Saint Sebastian by Cornelis van Haarlem and Saint John by Domenichino : two challenges for English museums

Cornelis van Haarlem (1562-1638)
Saint Sébastian, c. 1591-1592
Oil on canvas - 146.7 x 105.4 cm
Export bans from United Kingdom
Photo : MLA

22/09/09 – Export ban – English museums – We regularly point out works banned for export temporarily from the United Kingdom ; these usually end up leaving the country due to lack of funds for purchase. Once again recently, a canvas by Turner (see news item of 14/12/08) was not acquired while a pastel by Rosalba Carriera, A Portrait of the diplomat, James Gray, banned in January, also left the United Kingdom a few months later.

We hope this will not be the case for the remarkable Saint Sebastian by Cornelis van Haarlem (ill. 1) which has, in turn, been banned for export by the English Minister of Culture, Barbara Follett.
Painted around 1591/1592, this painting is more understated than the extravagant Cadmus’ Companions Devoured by the Dragon from the National Gallery dating from 1588. Here there is a strong influence by Hendrick Goltzius who, in the autumn of 1591, had just returned from a trip to Italy where his style had evolved more towards the Classical school. One of the most beautiful examples of this subdued manner in Cornelis van Haarlem’s work, in 1592, is the Fall of Man at the Rijksmuseum.

2. Domenico Zampieri,
called Domenichino (1581-1641)
Saint John the Evangelist, c. 1627-1629
Oil on canvas - 250 x 200 cm
Christie’s London, 8 décembre 2009
Photo : Christie’s

3. Domenico Zampieri, called
Domenichino (1581-1641)
Saint John
the Evangelist

Rome, Sant’Andrea
della Valle
Photo : Wikimedia Commons
(licence Creative Commons)

Another painting is also in the spotlight at the moment and should, probably, find itself banned for export temporarily from the United Kingdom as well. This is Saint John the Evangelist by Domenichino (ill. 2) which will be auctioned at Christie’s London on 8 December 2009. The work, probably commissioned by the Marquis Vincenzo Giustiniani, was painted by Domenichino shortly after the pendentives in the cupola of Sant’Andrea della Valle where Saint John appears already, in a similar attitude.

The Cornelis van Haarlem is estimated at around 1,500,000£, an amount that might be reduced thanks to fiscal deductions if the painting were acquired by a museum [1]. The Domenichino work is estimated at between 7 to 10 million pounds. Given the current financial environment, English museums will probably have a hard time coming up with such figures. All the more so as, less than three years from now, the National Galleries of London and Edinburgh will have to spend 50 million pounds to hold on to the Diana and Callisto by Titian (see news item of 4/2/09).

Version française

Didier Rykner, mardi 22 septembre 2009


[1] Let us remember that the English system, unlike the French one, allows a private individual to acquire the painting banned for export, on condition he promises to keep it on British territory. In such a case, the fiscal deductions do not apply.

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