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Nicolas Poussin's remarkable painting, Ordination, under export threat

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on a highly significant painting by Poussin.

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

This will provide a last chance to raise the money to keep the work 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 so closely connected with our history and national life that its departure would be a misfortune; that it is of outstanding aesthetic importance; and of outstanding significance for the study of Poussin and the study of the history of western art. The Committee awarded a starred rating to the painting meaning that every possible effort should be made to raise enough money to keep it in the country.

The painting, dating from 1636-42, set in a classical landscape, depicts Saint Peter’s ordination and forms part of Poussin’s first set of highly celebrated seven Sacraments. This remarkable and innovative work has survived in excellent condition and is an outstanding example of Poussin’s skill as a painter and the founder of the classical tradition in French art. The set of paintings was brought to the United Kingdom in 1785 having been acquired by the 4th Duke of Rutland. One painting, Penance, was destroyed by fire at Belvoir Castle in 1816 and a second, Baptism, was sold. The remaining five paintings (including Ordination) were recently displayed at the National Gallery, London.

Lord Inglewood, Chairman of the Reviewing Committee, said: “This highly significant picture, possessed of a particularly harmonious and successful composition, demonstrates Poussin’s skill as a brilliant colourist. As part of one of the most remarkable series of paintings ever conceived it is of huge importance to the study of the history of western art.”

The decision on the export licence application for the painting will be deferred for a period ending on 9 August 2011 inclusive. This period may be extended until 9 February 2012 inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds with a view to making an offer to purchase the painting at the recommended price of £15,000,000 is expressed.

Offers from public bodies for less than the recommended price through the private treaty sale arrangements, where appropriate, may also be considered. Such purchases frequently offer substantial financial benefit to both parties by the sharing of tax advantages.

Anyone interested in making an offer to purchase the painting should contact the owner’s agent through:
The Secretary
The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest
Museums, Libraries and Archives Council
Grosvenor House
14 Bennetts Hill
B2 5RS

Telephone 0121 345 7427

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Notes to Editors

For all media enquiries please contact Senior Media Relations Adviser,  Sunita Sharma, on 020 7273 8299, email:

  1. 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 Peter Rowlands, RCEWA Secretary, on 0121 345 7427, email

  2. 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 fair market price.

  3. View the painting on the DCMS flickr page.

  4. The details of the painting are:

Nicholas Poussin (1594-1665)
Ordination (1636-42)
Oil on canvas
95.9 x 121.6 cm

Commissioned by Cavaliere Cassiano dal Pozzo (d. 1657), for the ‘Stanza de’ Sagramenti’ of the Palazzo dal Pozzo, via dei Chiavari, Rome, and by inheritance to his brother, Carlo Anonio dal Pozzo (d. 1689), Rome.
By descent, to his grandson, Cosimo Antonio dal Pozzo (d. c. 1739), Rome; pledged to Marchese del Bufalo, Rome, as payment for debt (offered to King Louis XV of France in 1729 when Bufalo ran into financial difficulties).
Returned to Cosimo Antonio dal Pozzo, Rome, when debt paid, in either February 1730 or February 1732, and by inheritance to his daughter, Maria Laura dal Pozzo Boccapaduli, Rome.
By inheritance to the Boccapaduli family, Rome, who attempted to sell the series to Sir Robert Walpole (d. 1745), but the export licence was denied by the Pope.
Sold in 1785 on behalf of the Boccapaduli family by James Byres, Rome, to Charles Manners, 4th Duke of Rutland (1754-1787), by descent at Belvoir Castle, Grantham; and on loan to The National Gallery, London.


Rome, San Salvatore in Lauro, December 1715 (lent by Cosimo Antonio dal Pozzo).
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Council Room, 1787.
Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland, Poussin: Sacraments and Bacchanals. Paintings and drawings on sacred and profane themes by Nicolas Poussin, 1594-1665, 16 October - 31 December 1981, no. 31 (catalogue note by H. Brigstocke).
Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Nicolas Poussin, 1594-1665, 27 September 1994-2 January 1995, no. 67 (catalogue note by P. Rosenberg).
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Nicolas Poussin, 1594-1665, 19 January - 9 April 1995, no. 39 (catalogue note by R. Verdi).
London, The National Gallery, 2002-2010.


N. Poussin, Correspondance de Nicolas Poussin, ed. Ch.Jouanny, Paris, 1911, pp. 125, 153, 208, 214, 218, 225, 239, 244ff.,254, 256, 267, 440 and 443.
G.P. Bellori, Nota delli musei, librerie, galerie, et ornamenti di statue e pitture, ne’ palazzo, nelle case, e ne’ giardini di Roma, Rome, 1664, p. 46.
R. de Cotte, Memoire, 1689?, MS, Papiers de Cotte, Bibliotheque nationale de France, Paris, MS Fr 9447, fol. 210-13, published in C.P. de Chennevieres-Pontel, Recherches sur la vie et les ouvrages de quelques peintres provinciaux de l’ancienne France, Paris, 1847-62, III, P. 153 and Thuillier, op. cit. infra, 1960, p. 203.
A. Felibien, Entretiens sur les vies et sur les ouvrages des plus excellents peintres anciens et modernes, Paris, 1688, subsequently London, 1705 and Trevoux, 1725, IV, pp. 23, 164.
V. Vleughels, 1729-1739, in A. de Montaiglon and J. Guiffrey, Correspondance des Directeurs de l’Academie de France a Rome avec les Surintendants des Batiments 1665-1793, Paris, 1887-1912, VIII, pp. 40, 45, 47ff., 51, 54, 58-9, 62, 66ff., 70, 87 and 110, IX, pp. 47 and 52.
G.P. Bellori, Le vitte de’pittori, scultori et architetti moderni…, Rome, 1672, pp. 416 and 418.
O. Siren, Nicodemus Tessin d. y:s Studiersor, 1673-88, printed Stockholm, 1914, p. 187.
F. Titi, Studio di pittura, scoltura et archittetura nelle chiese di Roma, Rome, 1674, subsequently as Discrizione delle pittura, sculture ed architettura eposte al pubblico in Roma, Rome, 1763, p. 91.
J. von Sandrart, Teutsche Academie der edlen Bau-, Bild- und Mahlerey-Kunste, ed. A. R. Peltzer, Munich, 1925, p. 257.
G. B. Passeri, Vite de’ pittori, scultori ed architetti che anno lavorato in Roma, morti del 1641 fino al 1673, ed. J. Hess, Leipzig-Vienna, 1934, p. 327.
J. Spon and G. Wheler, Voyage d’Italie, de Dalmatie, de Grece, et du Levant, fais aux annees 1675 et 1676, Amsterdam, 1679, l, p.304.
F. Baldinucci, Notzie dei proffessori del disegno da Cimabue in qua, Florence, 1681-1728, subsequently with the subtitle Edizione accresciuta di annotazioni da Domenico Maria Manni, Florence, 1767-73, XVI, p. 102.

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Updates to this page

Published 23 May 2011