News item from 2012


Saved For The Public: Edouard Manet's Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus Acquired By The Ashmolean

Following an 8 month campaign and with donations from hundreds of members of the public, the Ashmolean Museum has succeeded in raising £7.83 million to acquire Edouard Manet’s Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus and keep it in the United Kingdom.

The painting was purchased by a foreign buyer in 2011 for £28.35 million. Following advice from the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art, the picture was judged to be of outstanding cultural importance and was placed under a temporary export bar until 7 August 2012 by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey. Under the terms of a private treaty sale, the painting was made available to a British public institution for 27% of its market value, and it was purchased through the London Fine Art agent, Robert Holden Ltd. It is the most significant acquisition in the Ashmolean’s history.

Dr Christopher Brown CBE, Director of the Ashmolean, said, “The public’s response to the campaign for the Manet has been overwhelming. The Museum is enormously grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund, other foundations and many individuals who contributed so generously and helped us save Manet for the public. To have succeeded in acquiring the portrait this year, when the UK is in the international spotlight, is something of which the Museum and the entire country can be proud. This is one of the most important pictures of the 19th century which has been in Britain since its sale following the artist’s death in 1884. Its acquisition has transformed the Ashmolean’s collection and has at a stroke made Oxford into a leading centre for the study of Impressionist painting.”

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said, “I am delighted that the temporary export bar I placed on the painting has resulted in the Ashmolean being able to acquire this fantastic work by one of the greatest painters of the 19th Century. I congratulate the Ashmolean on their campaign and it’s wonderful that Manet’s painting will now be on public display where it can be enjoyed and appreciated by all.”

The campaign has received lead support of £5.9 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), and a grant of £850,000 from The Art Fund. The final £1,080,000 was contributed via grants and donations from trusts, foundations and private individuals.

As well as to those who wish to remain anonymous, the Ashmolean Museum is extremely grateful to the Friends of the Ashmolean Museum; the Patrons of the Ashmolean Museum; the University of Oxford; Manny & Brigitta Davidson and family; Mr and Mrs Geoffrey de Jager; Sir Harry and Lady Djanogly; Mr Philip Mould; The Rothschild Foundation; The Dr Mortimer & Theresa Sackler Foundation; Mr and Mrs Timothy Sanderson; The Staples Trust ; Sir Adrian Swire; Mr and Mrs Bernard Taylor; Barrie and Deedee Wigmore; Mr and Mrs Brian Wilson; The JL Wine Charitable Trust and The Woodward Charitable Trust.

The Ashmolean also wishes to thank each of the 1,048 people who made a gift in response to our public appeal. The public appeal attracted gifts from across the globe, with donations ranging from £1.50 to £10,000.

Carole Souter, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said, “The Ashmolean deserves a gold medal for reaching the finish line and securing Manet’s Mademoiselle Claus. Thanks to an imaginative fundraising campaign this elegant portrait will remain here in the UK in perpetuity. This is a proud moment for everyone involved but without a doubt the real credit goes to the Museum for its tenacity and vision.”

Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund, said, “Manet’s Mlle Claus is a beautiful, beguiling and exceptionally important painting: We’re delighted to have supported the Ashmolean Museum’s successful public appeal with a major Art Fund grant – indeed one of our largest ever.”

Manet was one of the greatest painters of the 19th century. During his lifetime he was controversial, but his work, though it shocked the public, was hugely admired by artists. His reputation grew rapidly in the 20th century and consequently his best works were acquired by major museums. There are now remarkably few Manets in private collections, almost all in France, and there are only a handful of important pictures by Manet in the United Kingdom – in the National Gallery and the Courtauld Institute in London, as well as other works in Cardiff, Birmingham, and Glasgow. Adding to the Museum’s permanent collections and the Pissarro Family Collection, the acquisition of this masterpiece makes the Ashmolean a world-leading centre for the study of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist work.

The portrait is a first version of Le Balcon (1868–9) now in the Musée d’Orsay - one of the key images of the Impressionist movement. Initially inspired by the sight of people on a balcony, during a summer spent in Boulogne-sur-Mer with his family in 1868, Le Balcon famously draws on Goya’s Majas on a Balcony painted around 1810. It is also an important example of Manet’s work from the late 1860s onwards when he began to focus his attention on his family and close friends. The portrait’s subject is Fanny Claus (1846–77), the closest friend of Manet’s wife Suzanne Leenhoff. A concert violinist and member of the first all-women string quartet, Fanny was a member of a close-knit group of friends who also provided the artist with models. She married the artist Pierre Prins (1838–1913), another friend of Manet’s, in 1869, but died of tuberculosis just eight years later at the age of 30.

Having been acquired by the Ashmolean, Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus will be lent to public museums and galleries in a nationwide tour in 2013.

Notes to editors:

Edouard Manet (1832-1883)
Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus
Oil on canvas, 111 x 70 cm
Provenance: Manet’s studio sale, 4-5 February 1884, lot 19, bought by John Singer Sargent; and by descent in the family of his sister
Exhibited: Manet at Work, National Gallery, London, 1983, no. 11

Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) sustains and transforms a wide range of heritage for present and future generations to take part in, learn from and enjoy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported
more than 30,000 projects allocating £4.9billion across the UK. Website: 
For more information please contact Katie Owen, HLF Press Office, on tel: 020 7591 6036/07973 613820.

The Art Fund

The Art Fund is the national charity which helps museums and galleries to buy, show and share art for the enjoyment of all. Over the past five years, the Art Fund has given over £24 million towards art of all kinds, from Old Masters to new media, and supported a range of programmes which share and show art to wider audiences, including the national tour of ARTIST ROOMS, the Art Fund Prize for Museums and Galleries, and Art Guide, a pioneering smartphone app offering the most comprehensive guide to seeing art in the UK. The Art Fund is independently funded and the majority of its income comes from 90,000 supporters who purchase a National Art Pass, costing from £50, which gives free entry to over 200 museums, galleries and historic houses across the country as well as 50% off many major exhibitions. Find out more about the Art Fund and the National Art Pass at . The press office can be reached on 020 7225 4888 or

The Export Bar

On the 8 December 2011 the Culture Minister Ed Vaizey placed an export bar on Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus. The ruling followed the recommendation of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, administered by Arts Council England. The Committee recommended that the export decision be deferred on the grounds that the portrait was of outstanding aesthetic importance and of outstanding significance for the study of French painting of the second half of the nineteenth century and in particular the work of Manet, one of the leading Impressionist painters of the period. For more information visit or Sam Gough, Media Relations Officer (Museums and Libraries), on 020 7973 5189, email:

Private Treaty Sales

Items which have been granted conditional exemption from capital taxation (Inheritance Tax (“IHT”), Estate Duty (ED) or Capital Gains Tax (“CGT”) can be purchased by private treaty by a body listed in Schedule 3 of the Inheritance Tax Act 1984: (which includes most public museums, galleries and archives in the United Kingdom) at a price which is beneficial to the public purchaser. For more information visit: . Such a sale will not give rise to a charge to IHT, ED or CGT. In this case, as the principle is that the owner should not be financially disadvantaged by the Export Control procedures, all of the benefit will apply to the Schedule 3 purchaser. HM Revenue & Customs will forgo all of the tax that would be payable if the painting is sold abroad.

Robert Holden Ltd

Robert Holden Ltd is the longest established firm of fine art agents in London. Over the last thirty years, Robert Holden Ltd has advised private owners, their professional advisors, trustees and museums on the sale and purchase of fine and decorative art. Most notably we have handled paintings (in particular 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th century British Art), Old Master Paintings, sculpture, furniture, silver, jewellery, manuscripts, and other antiques. For more information visit: 

The Ashmolean Museum

Founded in 1683, the Ashmolean is Britain’s oldest public museum and possibly the oldest museum in the world. In 2009 it reopened following a £61 million redevelopment. The new Ashmolean building, designed by award-winning architect Rick Mather, has received universal acclaim and numerous awards. It houses 39 new galleries, including the new special exhibition galleries, an Education Centre, state-of-the-art conservation studios, and Oxford’s first roof-top restaurant. Although completely invisible behind Charles Cockerell’s neo-classical façade, the Rick Mather building has provided the Museum with 100% more display space and the facilities to launch a major exhibitions programme. In 2011 six new galleries of Ancient Egypt and Nubia opened to the public, following a second phase of redevelopment. The redisplay of the Egyptian collections takes visitors on a chronological journey covering more than 5000 years of human occupation of the Nile Valley. The Ashmolean is now the most visited museum in the country outside London. Admission is free.

European art at the Ashmolean

The Ashmolean’s collections include European paintings, sculpture and applied arts, and one of the finest collections of drawings and prints in the world. Highlights include well-known masterpieces such as Paolo Uccello's Hunt in the Forest and Claude Lorrain's Ascanius shooting the Stag of Sylvia. There are important displays of Italian Renaissance art, Flemish and Dutch 17th-century paintings (including the Daisy Linda Ward Collection of still-life paintings), the Pre-Raphaelites (mainly from the Combe Bequest of 1895) and the work of Camille Pissarro and his family (thanks to several gifts from the Pissarro family). The Ashmolean holds the following works by Manet: two beautiful unfinished oils, A Garden Urn and A Basket of Pears, both formerly owned by the German Impressionist, Max Liebermann; as well as an early landscape, a watercolour of one of Manet’s most famous compositions, Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe, and a number of other drawings.


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