The Dutch Senate has approved the purchase of The Standard Bearer, a 1636 painting by Rembrandt. The government will contribute €150m ($170m) while €25m ($28.4m) will be paid by the Rembrandt Association and the Rijksmuseum. The final price was €10m more than previously expected.
Despite the vote in favour, many senators voiced their concerns about the purchase. The work will be purchased from the Rothschild family via a trust located in the Cook Islands, whose holding company is in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, both tax havens, the Guardian reports.
Independent senator Henk Otten asked, “How does this transaction relate to the policy of the Dutch government to combat tax avoidance?... SMEs and freelancers who are a day late with their VAT return will immediately receive a hefty fine. Why is the state involved in such constructions?”
Other senators questioned the timing of the acquisition during the pandemic, and asked whether the authenticity of the work or its ownership could be assured.
The culture minister Gunay Uslu said that due diligence had been done. Uslu, who previously worked as an art historian and curator, said she considered the work to be a prelude to Rembrandt's The Night Watch (1642) and “inextricably linked to the history of the Netherlands”.
France was also interested in buying the painting, which was classified as a "national treasure", but announced in December 2021 that it was unable to raise sufficient funds. In 2016 France and the Netherlands went Dutch on Rembrandt’s wedding portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit, paying €80m each.
The Standard Bearer will now go on a tour of the Netherlands before coming to the Rijksmuseum’s Gallery of Honour.