The State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts receives a precious gift – the famous St. Mark by Frans Hals

22 November 2013

On November 21, 2013, the Moscow State Pushkin Museum officially revealed its new prized exhibit: St. Mark, by the Dutch master Frans Hals. The famous painting was presented to the Museum by Alisher Usmanov.

St. Mark is one of four portraits of the Evangelists painted by Frans Hals, presumably in the second decade of the 17th century. Portraits of St. Luke and St. Matthew belong to the collection of the Odessa Museum of Western and Oriental Art, a portrait of St. John’ adorns the J. Paul Getty Museum in the United States.

The arrival of St. Mark to Russia is a significant event not only because of the great artistic value of the painting, but also because of its particular history. In 1773, all four of Hals’s “Evangelists” captured the attention of the Russian Empress Catherine II, who bought them for the St. Petersburg Hermitage. In 1812, by a decree of Alexander I, the paintings were transferred to the Taurida Governorate, the predecessor of today’s Crimea. Experts suggest that during the Crimean War, the portrait of St. Mark was stolen. In 1972, at a London auction St. Mark was sold as Portrait of a Bearded Man, mistakenly identified as a work of the Italian artist Luca Giordano. The picture was indeed bestowed with certain additional “Italian” features: a lace collar had been painted over the humble coat of a saint. However, soon a German art specialist and a renowned expert on Frans Hals, Klaus Grimm, established the true authorship of the painting. After that, St. Mark, restored to its original appearance, was exhibited several times in Moscow.

Irina Antonova, President of the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, commented: “In the 80 years since the fundamental redistribution of state museum funds in the 1920s and early 1930s, this is undoubtedly the most impressive entry in our collection.”

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