Cimabue Blocked

Back in October, I reported on the accidental finding of a medieval masterpiece — Christ Mocked by Cimabue — and its sale for $26.8 million.  At the time of the sale, it was not known who had purchased the painting.  Now, the buyers are revealed as US-based Chilean collectors.

However, the French government has declared the painting to be a ‘national treasure’ and have refused an export license.  This refusal gives the French thirty months in which to raise the money. “The culture minister, Franck Riester, said the export block ‘gives us the time to mobilise all efforts for this exceptional work to enrich our national collections.'”

All well and good perhaps, except for the original owners of the painting:

“France’s move to block the export complicates matters for the family of the woman in whose home the picture had hung. They had remained anonymous in what was seen as an improbable saga of overnight riches … But Agence France-Presse reported this week that the woman, who had moved into a retirement home, died shortly after the painting was auctioned. Her family, who must continue to pay high fees to insure the work until the sale is finalised, could now have to negotiate with tax officials over the timings of inheritance tax payments while the sale is in effect suspended for almost three years.”

Definitely a case of not counting one’s chickens before they are hatched.


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