Rembrandt’s late career Portrait of Catrina Hooghsaet is the subject of the UK Culture Minister’s latest export licence deferral. The painting, which had been in the collection of the Welsh aristocratic Douglas-Pennant family, was reported to have been sold earlier this year for £35 million.
An export licence has been sought, but the Minister, based upon a recommendation from the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art (RCEWA), has decided to withhold the licence until 15 February 2016, in order to see if a UK institution, or indeed a wealthy individual, can come forth with the funds to match the selling price. If so, then the painting will stay in the UK, ‘saved for the nation’ through the operation of the export licensing scheme. If a serious intention is shown, the period can be extended to 15 October 2016.
The RCEWA is a body that reviews the national importance of works that owners are seeking to permanently export from the country. Their recommendations are based on three criteria (known as the ‘Waverley criteria’):
- Is the work so closely connected with our history and national life that its departure would be a misfortune?
- Is the work of outstanding aesthetic importance?
- Is the work of outstanding significance for the study of some particular branch of art, learning or history?
In the case of the Rembrandt, all three criteria were met: the painting was a unique work by the Master, it showed an unexpected focus on detail in a work painted so late in his career (about 1661), it was important for the study of 17th century Dutch society, and it had been on frequent public display in the UK over the past 250 years. The Minister followed the recommendation and imposed the licence deferral, giving the British entities (and funding bodies) a time limit within which to amass the necessary fortune.