Rembrandt’s Portrait of Catrina Hooghsaet (1657), which has been at the centre of a storm over UK export rules, is going on loan to National Museum Cardiff for three years. The painting will go on public display later today, 5 April, in the Welsh museum’s Dutch gallery.
The work had hung at Penrhyn Castle, in north Wales, since 1860. Last summer, it was sold privately through Sotheby’s to an unidentified foreign buyer for £35m. An application was made for an export licence and last October the culture minister deferred it to allow a UK collection to match the price (this would have been £22.5m with tax breaks).
The Art Fund planned to spearhead a public campaign to buy the Rembrandt painting for National Museum Cardiff, but on the eve of the 26 October launch, Sotheby’s contacted the fund to say the licence application was being withdrawn and the picture would be kept in the UK. The fund’s director, Stephen Deuchar, later said that unless improvements to the system were made it could not launch public fundraising campaigns for art threatened with export.
In 2025, ten years after the withdrawal of the Rembrandt export licence application, the owner will be entitled to reapply. There would then be no tax advantages in a sale to a public gallery, however, making it difficult to raise the full market price. The loan of the painting to an important museum could also add to its financial value.
The anonymous owner of the Rembrandt now says that they are “very happy to be able to share the enjoyment of this great painting with the public by lending it to the National Museum of Wales”. According to a spokeswoman for the museum, the previous owner of the Rembrandt, Penrhyn Settled Estate, is donating £10,000 to fund an educational programme for the display of the portrait.
Deuchar says that although he is delighted that the Rembrandt is going on loan to Cardiff, the Art Fund has not given up hope that one day it will be acquired by a UK public collection. In the meantime, he promises that “we’ll continue to campaign to improve the systems that protect our nation’s treasures”.