Abu Dhabi: An 18th century masterpiece painting, titled ‘Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy’, was gifted to the UAE by the United Kingdom as a token of goodwill and a symbol of enduring friendship between both countries here on Thursday.
Patrick Moody, the British Ambassador to the UAE, presented the masterpiece to Dr Hamed Bin Mohamed Khalifa Al Suwaidi, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Arts Society at his residence in Abu Dhabi.
‘Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy’ was painted by Ary Scheffer in 1856 and is from the Lubin Family Private Collection. Moody presented it to the UAE on behalf of the British Government and the Lubin Family and Five Islands Capital Limited of London as a loan in perpetuity to the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
Dr Al Suwaidi said: “From the capital of tolerance, we are truly honoured and humbled to receive such a significant gift from the Lubin Family on behalf of the United Kingdom. I believe literary and cultural partnerships are crucial to building bridges of understanding between peoples from around the world.”
He added: “This exceptional piece by a master artist of his era serves as a testament to the friendship between our countries and furthers our understanding of European historical subjects and beliefs. It can also act as an agent of soft diplomacy and makes this world a better place.”
On any plans of showcasing the masterpiece at Louvre Abu Dhabi, he said, “No plans yet, but we may decide later on how to showcase it to the people of the country.”
“On behalf of the blessed emirate and its people, we extend our sincerest gratitude to Alan Lubin, the FinTech Company Five Islands Capital and the United Kingdom for this magnificent gift. This is a truly valuable demonstration of our cultural affinity and of the respect for eternal human values that both our countries emphasise and deliver. This endowment embodies the true spirit of generosity and togetherness in the Year of Tolerance,” Dr Al Suwaidi said.
This painting was one of the most famous works of Scheffer. It comes from the Lubin Family Private Collection.
Moody said: “I am delighted at this wonderful and generous loan from the Lubin family to the emirate of Abu Dhabi. It symbolises both our rich history of cultural exchange and the bright future of UK companies engaging with the UAE on FinTech.”
Brief history of Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy
‘Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy’ was painted in 1856, and exhibited in the “Gems of the Art Treasures” Exhibition in Manchester in the United Kingdom in 1857.
It was privately purchased and kept in private collections until it appeared again in 1911, when it was auctioned at Christies Auction Rooms in London, for 100 guineas which was considered a fortune.
The painting disappeared again until 1978, when it was acquired by the Lubin Family Private Collection in London. It has remained in their collection until today.
The painting was sent to the Scheffer Museum in Dordrecht, Holland to be cleaned by their craftsmen. The curators of the museum explained that this was the missing painting for which no historical records existed following the Manchester Exhibition. The only evidence of the painting in 1857 was an illustration in the Manchester Exhibition programme, and an engraving made at the time, currently in the Getty Collection in Los Angeles.