An exhibition of seventy paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir will soon open at the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest. One of the paintings, The Swing, has already arrived in Hungary in the utmost secrecy, secured by civilian police and bodyguards, reports Hungarian tabloid Blikk.
The painting has an estimated value of 22 billion forints (EUR 57.1 million), but it cannot be sold because it is a French national treasure that will never go under the auction hammer. The exhibition also includes three pieces owned by the Hungarian state, and the insurance value of the collection is nearly HUF 400 billion (EUR 1 billion).
The Museum of Fine Arts’ building in Budapest. Photo: Facebook/Szépművészeti Múzeum
The arrival of The Swing was so secret that even the Budapest museum authorities did not know when, by what route, and in what vehicles the convoy of a closed truck carrying Renoir’s painting had left for Hungary, under the protection of civilian police and bodyguards.
This was to avoid the possibility of the painting being stolen en route, on behalf of a billionaire art collector. There have been cases like this before, and Hungarians are no strangers to the story: paintings stolen from the Hungarian Museum of Fine Arts were also taken to a buyer on commission by thieves who broke into the museum in November 1983.
If the museum did not have a system, technique, and tactics against theft and robbery that met the highest security standards, they would not have received any of the famous paintings on loan, Zoltán Lévay, the museum’s head of communications, explained to Blikk.
The Museum of Fine Arts was notified a week ago that the painting had been shipped from Paris, following prior arrangements.
It was packed in a plain wooden box with no inscription, just the words “fragile” written on it.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir: The Swing. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The deliverers took an unmarked car on a detour to bring the billion-euro treasure, only indicating that they would arrive on Tuesday morning. At Heroes’ Square, where the museum is located, museologists and armed guards had already built the ramp to take the precious package into the building on the morning of September 12.
The painting is so valuable that it is only loaned by the Musée d’Orsay in Paris after a preliminary security assessment. If a museum does not pass the test, if it does not have good electronic security, no permanent armed guards, no permanent contact with the local police, it will not receive the work.
The exhibition in Budapest titled Renoir – The painter and his models, will be open between September 22, 2023 and January 7, 2024.
Featured photo via Facebook/Szépművészeti Múzeum