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Ronald Lauder purchases Early Italian Masterpiece for London’s National Gallery

July 30, 2015
Lot 17. GIOVANNI DA RIMINI DOCUMENTED 1292 - 1309/14 LEFT WING OF A DIPTYCH WITH EPISODES FROM THE LIVES OF THE VIRGIN AND OTHER SAINTS: THE APOTHEOSIS OF AUGUSTINE; THE CORONATION OF THE VIRGIN; CATHERINE DISPUTING WITH THE PHILOSOPHERS; FRANCIS RECEIVING THE STIGMATA; AND JOHN THE BAPTIST IN THE WILDERNESS tempera on panel, gold ground, in an engaged frame 52.5 by 34.3 cm.; 20 5/8  by 13 1/2  in. Estimate: 2-3 million. Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 17. GIOVANNI DA RIMINI – DOCUMENTED 1292 – 1309/14
LEFT WING OF A DIPTYCH WITH EPISODES FROM THE LIVES OF THE VIRGIN AND OTHER SAINTS: THE APOTHEOSIS OF AUGUSTINE; THE CORONATION OF THE VIRGIN; CATHERINE DISPUTING WITH THE PHILOSOPHERS; FRANCIS RECEIVING THE STIGMATA; AND JOHN THE BAPTIST IN THE WILDERNESS
tempera on panel, gold ground, in an engaged frame: 52.5 by 34.3 cm.; 20 5/8 by 13 1/2 in.
Estimate: £2-3 million. This lot sold for a hammer price of £5 million (£5,682,500 with fees or $9,474,433).
Click on image to enlarge.

A standout in Sotheby’s July 2014 Old Masters sale in London was this left wing of a diptych by Giovanni da Rimini, the leading 14th century practitioner in the small Italian town of Rimini.  The work sold for nearly $9.5 million, but an export hold was placed on it to enable a UK-based institution to purchase the work and prevent it from leaving the country.  Now, according to Art DailyAmerican businessman, collector and philanthropist Ronald S. Lauder has purchased the work for £4,919,000 on behalf of the National Gallery in London.  The article states: “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.”

The article continues:

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.”

This 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.”

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