Paolo Veronese drawing
The preparatory drawing for one of Paolo Veronese’s most famous paintings, Apotheosis of Venice, which was sold in a £15.4m but has now been placed under a temporary export bar.

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Sold to an overseas buyer for £15.4m (plus £154,000 VAT), the drawing is the subject of an export application which has been deferred by the UK government, giving an opportunity for a UK institution or private buyer to match the price. The sum negotiated for the drawing makes it one of the most expensive Old Master drawings ever sold.

The 21in x 14in (53 x 36cm) oval study was a preparatory drawing for one of Veronese’s most famous paintings, Apotheosis of Venice, that can be found in the Doge’s Palace in Venice where it occupies one of three large ceiling compartments in the Sala del Maggior Consiglio, the Palace’s most important state room.

Following two disastrous fires in 1574 and 1577, the Venetian government commissioned Veronese and several other local artists to redecorate the Doge’s Palace. The Apotheosis of Venice was completed in around 1582 and this drawing is the largest and most important of the two preparatory studies by Veronese that remain, showing how the artist experimented with the composition.

The works itself shows a multitude of allegorical figures floating before an architectural structure and the decision to defer the export license was made on the grounds of its outstanding aesthetic importance, its connection with one of the most important commissions of Veronese’s career, and its status as the most impressive of his few surviving modelli.

“Spectacular Sheet”

Chief Curator of Italian and Spanish art at the Scottish National Gallery and member of the UK’s Export Reviewing Committee Aidan Weston-Lewis said: “This spectacular sheet offers a fascinating insight into the working method of one of the foremost artists of the Venetian Renaissance… Everything is orchestrated to express the power and glory of the Venetian Republic.”

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said: “This rare drawing provides us with a remarkable insight into how Veronese created one of his most famous works. I hope we can find a buyer to keep this beautiful artwork here in the UK.”

The decision on the export licence application for the drawing will be deferred until June 28. The date may be extended for a further six months if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the drawing is made.