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President Francois Hollande, Dutch royals view jointly purchased Rembrandts
People look at the two Rembrandt's paintings bought in a conjoint operation between the Rijksmuseum and the Louvre Museum, at the Louvre Museum in Paris, on March 10, 2016, as part of a two-day state visit of the King and the Queen of the Netherlands in France. ETIENNE LAURENT / POOL / AFP.

PARIS (AFP).- French President Francois Hollande and the Dutch king and queen on Thursday viewed two rare Rembrandts jointly bought by the Louvre and Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum to avoid a bidding war between their two countries.

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima, who are on an official visit to France, got an advance look at the 17th-century paintings which have rarely been seen in public, before their unveiling at the Louvre later in the day.

France and the Netherlands in February sealed a historic 160 million euro ($174 million) deal to buy two of the Dutch master's works from the Rothschild banking family.

Wrangling over the two full-length portraits, of an affluent young couple painted by the Dutch master around the time of their wedding in 1634, had threatened to sour relations between the two European allies.

Dressed fashionably in black, Maerten Soolmans is depicted holding a glove in his left hand, while Coppit holds an ostrich feather fan and wears a four-row pearl necklace as well as other fine jewellery.

The two paintings have always been treated as a single unit.

The canvases have been viewed publicly only once in the past 150 years, during a 1956 exhibition.

The paintings were reportedly sold to the Rothschilds in 1877 for 1.5 million guilders, despite attempts by the Dutch government at the time to keep them in The Netherlands.

The paintings will be exhibited for three months at the Louvre, and then three months at the Rijksmuseum, before undergoing restoration for an unspecified period of time.

Then the works will alternate between the two museums every five years and then every eight years. Under the terms of the deal to buy them, they cannot be lent to any other establishment.

The Louvre initially turned down an offer to purchase the works alone in 2013 due to their high price.

The Bank of France agreed to fund the purchase of France's part of the deal with The Netherlands -- the highest sum ever paid by a French museum for a work of art.

"A solution was found in two years for these exceptional works," Louvre president Jean-Luc Martinez told AFP.

"However the negotiation was not easy. We all wanted the paintings to remain together and at the same time, gathering the money for both of them was complicated."

© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse

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