The “Rembrandt Treaty” between France and the Netherlands represents the first time that two states have together bought a work of art. The pair of Rembrandt portraits of Maerten Soolmans and his wife Oopjen Coppit (1634) will go on show together, in turn at the Louvre in Paris and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. In a private sale arranged by Christie’s, the paintings were bought for €160m from the family of the French banker Éric de Rothschild. French law meant a joint purchase was legally impossible, so under the 1 February pact, the Dutch have acquired the male portrait and the French the female one, with an agreement that the couple will always be shown together.
The Rembrandts are now in Paris, where the Louvre is giving them a minor cleaning. They are due to go on display there in late February for three months, before moving to the Rijksmuseum for the same period. The portraits will then be given a full conservation treatment in Amsterdam. Subsequently, they are due to be displayed for a five-year period in Amsterdam and Paris, and from then onwards for an eight-year period in each city. The portraits are never to be lent, so they will not feature in major Rembrandt exhibitions.
International sharing of works of art remains very unusual, even with ownership held by galleries (rather than states). It is now occasionally done with contemporary video art, because this is logistically fairly simple. For instance, in 2012 the Tate, the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Israel Museum jointly bought Christian Marclay’s The Clock (2010). Although some Continental commentators on the Rembrandt purchase have cited the example of the two Titian paintings acquired jointly by the National Gallery and the National Gallery of Scotland, England and Scotland of course remain part of the UK.