Rare nativity painting goes on display at Ulster museum

Conservationist restoring Baldassare Tommaso Peruzzi's The Nativity.
Conservationist restoring Baldassare Tommaso Peruzzi's 'The Nativity'. Credit: Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The Ulster Museum in Belfast is giving visitors the Christmas gift of an “exceptionally rare” nativity painting.

The Nativity, an exceptionally rare work by Italian artist Baldassare Peruzzi, goes on display at the south Belfast attraction just weeks before Christmas Day.

The painting dates back to 1515 and is the first High Renaissance painting to enter a public collection in Northern Ireland.

The painting was acquired through a fundraising campaign by National Museums NI, supported by the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Art Fund, Department for Communities NI and the Esme Mitchell Trust.

The work is deemed to be of national importance, and has a significant history.

Therefore, an export bar has been placed on it on behalf of the public by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Anne Stewart, senior curator of art at National Museums NI, explained much of Peruzzi’s art work has been lost.

"His oil paintings are extremely rare so it’s something of a Christmas miracle that we are able to welcome visitors to the Ulster Museum to enjoy this exciting new acquisition”, she said.

“It’s wonderful to give the gift of Renaissance art to our audiences, especially as the subject of this painting depicts a scene which is synonymous with this time of year.

Dr Simon Thurley, chair of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, also praised the “perfect timing” for the public to enjoy the painting.

“We are very proud that the National Heritage Memorial Fund was able to support its acquisition to guarantee that this incredibly important painting remains in the UK.

"Its display in the museum this December is a fantastic early Christmas present for art lovers, and for Northern Ireland in particular,” he said.

Kathryn Thomson, chief executive of National Museums NI, added: “We are tremendously grateful to all partners who supported this acquisition, and in doing so acknowledged the importance of strengthening Northern Ireland’s collection of art.

“It’s wonderful to bring The Nativity to our audiences – a fitting piece as we approach the Christmas period and reflect on Ulster Museum’s important role in caring for the public’s collection."

Nativity will be on display in Art Gallery 1, Renaissance to Romanticism, at the Ulster Museum Belfast from December 12.

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