NATIONAL GALLERY SINGS THE BLUES FOR RAPHAEL’S “THE MADONNA OF THE PINK” [ archive ]

25 Jan

Tis’ the season of Britain saving international, cultural treasures: Ramsay’s 1767 portrait of beauty Jean Abercromby “saved” for  York Art Gallery, £625,000; Woburn Abbey’s  The Three Graces, painted by Canova, “saved” for Scotland’s National Gallery; L1.2 million needed for “saving” Joseph Wright’s portrait of Richard Arkwright Jr; Sir David Attenborough begging £12.5m to “save” Tate’s Reynolds’ painting of Tahitian, Omai; and National Gallery, owner of eight Raphael’s “saving” Madonna of the Pinks being ‘stolen’ out from under British noses by California’s Getty Center. Some say it ‘s the Nation’s obligation since Britain’s legitimate national treasure, footballer David Beckham, not “saved”,  ‘stolen by Real Madrid’ for L50M.

National Gallery director, Charles Saumarez Smith, thankful for hundreds of donations, letters, support, says public feeling is ‘in favour of retaining this great Raphael in the National Gallery, where it has hung for the last eleven years. It will be a disaster for the Gallery and for the country if it is exported.’ J Patrice Marandel, Los Angeles Country Museum of Art’s chief European Art curator, Italian visitors to National Gallery, say the Raphael is Italy’s national treasure, demanding its return home, sold out of the country without official sanction.

Few British eyebrows were raised, 1998, when the British government exported, Fra Bartolommeo’s, 1509 High Renaissance masterpiece “Rest of the Flight Into Egypt,’ to the Getty. “It took better of a year for the export license process in Great Britain to play itself out. We were surprised we succeeded,” hue nor cry, if any, nowhere near the level of press rhetoric cranking to ‘save Pink.” Critics say money could be spent better ‘saving blue whales.’

There’s no mystery to Getty’s interest in acquiring the masterpiece. Formerly located in Malibu, Getty, endowed by J Paul Getty’s Trust,  was not “optimistic about finding many important Italian Renaissance works,” pieces being rare and costly, under European export controls.” There are no imports from Italy, Spain; few from Netherlands, Germany, France, and ‘”increasing trouble in Britain where the usually reliable export review system hasn’t always been consistently operated as of late, ” says Getty press office, “a flood of new money from a national lottery now makes it much easier for British Galleries to buy.”

Thea Page, Getty Communications, never discusses transactions until they’re completed. Pending date? August 27th. Bruce Segler, Getty manager of security learned, from a BBC television documentary, everything he knows about Getty acquiring Pink. Other than that, he says, he knows nothing except Raphael’s Madonna will be happy at the Center, Segler says. Trustee’s spare nothing in their philanthropic commitment to bringing international culture to Californians.TheMuseum maximizes California natural light- clustered buildings bridge imported Italian travertine walkways, two story atria gardens. Pictures are illuminated with daylight most hours of the day. Getty learned about artwork protection during Northridge, California’s earthquake, January 1997, when the museum was being built. Northridge levelled buildings 21 miles away. Getty is 10 miles nearer the epicentre. Segler admits. ‘When a bigger quake comes along then we’ll learn all over again.’

Saving Madonna Of The Pink, was a non-issue until Getty applied for license to export it. Citing Waverly rules, National Gallery demanded their right to matching bid. Independent tax and legal advisors said Department of Culture, Media and Sports would consider L21,000,000, the amount Pink would have sold for in 1988,  excluding taxes Getty and the Duke could pay,  to keep Pink on UK walls. A public institution, National gallery pays none. 1988, Madonna of The Pink was believed to be a copy. 

Waverly Rules require Pink have outstanding aesthetic importance; outstanding significance for artistic, educative, historical study; be closely connected to British history and national life.’ Alison Cole, National Arts Collections Fund says “We’re concerned with the quality of the work of art in deciding whether to provide grants,” “most important considerations for us is whether public access to a work of art is going to be maintained. If the work is likely to go from a public gallery to a private collector who won’t exhibit it publicly, we’ll be more likely to support an appeal.” NACF pledged L400,000 to National Gallery’s Appeal. GettyCenter, perched atop Santa MonicaMountains, annually attracts over 1.4 million visitors from around the world. August 7, Bruce Segler, Getty security manager said 5 of 120 random visitors randomly stopped were from Britain. Sotheby lowered its original demand to National Gallery from L30,000,000.

Pink was loaned, to National Gallery, by His Grace, 10th Duke of Northumberland, inherited from the 9th Duke of Northumberland. A family heirloom, it sat, ignored, in a dank, back  corridor, in what he calls his ‘magical Windsor of the North,’ Alnwick, a mediaeval Castle, location for ‘Harry Potter’s ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ and ‘Chamber of Secrets.’ Annually, thousands visit his antique filled Castle, enjoying its paintings by Canaletto, Van Dyck and Titian. Alnwick needs repair, says His Grace, “ improving houses, cottages, farm building on 160 tenanted farms, on 7000 acres of woodland . Many of Alnwick’s historic buildings are scheduled under Acts of Parliament. The Duke, ‘largely responsible for general maintenance and safety,’ wants to sell his family’s painting. “Its sale will enable us to continue to preserve our heritage and invest in projects aimed at improving life, culture and employment in Northumberland.” 

National Gallery is singing the Blues. It was their own Italian Renaissance Paintings Clore curator, Dr. Nicholas Penny, who declared Pink, 1991, purchased, in the early 19th century,  from Rome’s Camuccini collection. Until then, the devotional, painted, in Florence, 1507-8, on cherry wood measuring, 29 x 23 cm., (11.4 inches x 9 inches), was dismissed as a copy. The Divine Genius, Raphael, Il Divino, a child prodigy became one of High Renaissance’s three greats, a child prodigy. He was about 25 when he painted the masterpiece, loosely based on Leonardo’s ‘Benois Madonna compolsition.’  It sat in Northumberland, neglected, for more than a century, disfigured by layers of grime, discoloured varnish concealing the oils. Penny declared the Northumberland Madonna, as she came to be known, authentic. She compliments, hanging in the National Gallery, two other Raphael Madonna’s of the same period, ‘Garvagh’ Madonna and Child with the Young St. John and ’Mackintosh’ Madonna of the Tower. A devotional picture, she is well preserved from her original days, when  her owner, held her in hand, contemplating mother and child bonded in their bedchamber, sunny landscape peeping through the window, tenderly sharing pinks, symbolic of devotion. 

Sotheby is brokering the sale between His Grace, 10th Duke of Northumberland, and J Paul Getty Trust. Sotheby policy requires potential sellers to submit written inquiries to Sotheby specialists, occassionally having items evaluated in person, scheduled with an appropriate category specialist. If considered, Sotheby provides “auction estimates, an in-depth proposal for sale, and a comprehensive marketing plan, depending upon the property’s value. When sales are underway, Sotheby’s works closely ensuring clients’ needs are met promptly. Consignment minimum depends on the evaluation of the item, value varying depending on the property. Thea Page, Getty communications says “Getty’s always on the lookout for important works, constantly receiving offers from owners, agents.” Sotheby’s is an agent.

National Gallery, displaying Raphael’s Pink almost eleven years, will not comment if or what they were paid for their service identifying Madonna Of The Pink, nor discussing if or what they will receive if her sale to Getty completes, Penny having rescued her from oblivion. It is, ironically, because Penny authenticated Pink, Getty cared to purchase Madonna Of The Pink for $50,000,000 (L35 million), over a year ago, around the time, Sotheby’s former chairman, 76 year old Alfred Taubman, pled guilty, to colluding, fixing sales commissions, with his archrival, Anthony Tennant, of Christie’s art auction house. Sotheby’s pled guilty, admitting it bilked clients for years of seller’s advances, auction result guarantees and payments.  

A year later, at the Chelsea Flower show, Alison Bomford stood beside Eric Palmer, Steven Bailey Ltd’s floral consultant.  A gold award nearby buried in pinks, they were drumming up support for “Raphael Appeal.”

Alison joined National Gallery’s marketing in time to race for country and honor. A few weeks on her job, Duke of Northumberland, accepted Getty’s offer to sell Pink. National Gallery needed media attention. Time was running out. Tessa Blackstone, Britain’s minister of Arts, banned Pink’s exportation for seven months. Time was running out.

Heritage Lottery Fund, despite diminishing lottery sales, granted National Gallery, its largest bequest ever, January 23,  L11.5 million pounds matching funds to “save” Pink. The ‘nation’s last resort for heritage at risk’ National Heritage Memorial Fund, denied their request, citing depleted funds.  L9.5 million was raised from public appeal. National Art Collections Fund’s pledged  £400,000, National Gallery promised Brits Pink will be toured countrywide  sharing their acquisition’s beauty, forgetting Canova’s The Three Graces suffered a hairline crack shuttling between two custodial institutions. DCMS will determine if National Gallery’s £21million constitutes a matching offer. National Gallery assuring “if unable to acquire the Raphael, monies raised will be used to save other masterpieces,’ leaving Britons puzzling over the saving treasures, other nationalities.

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