Rare Baldassare Peruzzi Nativity Painting Saved as ‘Christmas Gift’ for UK | Painting | Daily News Byte


A rare painting of the Nativity by Baldassare Peruzzi 500 years ago has been preserved by the government as a “Christmas gift to the nation” after an export ban was imposed.

Peruzzi’s only work in the UK, The Nativity, will be exhibited in Northern Ireland next year. It was acquired by National Museums NI after funds were raised to purchase the work from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Art Fund, Department for Communities NI and the Esme Mitchell Trust.

The painting, valued at £277,990, had an export bar placed on it by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport last year. Cultural items deemed too important to leave the UK may be placed under the export bar.

The DCMS said at the time: “An extraordinarily rare painting depicting the Nativity is at risk of leaving the country, unless a UK buyer can be found to save the work for the nation.”

Peruzzi's The Nativity
Peruzzi depicted the scene of his nativity at night. Photograph: National Gallery

The Nativity was painted around 1515 by Peruzzi, one of the leading figures in art in Rome in the first decades of the 16th century, who worked with Raphael and Donato Bramante. He was an architect, theater designer, painter and draftsman.

Most of Peruzzi’s paintings were in fresco and have been lost to history. One of the handful of works outside of Italy is Nativity.

The painting is undergoing conservation work at the National Gallery in London before moving to its permanent home at the Ulster Museum in Belfast in 2023.

Peruzzi depicted the scene of his nativity at night. Its “nocturnal setting is most striking … Peruzzi’s use of dark tonality for a work on this intimate scale was unusual, even daring,” the Arts Council said.

Stephen Parkinson, Minister for Arts and Heritage, said: “For many people, being part of a nativity play is the first way they learn the Christmas story. That is why I am delighted that, this Christmas Eve, we can announce that this incredible painting of that famous event has been preserved for the nation thanks to the export bar system.

Simon Thurley, chairman of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, said the painting was “an incredibly important artwork” and that its acquisition was “a wonderful Christmas present for art lovers and Northern Ireland in particular”.

Art Fund Director Jenny Waldman said: “This is an extraordinary and beautiful work of art. We are delighted that … Peruzzi’s painting will now enter a UK public collection for the first time.”

The National Heritage Memorial Fund contributed £99,990 towards the cost of the artwork. The Art Fund gave £100,000, the Department for Communities NI contributed £70,000 and the Esme Mitchell Trust gave £8,000.


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