Veronese's preparatory drawing for Venice Triumphant (around 1581)
A Veronese drawing has fetched £15.4m, making it one of the most expensive works on paper ever sold. On 29 March a UK export licence was deferred, to allow a UK buyer to match the price. The preparatory drawing of Venice Triumphant (around 1581) was an experimental composition for the Apotheosis paintings in the ceiling of the Sala del Maggior Consiglio, the grandest state room in the Doge’s Palace. Veronese drew it on varnished paper, probably so that he could trace the architectural setting from another study. He used oil paint to draw the figures and finally added squaring in red chalk.
The Art Newspaper can report that the drawing has been sold by the Earl of Harewood, whose seat is Harewood House, near Leeds. The Veronese had been in the Eighth Earl’s family since 1917. Its first recorded owner was the artist Peter Lely and it was with the Earls of Pembroke from 1772. The drawing was recently sold privately, either through one of the main auction houses or a dealer, going to an anonymous foreign buyer. Only two European drawings have sold at auction for higher prices. Both are by Raphael and fetched over £29m in 2009 and 2012.
Ed Vaizey, the culture minister, says that “this rare drawing provides us with a remarkable insight into how Veronese created one of his most famous works”. The major UK institutions that collect works on paper are the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, but at £15.4m they could hardly contemplate trying to match the price. The initial deferral period for an export licence runs until 28 June.