A rare medieval panel depicting the Virgin Mary and other saints has been saved for the nation thanks to the intervention of an American businessman.
Philanthropist Ronald Lauder has effectively gifted The Lives of the Virgin and other Saints, a 14th-century work by Giovanni da Rimini, to the National Gallery.
Lauder, the son of Estée and Joseph Lauder, who founded the Estée Lauder cosmetics companies, bought the panel for £5 million but will share it with the National Gallery.
After his death the gold-ground work will be given to the gallery. Sir Nicholas Penny, director of the National Gallery, said: “We are very grateful to Mr Lauder. He has helped us to find an imaginative way of sharing this rare and exquisite painting. His generous gift to the National Gallery, to the British public and to all visitors to this great collection is an act of extraordinary generosity.”
Giovanni da Rimini was one of a small group of artists who, for a short period in the early 14th century, made the Italian port city of Rimini a centre of some of the most innovative painting in Europe. Dr Caroline Campbell, a curator at the National Gallery, described the artwork as “beautiful” and “unique”.
She said: “We’ll be able to give our visitors a different and more engaging start to the remarkable story of painting which is displayed, with unique completeness, on the National Gallery’s walls.” Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress since 2007, recently called for the world to act over the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.
In an article in the New York Times, he wrote: “Christians are dying because of their beliefs, because they are defenceless and because the world is indifferent to their suffering. “The United Nations has held inquiries and focuses its anger on Israel for defending itself against [Hamas]. “But the barbarous slaughter of thousands upon thousands of Christians is met with relative indifference.”