The Duke of Rutland’s Sacraments by Poussin up for sale

1. Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665)
Oil on canvas - 95.5 x 121 cm
Collection of the Duke of Rutland,
on loan to the National Gallery, London

12/07/2007 — Museum — London, National Gallery — Whereas the Musée des beaux-arts de Lyon is still not sure of successfully acquiring The Flight Into Egypt by Nicolas Poussin, England is today faced with a much more serious challenge after the recent announcement by the Duke of Rutland to sell the five paintings of the first series of Sacraments by Nicolas Poussin [1] which have been on display at the National Gallery in London since 2002. According to The Art Newspaper of July-August, the estimated value of this ensemble is around £100 million, a sum far exceeding the museum’s means.
Poussin painted two series of Sacraments, both in the United Kingdom. The second, executed between 1644 and 1648 belongs to the Duke of Sutherland who has lent them to the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh.

2. Tiziano Vecellio
Portrait of a
Young Man

Oil on canvas - 100 x 84 cm
United Kingdom, private collection

Moreover, it is known that the Portrait of a Young Man by Titian (ill. 2) formerly on loan to the National Gallery in London by Lord Halifax has been up for sale for the last two years by the art dealer Simon Dickinson. The London museum had offered to buy it, together with the National Gallery in Scotland, for the equivalent of £55 million (given the various tax deductions). This offer was turned down by the owner. The Art Newspaper has also revealed that a preliminary study by Rubens for the ceiling at Banqueting Hall (ill. 3), displayed at the National Gallery since 1981, is also on the market for what it estimates at around £10 or 15 million. Since this work was painted in England for a London building, the Tate Gallery would try to purchase it if the National Gallery, which will probably focus on acquiring the Sacraments, were to give up the attempt.

3. Peter-Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
Apotheosis of the King James I
Oil on panel - 95 x 63.1 cm
United Kingdom, private collection

4. Alonso Sanchez
Coello (vers 1532-1588)
Portrait of Don Diego
Oil on canvas - 108 x 88,2 cm
Acquired by the Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna,
but export from United Kingdom temporary deferred

The Art Newspaper describes this conjunction of sales of major art works in the British collections as “the worst acquisition crisis in over a century”, not to mention the fact that a painting by Alonso Sanchez Coello, sought after by the National Gallery but purchased by the Liechtenstein Museum in Vienna [2] is presently prohibited from leaving the country until July 20. According to many observers numerous other masterpieces in the United Kingdom today might soon come up on the market. It is regretful that major European museums are unable to maintain their national collections and that no measures are in place on a European level to come to their help.

Version française

Didier Rykner, jeudi 12 juillet 2007


[1] Penance burned in 1816 and Baptism was sold in 1939 and entered the National Gallery in Washington D.C. in 1946. The date of the commission is unknown but the last painting was finished in 1642.

[2] A News item will shortly be published concerning this museum’s recent acquisitions.

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