Russborough decides not to sell important Rubens painting

Export licence for ‘Portrait of a Monk, Bust-Length’ had been obtained

 Sir Alfred and Lady Beit, left with W F Richardson from Blessington, his daughter Eithne Lewis, and granddaughter, Ms Lewis, viewing a Reubens painting during a connoisseur’s evening open to the public at Russborough House in 1983. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times.

Sir Alfred and Lady Beit, left with W F Richardson from Blessington, his daughter Eithne Lewis, and granddaughter, Ms Lewis, viewing a Reubens painting during a connoisseur’s evening open to the public at Russborough House in 1983. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times.

 

Russborough House has decided not to sell an important Rubens oil painting for which it obtained an export licence earlier this year.

The painting, titled Portrait of a Monk, Bust-Length, was one of three by Rubens for which Russborough obtained an export licence on March 16th last. The other two are among a group of nine pictures from Russborough due to be auctioned at Christie’s in London in the coming weeks.

In a statement, the Alfred Beit Foundation which runs Russborough, confirmed it had received an export licence for Portrait of a Monk. It said the licence had been released under Freedom of Information and was in the public domain.

The short statement said the foundation “had decided not to sell this work and it will return to Ireland.”

The export licence, which has been seen by The Irish Times, covers 10 paintings – the nine due to be sold by Christie’s and the Portrait of a Monk which is believed to be worth well in excess of £1 million.

The estimates in the Christie’s catalogue for the two other Rubens being sold are £2 million to £3 million for Head of a Bearded Man and £1.2 million to £1.8 million for Venus Supplicating Jupiter.

The late Sir Alfred and Lady Beit created the foundation in 1976 to preserve Russborough House in Co Wicklow and its extremely valuable collection of paintings for the Irish people.

Explaining the decision to sell the nine paintings at Christie’s, Judith Woodworth, chairwoman of the foundation, has said “selling this small and very carefully selected group of paintings is an absolute necessity” in order to fund the “urgent need of ongoing major restoration, maintenance and improvements” at Russborough.

However, more than 2,400 people have signed an online petition calling for a halt to the sale.

It emerged recently that a painting that had hung in Russborough has been sold privately. The Cabinet of Physical Sciences by Jacques de Lajoue was sold without publicity for more than £500,000.