Parmigianino, The Virgin and Child with Saint Mary Magdalen and the Infant Saint John the Baptist.

LONDON.- Culture Minister Matt Hancock has placed a temporary export bar on a 16th century masterpiece by Parmigianino, to provide an opportunity to keep it in the country. 

The Virgin and Child with Saint Mary Magdalen and the Infant Saint John the Baptist is at risk of being exported from the UK unless a buyer can be found to match the asking price of £24.5 million. 

This exceptional artwork is a rare example of a religious easel painting from the last decade of the artist’s short career. It is one of the finest examples by Parmigianino remaining in private hands and is the only late religious painting by the artist in the United Kingdom. 

The extraordinary work has been in the United Kingdom for nearly 250 years and was one of the first Parmigianinos to be bought by a British collector. Acquired from the Barberini Collection in Rome, it has passed through the collections of three of the country’s major collectors of Italian Renaissance painting. 

Minister of State for Digital and Culture Matt Hancock said: “This incredible painting has been in the UK for almost 250 years and showcases the amazing talent of Parmigianino and his eloquent approach to composition

Its highly unusual iconography and rare depth of colour helps us to understand his masterful technique and I very much hope that we keep this wonderful piece in the UK and on display, so that generations can marvel at it in the years to come.” 

The decision to defer the export licence follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), administered by The Arts Council. 

The RCEWA made its recommendation on the grounds of the painting’s aesthetic importance and outstanding significance to the study of Parmigianino’s oeuvre and to the sixteenth-century practice of painting on paper laid on panel. 

RCEWA member Aidan Weston-Lewis said: “I can’t think of a more ravishingly beautiful Italian Old Master painting remaining in any private collection in the United Kingdom. It is in pristine condition, has a very distinguished ownership history and, unusually for the period, has the additional fascination of being painted on paper, which opens up new avenues for scholarly research and technical investigation. Its permanent export overseas would be a major loss.” 

The decision on the export licence application for the painting will be deferred until 9 June 2017. This may be extended until 9 December 2017 if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase it is made at the recommended price of £24.5 million (plus VAT of £196,000). 

Offers from public bodies for less than the recommended price through the private treaty sale arrangements, where appropriate, may also be considered by Matt Hancock. Such purchases frequently offer substantial financial benefit to a public institution wishing to acquire the item. Organisations or individuals interested in purchasing the painting should contact the RCEWA on 0845 300 6200.