CHAGALL MYSTERY RESOLVED.
OTTAWA • The National Gallery of Canada has confirmed it plans to buy Saint Jerome Hears the Trumpet of the Last Judgment, painted in 1779 by Jacques-Louis David. The gallery plans to finance the purchase by selling The Eiffel Tower by Marc Chagall, but until Monday it had not confirmed rumours that the David painting was what it wanted to buy. The painting of Saint Jerome had been on display in the National Gallery from 1995 to 2013, until the Musée de la Civilisation in Quebec City requested its return. The painting came to Canada in the late 1800s. It has been in Quebec City since about 1917 and was donated to the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec in 1938. The gallery said in an announcement Monday that the owners offered it for sale to three Canadian museums — Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, and the National Gallery.
The National Gallery was interested but couldn’t find private donors to finance the purchase and did not want to use up its entire purchasing budget on one work. As well, it said, “the gallery also learned from two foreign museums that they had been approached to gauge their interest in acquiring the David. One of those museums told us they were indeed very interested in purchasing Saint Jerome and had the funds to do so. We then understood that the risk to Canada of losing this national treasure was real, adding urgency to the matter.”
WE THEN UNDERSTOOD THAT THE RISK TO CANADA OF LOSING THIS NATIONAL TREASURE WAS REAL.
That’s when it decided to sell the Chagall, which it has owned since 1956, “given the healthy market for works by Chagall.”
“Four months ago, The Eiffel Tower was offered at fair market to more than 150 art museums across Canada,” it said. There were no takers, so the gallery decided to sell it at auction.
It added that “Saint Jerome Hears the Trumpet of the Last Judgment requires significant restoration. Our state-of-the-art conservation laboratories and our team of picture restorers are superbly qualified to bring this national treasure back to its former glory.”
News of the potential sale of the Chagall upset several fans, with one online petition at change.org garnering 386 signatures from people who did not want the National Gallery to sell the Chagall work. Started by Toronto resident Natasha Abramova, the petition asks Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly to halt the sale.