An Taisce calls on Minister Humphreys to investigate 'Private' sale of Beit's Painting by Jaques de Lajoue

14th June 2015
Press Release

An Taisce, The National Trust for Ireland has sent a formal letter to the Irish Minister for Arts Heritage and The Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys requesting investigation of the circumstances under which one of a pair of widely admired early 18th. Century French paintings "THE CABINET OF PHYSICAL SCIENCES" by JACQUES DE LAJOUE, has been sold privately by the Alfred Beit Foundation.

The private sale occurred in advance of the April public announcement of the controversial export and auctioning of 6 other major works by Christies on 9th. July. This raises the most profound issues relating to the operation of the Alfred Beit Foundation.

The bequest by Sir Alfred Beit of 17 masterpieces to the National Gallery of Ireland combined with the remainder of the Beit collections and the magnificent house at Russborough, Co Wicklow, to the Alfred Beit Foundation is one of the greatest art bequests to any country in modern times. It is Ireland's equivalent of the Wallace Collection or Iveagh bequest at Kenwood in London, or the Frick in New York.

The proposed sale on the 9th July by Christie's London of six significant paintings including two works by Rubens, a David Teniers 11, two Francesco Guardi works, and a work recognized as the masterpiece of Adriaen Jansz van Ostade is a subject of growing controversy. It destroys the integrity of the historic Beit collection and is exposing Ireland to reputational damage internationally in the protection and management of cultural heritage.

We refer to recent coverage in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/03/arts/design/sale-of-old-masters-sets-off-an-outcry-in-ireland.html?_r=0

There is also a specific issue relating to the function of the Department of Arts Heritage and The Gaeltacht with regard to the governance of the National Gallery of Ireland. This relates to the combined role of Sean Rainbird as Director of the National Gallery of Ireland and as a Trustee of the Alfred Beit Foundation.

In addition to the issue of the paintings placed in the proposed July Christie's sale, we understand that a major painting has already been sold earlier this year in a private transaction for a reported 500,000 euro. This is one of a pair of early 18th Century works by the French artist Jacques De Lajoue "The Cabinet of Physical Sciences". This represents an artistic tragedy because of its splitting from its companion.

We refer to the report in the Irish Times of June 13th. 2015 on the issue [See note 2]. This quoted documents about an Alfred Beit Foundation Board meeting seen by The Irish Times which quoted as follows "Mr Rainbird suggested that the offer for one of the paintings represented a potential windfall that should be looked at very seriously by the Alfred Beit Foundation". It was further stated that in an email sent to The Irish Times the director stated that the two de Lajouy paintings in the Beit collection were "not a pair".

We request that all issues relating to the role of Sean Rainbird as the Director of the National Gallery of Ireland and as a Trustee of the Alfred Beit Foundation with regard to the private sale of the De Lajoue be investigated.

Notification of Press Conference – Betrayal of Trust: The Sale of the Beit Paintings: Wednesday March 17th, 3 pm. Tailors' Hall http://www.antaisce.org/articles/notification-of-press-conference-%E2%80%93-betrayal-of-trust-the-sale-of-the-beit-paintings

ENDS For further information, please call:

Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 2411995
Ian Lumley, Heritage Officer, An Taisce Tel: +353 1 454 1786
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

NOTES:

  1. More on Private Beit Sale of De Lajoue https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxEVOTzgFnKEMmRMTmZCMlVGaDA/view?usp=sharing
  2. The flight of the Beits, Rosita Boland, The Irish Times, June 13th. http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/art-and-design/visual-art/the-flight-of-the-beits-1.2247596
  3. Notification of Press Conference – Betrayal of Trust: The Sale of the Beit Paintings: Wednesday March 17th, 3 pm. Tailors' Hall http://www.antaisce.org/articles/notification-of-press-conference-%E2%80%93-betrayal-of-trust-the-sale-of-the-beit-paintings