In September, the French and Dutch culture ministers announced that the two countries had jointly acquired a pair of full-length Rembrandt portraits for £160 million. The paintings, which depict Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit on the eve of their wedding in 1634, are to be shown alternately at the Louvre and the Rijksmuseum. This ambitious bilateral arrangement has largely drawn plaudits for the progressive manner in which the museums have defied institutional and national bounds. But some commentators have sounded a note of caution: have the museums made adequate provisions to cope with unforeseen cultural or political instabilities?
Another unusual sharing agreement applies to the National Gallery’s acquisition of a panel by Giovanni da Rimini, which will significantly enrich its holdings of medieval Italian paintings. Funding for the purchase was provided by the American philanthropist Ronald S. Lauder, on the condition that the work would be loaned to him during his lifetime, and intermittently be displayed in London. It is an arrangement that bodes well for cash-strapped European institutions looking to retain artworks that are considered culturally indispensable.
Many of the works illustrated on the following pages will resonate in the specific institutions that have acquired them. The Rijksmuseum has become the first public collection in the Netherlands to own a major work by the Dutch master Adriaen de Vries; the Frick Collection has been given a Murillo self-portrait that has belonged to the Frick family since 1904; and the Ashmolean Museum raised the necessary funds to purchase a Turner view of Oxford High Street that has been on loan to the Oxford institution since 1997. The gift to the MFA Boston of 186 objects once owned by the Vienna Rothschilds is of major significance: the museum is the first in the US to acquire a collection illustrative of le goût Rothschild.
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