NI museum lands six Rembrandts as part of a tax bill deal
By David Young, PA
A deal struck over an outstanding tax bill has landed a Northern Ireland museum six works by Rembrandt.
The Ulster Museum is the surprise beneficiary of an agreement negotiated by the tax authorities to secure £150,000 owed to the Exchequer.
The collection of six etchings are the first works by the Dutch master to be acquired by a museum in Northern Ireland.
The museum has put two of the etchings on display - Six's Bridge and The Adoration Of The Shepherds - as part of its current Masterpieces of Dutch Landscapes Painting exhibition, and will be displaying the other four shortly.
The artwork, dating from 1630s to the 1650s, was gifted to the museum by the Arts Council England as part of the Government's Acceptance in Lieu scheme.
The scheme allows individuals to settle inheritance tax bills by handing over valuable artworks to the tax authorities.
The etchings have been gifted to the Ulster Museum 350 years after Rembrandt's death.
Kathryn Thomson, chief executive of National Museums NI, told the PA news agency the acquisition was "transformational".
"This gift immeasurably transforms the Ulster Museum collection, as these are the first works by Rembrandt to enter a public collection in Northern Ireland," she said.
"We are very grateful to Arts Council England for this allocation from the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme.
"We are so excited for the opportunity for our visitors, from here and further afield, to see the work of one of the world's most celebrated artists in Belfast. We are already planning to have all six etchings displayed in a forthcoming exhibition at the Ulster Museum dedicated to Rembrandt and his influence on printmaking."
As well as the two etchings already displayed, the museum has also acquired: Bearded Man In A Furred Cap And Robe; The Artist's Mother; The Sleeping Herdsman; and The Descent From The Cross By Torchlight.
Christie's auctioneers were involved in the negotiations that resulted in the artwork being acquired by the tax authorities.
Chairman of Acceptance in Lieu Panel, Edward Harley, said: "I am delighted that these six Rembrandt etchings have been secured for Ulster through the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme. It is particularly gratifying because up until now Ulster Museum had no works by Rembrandt in its collection."
Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan also welcomed the acquisition.
"Rembrandt is one of history's most celebrated artists, and it's fantastic news that, thanks to the Government's Acceptance in Lieu scheme, six of his works will now find a home in Northern Ireland at the Ulster Museum in Belfast for the public to enjoy," she said.