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Nicole Kidman, Ansel Elgort and the cast of The Goldfinch join Sotheby's Old Master paintings specialists
The question is inspired by the film’s premise, in which a young Theo Decker flees catastrophe at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, with Carel Fabritius’ 17th-century masterpiece The Goldfinch hidden in his possession.

LONDON.- Would you save an artwork by Pablo Picasso or Gustav Klimt, or would you save the Mona Lisa? To celebrate the release of the feature film “The Goldfinch”, Warner Bros. Pictures and Sotheby’s have asked the cast of the film which artwork they would save from destruction, if they could choose just one. The film, which features an ensemble cast led by Ansel Elgort and Nicole Kidman, is an adaption of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, and is directed by the celebrated, BAFTA Award-winning director John Crowley.

The question is inspired by the film’s premise, in which a young Theo Decker flees catastrophe at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, with Carel Fabritius’ 17th-century masterpiece The Goldfinch hidden in his possession. Following the death of his mother, Theo seeks to preserve the painting on his turbulent journey to adulthood – revering it as the one tangible object which connects him to his past and demonstrating the immense personal significance an artwork might assume, when confronted by the beholder.

The question prompted a range of answers from the film’s cast and crew, as well as from Sotheby’s specialists and art world figures alike. Ansel Elgort chose to save The Sistine Chapel and Sarah Paulson chose Gustav Klimt’s Woman in Gold, but Luke Wilson and Nicole Kidman could not choose one single artwork - with Wilson concluding that he would be forced to leave the burning museum with paintings piled high in his arms, and Kidman resolving to save a large collection. Aneurin Barnard similarly settled on saving Venice.

Emilie Gordenker, Director of the Mauritshuis - where the real The Goldfinch painting is housed - chose to save the work of Fabritius’ contemporary Johannes Vermeer, whose popular oil painting View of Delft is similarly housed in the museum. Elsewhere, Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings specialists chose an array of works which bore personal or professional significance – from paintings which launched their careers, to those which have been long-admired through the course of their lives.

George Gordon, Co-Chairman of Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings Department, explains: “The story of The Goldfinch has propelled Dutch Golden Age paintings into the limelight, bringing the name Fabritius to an audience who might not otherwise have known the story of the artist or of his contemporaries. This is something that is close to our hearts at Sotheby’s, where we endeavour to share far and wide our love for Old Masters. For generations, people have sought to create, behold and possess works of art that tell a story, stir the soul, and rouse emotions, memories or inspiration – just as The Goldfinch takes on an immense personal significance for the protagonist of the film. Of course, the concept of the destruction of artworks is too awful to consider, but if the question was rephrased as, say, “which artwork would you take to a desert island,” I start thinking it would have to be one of Rembrandt’s self-portraits. As a body of work, they are without compare in the history of painting for their combination of unrelenting self-examination and brilliant mastery of the brush, but I could not pick out just one. So I think it would probably have to be Rembrandt’s intimate portrait of his second wife Hendrickje Stoffels bathing, holding up her chemise and enjoying the water, selfabsorbed but probably aware she is being watched by her beloved. And he painted it in 1654, the same year that Fabritius painted The Goldfinch. What a year…”

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