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The Netherlands makes the controversial decision to buy a prized Rembrandt for a whopping $198 million

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The Dutch government, in association with the Rembrandt Association and the Rijksmuseum, controversially agreed to pay $175 million ($198 million) for a painting by Rembrandt van Rijn to preserve the work in the country.

The painting, a three-quarter self-portrait by the Dutch artist, remained in private hands for centuries, passing from the collections of King George IV to the French Rothschild family, who acquired the work in 1844. It then became the children of Lee de Rothschild, the patriarch of the French branch of the family of bankers and art collectors, on his death in 2007.

Considered a “national treasure” by France in 2019, an export bar has been set so that the Louvre can try to raise funds for the work. But after 30 months, the museum was unable to do so and waived its right of first refusal to purchase.

In December 2021, the Dutch state announced its intention to purchase the work for the national collection with the support of the Rembrandt Association, which will provide $15 million ($17 million), and the Rijksmuseum, which will provide Another $10 million ($11 million). The remaining 150 million ($170 million) will come from state coffers.

But critics say the money will funnel into a Rothschild family trust in the Cook Islands, which acts as a tax haven.

How does this transaction relate to the Dutch government’s anti-tax evasion policy, that is our question to the Secretary of State,” Senator Henk Otten told the Guardian, adding: “Why is the state involved in such constructions?

Other government officials have expressed doubts about whether the work’s authenticity and provenance can be guaranteed, saying the murky nature of the agreement makes such checks impossible.

Timing of purchase also isn’t for everyone, as COVID restrictions stifle the culture sector. Museums, theaters and cinemas must stay closed until at least January 25, when the authorities will reconsider the containment measures.

In a tweet, the new culture secretary,Gunay Uslu wrote“I understand the call for help and that artists want to show all the beautiful things they have to offer us. But the opening of society must go step by step.

The Rembrandt painting, completed when the Dutch Golden Age artist was just 30, was completed when he moved from Leiden to Amsterdam. It depicts the painter in the costume of one of the many standard bearers who were stationed on the front lines of the Eighty Years’ War, which led to the independence of the Netherlands.

The painting is seen as a turning point for the artist, who painted himself looking directly and confidently at the viewer with one hand on his hip, “full of bravado”, according to Rijksmuseum director Taco Dibbits.

“That’s when Rembrandt became Rembrandt,” he added.

The process of acquiring the artwork will take four weeks, by which time the Netherlands will officially own the artwork, according to Dutch outlet The NL Times. Once the acquisition is complete, The flag bearer will visit the Dutch provinces and will ultimately reside in the honor gallery of the Rijksmuseum.

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