“An outstanding, unfinished Édouard Manet portrait of a woman sitting sedately on a balcony has had a temporary export bar placed on it by the government in the hope that someone will raise £28m to keep the painting in the UK”, The Guardian reports.
“Ed Vaizey, the arts minister, deferred the export decision until February at the earliest to allow an individual or institution to raise the required sum, which is a high figure by any standard and exceeds the present auction record for the artist.
The picture, entitled Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus, was painted in 1868 as part of the process of completing what is now one Manet’s most popular pictures, The Balcony, which hangs in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
The unfinished work shows the young violinist Fanny Claus seated on a balcony, although in the final portrait she is standing.
Lowell Libson, a member of the reviewing committee that makes recommendations to the culture department, said Manet was one of the 19th century’s most important painters who had had “a profound influence on the development of impressionism”.
Libson said Manet’s painting demonstrated his ability to innovate while working with a framework of historical reference and allusion. “The painting in its unfinished state adds to its interest, revealing the artist’s creative process whilst emphasising the haunting beauty of the portrait.”
The portrait was last seen in public at the National Gallery in 1983, at a show marking the centenary of Manet’s death. It was originally bought by the London-based American painter John Singer Sargent, in 1884, at the Paris auction house Hôtel Drouot. It has remained in the UK ever since and is now owned privately.
The reviewing committee recommended deferral on grounds that the portrait was “of outstanding aesthetic importance and outstanding significance for the study of French painting of the second half of the 19th century, and in particular the work of Manet, one of the leading Impressionist painters of the period”.
The painter, the subject of one of this year’s biggest blockbusters – an exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay in the spring called Manet: the Man Who Invented Modernity – fetches big money on the rare occasions his work comes on the market.
A Manet self-portrait, sold at Sotheby’s in June by the US hedge fund tycoon Steven Cohen, set an auction record for a work by the painter when it was bought for £22.4m.”
Image above: A detail from Manet’s unfinished Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus, which was painted as part of the process of completing one his most famous works, The Balcony. Photograph: Todd-White Art Photography