Prague, Feb 16 (CTK) – The Czech National Gallery (NG) has applied for appellate review of a court verdict that binds it to return Madonna of Veveri to the Roman Catholic Church, NG spokeswoman Tereza Jezkova said on Tuesday, adding that the NG will hand the Gothic masterpiece painting over to the church for now.

The appellate review does not have the effect of suspending the enforcement of the verdict that binds the NG to return the rare painting to the claimant, the Veverska Bityska parish, south Moravia, by February 19.

A court previously decided that the piece of art be returned to the Church based on the church restitution law valid since 2013.

Jezkova said the NG will hand the painting over if the respective regional authority gives its consent to the transfer and if all conditions required for the safety of the painting, which is a piece of national cultural heritage, are met.

Martin Motycka, director of the Church Diocese Museum in Brno, where the church wants to put the painting on display, told CTK that all technical conditions for its exhibition have been met.

The Veverska Bityska parish has asked the regional authority to give its consent to the transfer, Motycka said.

However, representatives of the authority said they are only empowered to give consent in situations where a piece of cultural heritage is transferred from public premises to a place that is unaccessible to the public.

They said they are not empowered to decide on cases such as Madonna of Veveri, which is to remain accessible to the public after its transfer from the NG to the Diocese Museum.

Amid the controversy, the NG has lodged an application for appellate review of the restitution verdict with the Supreme Court (NS).

In the application, it points to the complex and unambiguous character of the case and says the verdict on the painting’s return to the Church is a breakthrough and a precedent.

“As an organisation responsible for state property, the NG feels obliged to use all possible legal means [to prevent the return],” NG wrote.

Madonna of Veveri dates back before 1350, its authorship being ascribed to a painter close to the Master of the Vyssi Brod Altar.

The NG claims that the painting, made to the order of Moravian Margrave John Henry of Luxembourg, has always been a part of secular manors.