Fort Worth's Kimbell Acquires Poussin Masterpiece

Poussin's masterpiece will be available for viewing starting Wednesday

The Kimbell Art Museum said Friday it had made one of its most important acquisitions, a work by French painter Nicolas Poussin.

Poussin's "Sacrament of Ordination (Christ Presenting the Keys to Saint Peter)" is from his famous first set of "Seven Sacraments" and will be on view at the Fort Worth museum starting Wednesday.

The painting depicts the gospel account of Christ giving the keys of heaven and earth to Peter.

"The series is among the landmarks of European paintings," the museum's director, Eric M. Lee, said Friday. "These paintings were celebrated from the time of their creation."

Lee said Poussin is considered the "father of French painting," and without him, there would be no Degas, Cezanne or even Picasso.

The Kimbell said that the series was commissioned by a Roman collector between 1636 and 1642. In 1785, the 4th Duke of Rutland bought them, bringing them to England.

The paintings were on display at the duke's Belvoir Castle for more than 200 years. From 2003 to 2010, they were on loan to the National Gallery in London.

Of the original seven works, the Duke of Rutland still has four. One was destroyed in a fire and another was acquired by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in 1946, the Kimbell said.

The Kimbell said in a news release that the painting was offered for sale by the trustees of Belvoir Estate.

A document from Great Britain's independent Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, which reviews export licenses for works of art, listed the agreed sale price as about $24 million.

Lee said the process to get an export license for the work of art was nerve-racking. The council had a three-month period where they would allow a British institution try to raise the funds to keep the work in the United Kingdom.

"I was so relieved when we got the export license," he said.

"Sacrament of Ordination" had gone up for auction at Christie's in London in December, but didn't sell.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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