UK Government Imposes Temporary Export Ban on Pontormo Masterpiece

The painting was unexpectedly sold to an unnamed collector.

Pontormo, Portrait of a Young Man in Red Cap (1530). Courtesy of the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

British culture minister Ed Vaizey has imposed a temporary export ban on a 16th century portrait by the Florentine master Jacopo Pontormo and launched an effort to find a UK buyer for the masterpiece.

According to a press release published on December 23 on the UK government’s website, the artwork is at risk of being exported from the UK to an unnamed collector unless a domestic buyer can be found to match the £30 million ($44.7 million) asking price.

Portrait of a Young Man in Red Cap (1530) is one of only 15 Pontormo paintings to survive, and is one of the few works outside of the artist’s native Italy. It depicts the young aristocrat Carlo Neroni and is considered one of the finest examples of Mannerist art.

Ed Vaizey Via: DCMS

Ed Vaizey

The masterpiece was lost for over 200 years until it was rediscovered in a private collection in 2008 when it was attributed to the Florentine artist by Christie’s deputy chairman and Old Master specialist Francis Russell. Since then, the painting has been on loan to London’s National Gallery with the agreement that it would not be offered for sale without notice.

However, the Guardian reported that the unknown owner of the painting contravened the loan agreement. Russell told the British daily, “The former owner gave Nicholas Penny [the then director of the National Gallery] an undertaking, through me, that while it was on loan to the National Gallery it would not offered for sale.”

He explained that now, “[the owner] or his trustees, failed to give the three month warning of an intention to sell.”

“No doubt the picture was sold furtively as the purchaser wished to ensure that it couldn’t be bought in a tax-efficient way by an institution here,” Russell concluded.

The National Gallery, London Photo: Visit London

The National Gallery, London
Photo: Visit London

The asking price must now be matched by a domestic buyer to keep the artwork in the UK before the export ban expires on April 22, 2016 (although the deadline could be postponed if a serious buyer emerges).

Culture minister Vaizey appealed for a British buyer to come forward, “This masterpiece was once lost to the world for more than 200 years and I want to help make sure the UK doesn’t let it go now. Pontormo was one the greatest artists of his time and this portrait is one of a few left in existence. I hope that a buyer comes forward to save this striking painting for the UK public to enjoy.”

In October, the government made a similar plea for a buyer to volunteer to purchase a £35 million ($54 million) Rembrandt painting.

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