Friedrich’s owl presented for listing as a national treasure

Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840)
Owl on a Tree
Oil on canvas - 25.5 x 31.5 cm

17/11/10 – Heritage – France, National Treasure – There will not be a “Friedrich affair” as we might have feared (see article). Rather than setting off a legal marathon which might last years and still not resolve anything, the person selling the painting which reappeared at an auction in Cannes, and was purchased by the Talabardon and Gautier Gallery, has chosen to come to an agreement with the dealers. The work now belongs to both parties.

Naturally, an export permit was requested thus leading, just as logically, on 17 November, the Commission for trésors nationaux to pronounce itself in favor of refusing the export certificate. It is now up to the Minister to give his opinion, which is usually to approve the commission’s advice. The Louvre will have 30 months, starting from the date the decision appears in the Journal Officiel, to raise the needed funds for its acquisition. In passing, we point out that the painting is now entitled Owl on a Tree. Indeed, this is an owl and not a crested owl as we had written, recognizable by the horns on his head. David d’Angers, who owned the painting and had described it, was obviously not an ornithologist.

We are definitely delighted with the ending of this story, for the moment. Sharing the work between the person who discovered it and the original owner is infinitely better than a decision which would have meant cancelling the auction in favor of the seller alone, as happened in the case of the Pardo brothers and The Flight into Egypt by Nicolas Poussin. Let us hope that the matter will be solved to everyone’s satisfaction and that this new Friedrich – the museum already has two – will join the Louvre permanently. We would dare to think that it will not let such an important painting get away, given its quality and prestigious background.

Didier Rykner, mercredi 17 novembre 2010

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