible that the painting was commissioned by Vincenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, for his “Gallery of Beauties”.  The woman gazes straight out of the canvas and there is a sense of a strong bond between viewer and sitter that gives the portrait a powerful impact.

Lord Inglewood, Chairman of the Reviewing Committee, said:

This is a striking portrait of a very real, although unidentified, woman.  There are some bravura areas of painting, especially in the face and hand.  It is an important work for study as although its attribution to Rubens is debated it is an outstanding example of portraiture in Southern Europe from the beginning of the 17th Century.

The decision on the export licence application for the painting will be deferred for a period ending on 17 March 2011 inclusive. This period may be extended until 17 May 2011 inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds with a view to making an offer to purchase the painting at the recommended price of £1m is expressed.

Anyone interested in making an offer to purchase the painting should contact the owner’s agent through:
 
The Secretariat
The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest
Museums, Libraries and Archives Council
Wellcome Wolfson Building
165 Queen’s Gate
South Kensington
London SW7 5HD
Telephone 020 7273 8271

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Notes to Editors

  1. For all media enquiries please contact Senior Media Relations Adviser,  Sunita Sharma, on 020 7273 8299, email: sunita.sharma@mla.gov.uk
  2. For enquiries on the operation of and casework arising from the work of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA) please contact Anastasia Tennant, RCEWA Secretariat, on 020 7273 8271, email anastasia.tennant@mla.gov.uk .
  3. The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest is an independent body, serviced by MLA, which advises the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on whether a cultural object, intended for export, is of national importance under specified criteria. Where the Committee finds that an object meets one or more of the criteria, it will normally recommend that the decision on the export licence application should be deferred for a specified period. An offer may then be made from within the United Kingdom at or above the recommended price.
  4. The details of the painting are:

Said to be by Sir Peter Paul Rubens (Seigen 1577-1640 Antwerp)
Portrait of a Young Woman, half-length, holding a chain
oil on canvas
c. 1602-04
76 x 58 cm
5. The Portrait of a Young Woman can be downloaded from the DCMS Flickr channel.

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