Rare medieval panel purchased by the National Gallery thanks to Ronald S Lauder

Giovanni da Rimini’s Scenes from the Lives of the Virgin and other Saints – the only high-quality work from fourteenth century Rimini still in Britain – has been acquired for the nation, thanks to Ronald S Lauder providing the funds to enable the National Gallery to purchase it.

The gold-ground panel, painted around 1300-05, had been in the collection of the Dukes of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle since 1853, until it was sold at auction in July 2014. A temporary export bar was placed on the 700-year old painting by the Minister for Culture following a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest. This was in order to give a UK gallery the chance to match the price and keep it on public display in the UK.

American businessman, philanthropist and art collector Ronald S Lauder has now stepped in to provide the funding to enable the painting to be bought by the National Gallery. The 52.5 x 34.3 cm panel will be loaned to him for his lifetime. It has however been agreed that Scenes from the Lives of the Virgin and other Saints will return regularly to Trafalgar Square during this period – this will initially be in 2017, and then up to once every three years after that.  At the end of the loan the painting will return to the National Gallery permanently.

National Gallery Director, Sir Nicholas Penny, said:

We are very grateful to Mr Lauder.  He has helped us to find an imaginative way of sharing this rare and exquisite painting.  His generous gift to the National Gallery, to the British public and to all visitors to this great collection is an act of extraordinary generosity.

Giovanni da Rimini’s Scenes from the Lives of the Virgin and other SaintsThis method of securing works of art, agreed with the approval of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, allows the National Gallery to add major paintings to the collection without using public money at a time when its acquisition budget is extremely limited.

Scenes from the Lives of the Virgin and other Saints – which is in excellent condition for a work over 700 years old – unites the exquisite detail of late Byzantine icons with a new, more expressive style. Its inclusion in the collection will allow the National Gallery for the first time to demonstrate to its visitors a key moment in European art, when Western painting (as we now know it) with its emphasis on observation and realism, was born.

Giovanni da Rimini was one of a small group of artists who for a short period in the early fourteenth century made the Italian port city of Rimini a centre for some of the most innovative painting in Europe. The art of this period was characterised by its combination of emotional intensity, iconographic originality, and painterly innovation. Surviving paintings by members of the School of Rimini are rare, and paintings by Giovanni – the most talented member of the group – are exceptionally so. This is one of only three easel paintings unanimously ascribed to him (the others are Scenes from the Life of Christ in the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Rome, and The Virgin and Child with Five Saints, in the Pinacoteca Comunale, Faenza).

Dr Caroline Campbell, National Gallery Interim Head of the Curatorial Department and National Gallery Curator of Italian Paintings before 1500 said:

Giovanni da Rimini’s ‘Scenes from the Lives of the Virgin and other Saints’ is a transformative acquisition for the National Gallery. This beautiful and unique work, inspired by Byzantine icons as well as the more naturalistic Western European style, means that we’ll be able to give our visitors a different and more engaging start to the remarkable story of painting which is displayed, with unique completeness, on the National Gallery’s walls.

For more information, visit www.nationalgallery.org.uk.

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