The Dutch government has set aside €150m to buy Rembrandt's Standard-Bearer, the ministry of education said in a letter to parliament on Wednesday.
Probably among Rembrandt's most vibrant paintings still in private hands, the work is valued at €165m. If the €150m of public money is approved by the Dutch parliament, the Rembrandt Association and the Rijksmuseum fund would contribute the outstanding sum.
Although the work is classified as a "national treasure" in France, the French government announced on Tuesday that it waived its right to buy the painting after it was unable to raise sufficient funds.
In 2019, the French culture ministry refused to grant an export license for the painting owned by the heirs Elie de Rothschild in the hope that it could find the funds to buy the painting. But the price tag was too simply high.
“‘The Standard-Bearer’ is one of Rembrandt’s absolute masterpieces and inextricably tied to the history of the Netherlands,” the culture ministry in The Hague said in a statement.
“Now is the opportunity to acquire a last Rembrandt of this class,” it added, pointing out that the work “was in private hands for centuries, including the king of England and since 1844 the Rothschild family”.
Rembrandt used his own face as a model for this portrait of a proud Landsknecht in an early 16th century costume. It was painted in 1636, six years before The Night Watch, when the artist, under the influence of Titian, started to use freer brush strokes and heavy impasto.
Three years ago, the Rijksmuseum expressed its interest in the painting. Now its director, Taco Dibbits says: “This is the last chance to buy a painting of this enormous importance, which was his artistic breakthrough in the run-up toThe Night Watch. It is deeply rooted in Dutch culture and history and symbolises the rebelliousness of the painter and his country. We have to do everything we can to get this painting to The Netherlands. It is essential for our country.”
The price, according to an official source in Paris, “represented almost 20 years of the Louvre’s acquisition budgets” and the museum was unable to raise the necessary funds.
In 2016, France with the help of its Central Bank was able to jointly purchase with The Netherlands Rembrandt's double portrait of Maerten Soolmans and his wife Oopjen Coppit from the Baron Eric de Rothschild for €160m. France’s €80m share was the highest price ever paid for a painting destined for a French museum.