Getty Museum aims to acquire 16th century Parmigianino painting


A valuable 16th century painting by the Renaissance artist known as Parmigianino could soon find a home in Los Angeles, but the work of art is still subject to an export license from Britain.

The J. Paul Getty Museum said that it hopes to acquire the biblically themed painting, titled “Virgin With Child, St. John the Baptist, and Mary Magdalene.” The museum said the painting has been in private hands for more than 400 years and that a private sale is being arranged through Sotheby’s.

Standing approximately 2 ½-feet-tall, the late Renaissance work was previously on loan to the Getty and has also been exhibited at the National Gallery in London. Parmigianino — whose full name was Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola — is believed to have completed the work between 1530 to 1540.


“It’s one of the few late Renaissance paintings still in private hands,” said Timothy Potts, director of the Getty Museum, in an interview. “It’s in fantastic condition, which is so rare for this period.”

Potts said that he had been interested in the painting since seeing it at the National Gallery when he previously served as director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England.

The Getty’s planned acquisition has been “a combination of our making gentle inquiries and discussions with Sotheby’s,” said Potts. He declined to disclose the seller and the selling price but said the painting is extremely valuable.

The acquisition remains subject to an export license from the Arts Council England. British law allows for the veto of a foreign purchase of artwork if a British institution can offer a competitive price and the work is deemed of significant cultural value.

The Getty faced a similar situation when it sought to acquire an early Rembrandt self-portrait from a dealer. The museum ultimately prevailed in 2013 and received an export license.

But the Getty’s 2002 bid of $46.6 million for Raphael’s “Madonna of the Pinks” failed to go through when the British government stepped in to help with a rival bid. The work now resides at London’s National Gallery.


The selling price of the Parmigianino could come to light when the Getty applies for an export license from the British government. The museum said that the export application is being filed by the seller’s representative, Sotheby’s.

The painting is notable because the artist executed it on paper before laying it down on panel.

The piece is “in an extraordinary state of preservation,” said Davide Gasparotto, senior curator and head of the paintings department at the Getty.

He added that the painting shows Parmigianino “at the peak of his artistic maturity” and “encompasses in the best possible way the ideal of beauty and refinement of the mature Italian Renaissance.”

If the acquisition succeeds, the piece would be the first painting by Parmigianino to enter the Getty’s collection, though the museum already owns several of the artist’s drawings.