France makes last-ditch effort to keep one Rembrandt for €80 million

Brother and Sister of the Night Watch
Rembrandt portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit (Pictures: Wikimedia Commons/ portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit (Pictures: Wikimedia Commons/

France has committed 80 million euros in a bid to buy one of the two Rembrandt paintings that were conditionally sold to the Rijksmuseum for a combined 160 million. The museum orchestrated the purchase with 80 million euros from the Dutch government with the goal of bringing the marriage portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit back to the Netherlands.

The paintings, collectively called the "Brother and Sister of the Night Watch," were most recently owned by a French branch of the Rothschild banking family. An initial proposal made to the family would have seen the two works purchased jointly by the Netherlands and France, with the canvases displayed on a rotation.

That is still the plan preferred by France's cultural minister, according to the NRC. The purchase would be supported by the French Central Bank as an "exceptional favor" to guarantee it ends up in the Louvre museum in Paris.

The Rembrandts are coming to the Netherlands, said Jet Bussemaker, the Netherlands Minister of Education, Culture and Science, to broadcaster NOS on Friday. She said she was perhaps a bit surprised by the timing of the French offer, and pledged to prevent a situation where the Netherlands and France bid against each other.

"That seems highly undesirable for everyone," Bussemaker stated.

This would mark the first time since 1866 that the artworks leave France. French newspapers have reported the sale as one of the greatest cultural scandals of all time.

Rijksmuseum Director Wim Pijbes told news agency ANP that he found this an interesting development.