British acquires Rembrandt drawing in exchange for inheritance tax

Major acquisition for the British Museum: a Rembrandt drawing of a baby sleeping in a cradle arrives. The acquisition in exchange for a £1.4 million inheritance fee.

Important acquisition for the British Museum , which is expanding its collection of Rembrandt drawings with a drawing by the great Dutch artist depicting a child in a cap sleeping in a cradle, which has become part of the state collections in exchange for an inheritance tax. In fact, in the United Kingdom there is the Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) program, administered by Arts Council England, which allows citizens to donate objects of value (that have cultural, scientific or historical significance) in lieu of paying a certain amount of tax. Proposals are screened by a committee, and if the property offered is of appropriate importance a proposal is made to the citizen at a value deemed fair to both the nation and the taxpayer. Material accepted under the program is allocated to public collections and is available for all to see: in 2023, this institution allowed 48 objects worth more than £52 million to enter state collections, all of which were allocated to museums in the United Kingdom. In this particular case, the design was accepted for a fee of 1,406,250 pounds (about 1.6 million euros).

The British Museum has an important collection of Rembrandt’s works on paper, with more than 1,000 prints and 72 drawings by the artist himself and more than 300 drawings by his pupils. The public will thus have a chance to see the drawing in an exhibition to be held in the spring. Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (Leiden, 1606 - Amsterdam, 1669) is considered one of the greatest artists in art history. He was known for his sensitive observations of human life and his experimental approach to painting and printmaking.

The newly acquired work was drawn from life, and Rembrandt used it as a study for the Christ child in his painting of the Holy Family (signed and dated 1645, and preserved in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg). The artist drew inspiration from the domestic sphere and interpreted biblical stories in a touching and humane way, which contributes to his enduring popularity. For a long time it was thought that the drawing depicted Rembrandt’s son Titus, although he was born in 1641 and thus older than the child depicted.

The drawing has a long and illustrious provenance and has been in private collections in Britain for more than 200 years. This reflects the passion for Rembrandt that was widespread in Britain in the 18th century. British collectors were attracted to Rembrandt’s expressive style. This inspired not only the strong collecting of works by the Dutch master, but also influenced the direction of contemporary British art, as seen in the work of Joshua Reynolds, himself an avid Rembrandt collector. The newly acquired drawing was owned by some of Britain’s most prominent collectors, including the Victorian painter Frederic Leighton. It is therefore significant to the broader history of British taste and collecting and to Rembrandt’s reception in Britain.

“We are delighted to have acquired this drawing with the generous support of the Arts Council,” said Hugo Chapman, curator of drawings and prints at the British. “This tender drawing is a wonderful addition to our collection of images from Rembrandt’s childhood.”

“Thanks to the Acceptance in Lieu scheme,” said Michael Clarke CBE, chair of the AIL committee, “this small and delicate drawing of a sleeping child has been acquired for the nation. It is made with black chalk and is typical of Rembrandt’s quick sketches made from life. Its acquisition was announced in the Cultural Gifts Scheme and Acceptance in Lieu Annual Report 2023.”

Rembrandt, Child Sleeping in a Cradle (black chalk on paper, 75 x 112 mm)

British acquires Rembrandt drawing in exchange for inheritance tax
British acquires Rembrandt drawing in exchange for inheritance tax

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