France Fights to Keep Rembrandt From Dutch With $89 Million

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France is bidding to buy one of two rare works by Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn to prevent its current owner, the Rothschild family, from shipping the painting to Amsterdam.

Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin said the Bank of France would make an “exceptional” donation of 80 million euros ($89 million) to purchase one of the 17th century paintings for the Louvre Museum, just four days after the Netherlands said it had made an offer to buy both masterpieces.

“The bid was submitted to the owners,” Pellerin said, according to a statement published late Thursday on the ministry’s website.

Officials in Paris and The Hague are tussling over the paintings after previously announcing a plan to buy them jointly. Sharing ownership between the Louvre and Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum would have allowed both countries to alternate the display of the pictures, Pellerin said.

The Netherlands still assumes the transaction “will be executed and that the paintings will be acquired,” said Lodewijk Asscher, deputy prime minister of the Netherlands, speaking after the weekly ministry council today. “At the same time, I realize it’s a special transaction” that is generating a lot of interest.

A spokeswoman for the Louvre declined to comment and a Rothschild family representative didn’t immediately provide a response when contacted by Bloomberg News.

‘Interesting Development’

France’s bid comes after the Sept. 21 announcement that the Dutch government and the Rijksmuseum intended to buy one painting each, for 160 million euros in total.

“It’s an interesting development and we are in contact with France,” Boris de Munnick, a spokesman for the Rijksmuseum said by e-mail.

The 1634 portraits of Maerten Soolmans and his fiancee Oopjen Coppit were acquired by the Rothschild family in the 19th century. The paintings are exceptional, even for Rembrandts, because the artist rarely painted full-length portraits and most of his work today is in museums rather than private hands.

The works caused a stir in France earlier this year when the nation’s government opted out of buying them, permitting banking tycoon Eric de Rothschild to export them. Under French law, major artworks can’t leave the country without the state’s permission. If the country denies permission, it must buy the art within 30 months.

The Rijksmuseum is home to Rembrandt’s 1642 painting, “The Night Watch” one of the best-known paintings of the Dutch Golden Age.

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