Dealer wins case over Old Master Portugal had ‘exported in error’
March 17, 2018
A long-running dispute over the export of an important Old Master painting from Portugal has finally been settled after authorities ended an attempt to have the work repatriated.
The oil on panel by Italian painter Carlo Crivelli (c.1430- 94), owned by Portuguese businessman Miguel Pais do Amaral, had been sold to a UK dealer in 2012. However, both its departure from Portugal – and the state’s retrospective attempt to block its export – proved controversial.
Pais do Amaral sold the pic- ture, via a Paris intermediary, for a sum in the region of €4m. Portugal’s secretary of state for culture at the time, Francisco José Viegas, agreed to an export application.
However, the following year Viegas’ successor in that role, Jorge Barreto Xavier, repealed the decision to issue an export licence. It was claimed the licence had been granted in
error. By this time, following research and restoration, the Crivelli had been resold to an overseas collector. ATG under- stands that the work is now valued at €9m-12m.
The UK dealer and their client brought in Art Recovery International (ARI) to act on their behalf.
Christopher Marinello of ARI told the ATG: “We reviewed this case carefully and felt that the Portuguese state did not have a valid claim. It appeared as though the newly elected Portuguese government was trying to embarrass the old one at the expense of my clients.”
After two years chasing an agreement, Marinello wrote to the Portuguese Ministry of Cul- ture demanding that it ends its interest in the painting or his clients would seek “signi cant
compensation”. Marinello has recently received acknowledge- ment from the Portuguese Ministry of Culture that any restitution request has now expired.
“The government of Portugal authorised the export of this important painting and had no right or justi cation to revoke the licence retroactively,” said Marinello.
ATG contacted the Portu- guese ministry of culture but had yet to receive a comment at the time of going to press.