Hungarian-American collector Imre Pákh has ordered a monumental painting by Hungarian master Mihály Munkácsy on loan to a museum in Debrecen to be veiled from public view pending a decision by the national heritage office on its removal.
Pákh (pictured this page) asked museum officials to drape a curtain in front of Munkácsy’s “Golgotha” after failing to reach an agreement on its sale to the state of Hungary with funding from the central bank. He told state news agency MTI that National Bank of Hungary (NBH) officials had “shown no degree of co-operation on reaching an agreement through negotiations”.
The collector said Hungary’s recent move to list “Golgotha”, effectively preventing its removal from the museum, violated Hungarian and international laws, and he would take the necessary legal steps.
In June the cabinet office initiated a procedure to prevent “Golgotha” from being permanently removed from the country. The office said the painting would be listed temporarily until rules on a permanent listing are applied.
The painting belongs to Munkácsy’s famous “Christ Trilogy”, all three of which hang in the Déri Museum in Debrecen. The state has owned “Ecce Homo!” for years and it recently acquired “Christ Before Pilate” from Canada’s Art Gallery of Hamilton for USD 5.7 million, with funding from the National Bank of Hungary’s programme to buy national art treasures.
The central bank earlier indicated it was willing to pay USD 6 million to acquire the third painting, “Golgotha”, but Pákh asked for USD 9 million. Pákh’s offer included the loan of all 52 Munkácsy paintings in his collection for 12 years as well as pre-emption rights for the works.
In a statement published on its website on Monday, the NBH said its deputy governor, Ferenc Gerhardt, who oversees the central bank’s national art treasures programme, had received a letter from Pákh’s legal counsel on August 27. The attorney had written that the collector did not wish to sell the painting, taking into account that the mandate of the central bank board did not allow for an offer exceeding the USD 6 million one, and considered the negotiations closed.
The NBH dismissed speculation in the press that it had broken off the talks with Pákh. The bank said it had only made clear that the rules by which it is bound prohibited it from making a higher offer, as acknowledged by the letter sent by the lawyer.