Government buys Munkácsy masterpiece ‘Golgotha’

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The government has purchased the painting "Golgotha" by renowned 19th century Hungarian artist Mihály Munkácsy for HUF 3 billion from private collector Imre Pákh, Gergely Gulyás, the minister heading the Prime Ministerʼs Office, said in Budapest on Wednesday.

The state of Hungary had been eyeing the monumental "Golgotha" for years. Hungarian-born American art collector Imre Pákh acquired the painting in 2003.

The work is one of the famous "Christ Trilogy" by Munkácsy (1844-1900). The state has owned "Ecce Homo!" for years and acquired "Christ before Pilate," another of the three, from Canadaʼs Art Gallery of Hamilton for USD 5.7 million in 2015, with funding from a National Bank of Hungary (MNB) program to acquire national art treasures.

In 2015, talks between the Hungarian government and Pákh on the possible sale of "Golgotha" fell through. The state had offered USD 6 mln for the painting, but Pákh wanted USD 9 mln.

The collector then signalled he was ready to have the painting removed from the Déri Museum in Debrecen. The government later initiated a procedure to list the painting to prevent its permanent removal from the country. Pákh in response ordered the painting to be veiled from public view.

In 2016, the Hungarian heritage authority decided to give "Golgotha" protected status. Pákh appealed the decision, but his claim was rejected. The following year, the Kúria, Hungaryʼs highest court, ordered a retrial of the case and the ensuing court procedure lifted the workʼs protected status.

In summer 2018, Gulyás indicated that the government would offer HUF 3 bln for the painting, equivalent to some USD 10.8 mln.

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