December 20 2014
Picture: Courtauld Institute Gallery, 'The Adoration of the Shepherds', by Sir Anthony Van Dyck
Right, I think that's it for the moment folks, time for me to trim the goose and all that. I wish you all the happiest of Christmases/holidays, and may your stockings bulge with art historical goodies.
Can I also take this opportunity to thank you for all your interest and support over the last year. To those of you who have written in with comments, an extra special thanks; if, in the fogs of my inbox, I have not replied to every email, apologies - they're all much appreciated.
Finally, if you think anything deserves special praise in a 'Best of the Year' sort of way, be it something like an exhibition, discovery or acquisition, please send me an email, and I'll put it up.
Otherwise, see you in 2015!
Building on the Frick's garden (ctd.)
December 19 2014
Pictures: Huffington Post & WSJ
It seems that the great and good of New York are coming out to slate the Frick's plans to build an extension. I learn via the Grumpy Art Historian that the Wall Street Journal has an article on the latest developments, which is well worth reading. The Frick's proposed plans, to increase library and exhibition space, are still some months away from being put to the relevant city authorities, and evidently the institution is somewhat bruised by the reaction so far.
The opprobrium seems to centre on the building over of a small garden (above, which is not open to the public) designed by 'the world famous' British landscape architect Russell Page (1906-1985). I'd never heard of him until now.
In the WSJ article the current Frick director Ian Wardropper says:
“What I find frustrating sometimes, is people seem to brush right by the needs of the museum.”
Quite. I find it astonishing how reactionary some in the museum world can be sometimes. The fact is, going to museums has become far more popular than it ever was. Visitor numbers are soaring, which, to me, is a Good Thing. Now, large institutions like the Metropolitan Museum or the Louvre can - just about - cope adequately with the burgeoning numbers. But smaller institutions like the Frick cannot. They just don't have the space. Anyone who has been to the Frick recently will know that over-crowding is a real issue.
So the Frick has two options; either go down the route of some Italian galleries like the Borghese and introduce time-allocated ticketing (which in practice leads to either a disappointed trip, or a rushed one), or expand. Since the Frick has a great deal to offer the world, with both its cherished collection and excellent exhibitions, it would seem to me a great shame if it gave in to the New York culturati, shelved the expansion plans, and remained a 'boutique' museum. It's a shame to say it, but sod the garden. There's a much bigger one over the road anyway.
Update - my mother writes, saying she's worried about my education:
[Page] is an extremely well known English garden designer along with Gertrude Jekell. And if you say you don't know who she is...
It's spelled 'Jekyll', Mother, tut tut...
Update II - Nord Wennerstrom, Director of Communications for The Cultural Landscape Foundation, writes:
Per your recent post about the proposed Frick expansion, let me direct you to two articles in the Huffington Post written by Charles A. Birnbaum, founder and president of The Cultural Landscape Foundation - Here's What's Missing in the Debate Over the Frick Collection's Proposed Expansion and That 'Temporary' Frick Garden - It Was Created to Be Permanent. Together, they provide some context for why the Russell Page-designed garden is a central issue in this debate.
As for the physical addition, along with opening space on the museum's second floor, we know there will be a net increase of some 42,000 square feet, but be have yet to get an accounting of how all this space is being allocated. The most recent architectural rendering (attached) does not discuss the disposition of more than 35,000 square feet – how much of this addition is going for office space? And, do all of the museum's components have to be contiguous?
The Cooper-Hewitt, also sited in an historic Gilded Age mansion on Fifth Avenue, just managed to increase their exhibition space by 60% without a massive addition or the destruction of their garden – and they moved some offices offsite to other properties they own on East 90th Street.
The Guggenheim Museum has curatorial offices down in SoHo.
In addition, the Russell Page-designed garden is a site specific work of art, which Frick officials have deemed an interim land use. This is a particularly disconcerting aspect of the entire debate. Cultural custodians are making a judgement about the worth of a specific work of art, and an entire genre – what are the criteria? On what basis is this unique work of art, a commissioned site specific work that is part of their permanent collection, being deemed of less value than other parts of their permanent collection?
[The Frick's director, Ian Wardropper, has said that the Frick currently has three gardens, and will continue to after the expansion because the Page garden will be replaced by a rooftop garden. Ergo, gardens are all the same and interchangeable. That's a devastating indictment of the entirety of landscape architecture and design – and because it's being rendered by otherwise esteemed cultural custodians, it will be taken at face value and not challenged. Substitute building for garden and see if that response is still valid. What if Wardropper said of their three Vermeers: because of space considerations we're replacing one of the three Vermeers with a newly acquired black velvet painting – don't worry, we started with three paintings and we end up with three paintings. That, in essence, is what is being proffered].
Nord also writes the ever valuable blog, Nord on Art.
First, 'contiguosness', if that's the right word, is important. I think the suggestion that the Frick's curators could work 'off-site' is a bad one. It's a mistake for curators not to be physically immersed in their collections.
Second, I may well be a garden philistine for saying this, but I absolutely don't buy the idea that the garden is a fixed work of art comparable to a Vermeer. It wasn't created as a work of art, but as a garden. Something nice to look at, and occasionally go into. Gardens, by their very nature, are living creations which at some point do and must die. If the garden had been built by Henry Clay Fick himself, the situation might be different. But in this case, the space taken up by the garden has been decided by the Frick's staff and trustees to be more valuable in another purpose. And as the garden came, so, alas, it can go. Or perhaps be moved. Or somehow built over.
Another reader points me to an interview with former Frick Director, Everett Fahy, who is opposed to the expansion, and wants the frick to remain a smaller-minded institution. The interview was conducted by Manuela Hoelterhoff, who says:
[...] let’s ruin it! Let’s make it big and noisy and crowded!
Alas the Frick is already crowded, that's the point. Hoelterhoff also says:
A big part of the [expansion] pitch is education. But last I checked the Frick doesn’t allow children under 10 and hopefully that won’t change.
Which gives you an idea of what the current Frick director is up against...
Update III - another (US) reader writes:
The Frick garden is charming but is an ornament which is viewed but unused. The museum has genuine needs which the addition will serve and will benefit the public. As you mention Central Park is just across Fifth Avenue.
Update IV - a former museum director tells me of the Golden Rule of Former Museum Directors:
Keep your mouth shut.
Update V - here's a good article by Christopher Gray in The New York Times, which sets out the history of the Frick's various additions and changes. It tells us that the neo-classical walls surrounding the garden were designed by three different designers. In other words (he says, provocatively), Russell Page just produced the trees, the pond, the little pots, and two small lawns. Hardly Versailles...
The debate revolves around several points. Is the 1970s garden, given its recent vintage, important enough to be protected? Would the loss of the garden harm the townhouse character of the street — which historically had no such gardens? A really correct restoration would replace the three townhouses — why isn’t that on the table? Will the new wing overpower the original Frick, even though the original Frick long ago disappeared?
The lightning rod is the garden itself, a simple, innocent thing. With foresight the Frick has never made the garden public, and it’s “don’t touch” aspect is part of its considerable charm. But is it “charm preservation” we’re after?
In relation to the last question, I'd say 'no'. After all, New York is hardly famed for its preservation history. Or even, some might say, its charm.*
Update VI - Nord Wennerstrom writes in response to my response to his response, above:
I think the question is whether or not this garden (and by extension, landscape architecture) is considered a work of art – and not compared to works by Vermeer, Watteau, Franceso di Vannuccio, etc. Is this art? In deciding to demolish the garden, Frick officials have tacitly endorsed the idea that it's not. Shouldn't it be incumbent on them, as cultural custodians to whom we look to for guidance, education and understanding and who we believe have a broader context, to outline their criteria and explain why they believe so? The garden's fate is in their hands. Thus far, this has been absent from the debate.
* I mean architecturally, New Yorkers, not the people!
Constable before 'n after
December 19 2014
Pictures: US NGA
There's a nice piece on the US National Gallery's website about the restoration of their 'White Horse' by Constable. Before conservation, above, the picture was thought to be a copy of a picture in the Frick. But cleaning (below) and x-rays revealed otherwise.
Help restore Brunelleschi's 'Pazzi Chapel' in Florence (ctd.)
December 19 2014
Picture: Pazzi Chapel
I mentioned earlier the Pazzi Chapel's attempt to raise $95,000 to restore a loggia designed by Breunelleschi. Splendidly, they've raised the money. Well done if you helped out.
But the work is not yet done, for they're hoping to raise a teeny bit more to restore the door, above. More here.
December 19 2014
I was delighted to find out that here in the UK we have a policeman dedicated to eradicating graffiti. His name is Detective Constable Colin Saysell (above), and, says The Guardian he:
[...] is the man graffiti artists love to hate. His relentless and increasingly hi-tech pursuit of graffiti writers for almost 30 years has earned him the reputation as the graffiti bogeyman.
His name is frequently spray-painted on walls as a taunt to the authorities. Abusive comments about him have even been spotted on goods wagons in Germany. Saysell has helped convict at least 300 graffiti offenders in his time, first in Bristol and more recently in London for British Transport police. As the only detective registered as an expert witness on graffiti, Saysell regularly helps police forces across the UK and Europe.
Saysell says the police are winning the war on graffiti. But his tactics and hardline approach are being questioned. He is seen by many as out of step with a society that celebrates rather than prosecutes graffiti artists. Even some officials tout the idea of decriminalisation.
Pah. Keep going Detective Constable, and good on you.
$100m Cézanne deaccession
December 19 2014
PIcture: Detroit Free Press
The Detroit Institute of Arts may have successfully resisted efforts to flog off their art, but another Detroit institution has decided to take the moolah; the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Point Shores just outside Detroit accepted an unsolicited offer of a reported $100m for Cézanne's c.1904 "La Montagne Sainte-Victoire vue du bosquet du Château Noir". The puzzle is, the Ford House hardly needed the money. Says the Detroit Free Press:
The Ford House, which is on solid financial footing and carries no debt, is using proceeds from the sale to create a special endowment for preservation, conservation and restoration of the collection — defined as the 1929 English Cotswold-style mansion designed by architect Albert Kahn, the landscape and gardens created by Jens Jensen and furnishings and objects inside the house.
The Ford House, which draws about 60,000 visitors a year for tours and events, has a separate operating endowment of $86 million.
Mullins said that the Ford House trustees received an unsolicited offer for the Cézanne painting in the middle of 2013 but at first turned it down. The buyer came back with a second offer that also was refused. Mullins said that when the buyer came back a third time, the seven-member board — comprised of six Ford family members and the family's lawyer — decided to discuss with a wider circle of family members the possibility of selling.
"This was really a once-in-a-lifetime offer," said Mullins. "The family thought it was a way to guarantee the estate would be taken care of the way Eleanor would have wanted."
In other Cézanne news, Christie's will soon sell the artist's “Vue sur L’Estaque et Le Château d’If” (below) from the estate of the emminent British collector Samuel Courtauld. The estimate is 'up to £12m'.
Personally, I'd rather have the £12m picture. Though it'll doubtless make more than that...
Six new Dorés for Canada
December 19 2014
Picture: National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Six works by Gustave Doré, reports Art Daily, have been acquired by the National Gallery of Canada, including the above 'Souvenir of Loch Lomond'. Says the National Gallery’s Chief Curator, Paul Lang:
“It is important for us to remember that French art of the second half of the nineteenth century is not only Impressionism, Naturalism and Symbolism, but that there were also figures who were mainly driven by their imagination. This is the ‘other French nineteenth century,’ and it is equally influential.”
Churchill painting record
December 19 2014
Sotheby's yesterday set a new record for a painting by Winston Churchill for the above 'Goldfish Pool at Chartwell' (seen getting the full white glove treatment), which made almost £1.8m inc. premium. More here.
'The Girl with the Fake Pearl Earring'.
December 16 2014
A professor of Theoretical Astronomy, Vincent Icke, says the earring on Vermeer's famous subject is from Poundland, or whatever the 17th Century Dutch equivalent was. Guilderland I suppose. Says the Mauritshuis website:
In the December issue of popular science magazine New Scientist, Icke, a professor of Theoretical Astronomy at the University of Leiden, states that the pearl on the ear of the famous Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer, could not have been a real pearl. The way in which a pearl would reflect the light does not match the reflection of the light in the painting, says Icke.
The article by Vincent Icke confirms what we at the Mauritshuis have been thinking and writing about Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring for some time now. In fact, it's one of the most fun facts about this painting. Just like the fact that it was purchased in 1881 by the previous owner at an auction for 2.30 guilders. At the museum, the caption for the painting also mentions the unrealistic size of the pearl. Vincent Icke reaches the same conclusion, but through a very different understanding and research. The Mauritshuis has taken note of his findings with great interest. This illustrates what makes seventeenth-century paintings so interesting to look at: nothing is what it seems.
The Mauritshuis has written previously about the jewel in the ear of Vermeer's girl, saying it was not a true pearl. Indeed, just like the turban, the "pearl" was no daily outfit for Dutch girls in the seventeenth century. Quentin Buvelot (Mauritshuis chief curator) described the painting together with fellow curator Ariane van Suchtelen in the catalogue for an exhibition on highlights of the Mauritshuis in Bologna earlier this year. They then wrote: "Some of the most salient features of Vermeer's painting include the girl's headpiece and the pearl in her ear. The headpiece consists of yellow fabric, with blue fabric on top of it, knotted around her forehead. The yellow-green jacket is painted in such a loose style that it isn't clear which material it's made from. It is probably wool fabric. This garment is often seen as part of the girl's exotic costume, but it is indeed a contemporary jacket. The low-set sleeve and small pleats are typical of the fashion in the 1660s, when this painting was made. The pearl on the girl's ear is remarkably large. Whereas most pearls nowadays come from farms, in the seventeenth century, they were natural ones. Pearls were formed in oyster-like sea mussels. Large pearls were rare and ended up in the hands of the richest people on the planet. In the seventeenth century, cheaper glass pearls, usually from Venice, were also quite common. They were made from glass, which was lacquered to give it a matt finish. Maybe the girl is wearing such a handcrafted 'pearl'."
I think we can generally assume that most of those whopping pearls we see in 17th Century portraits - at least the English ones with which I'm familiar - were 'fake' (sometimes made out of compressed fish scales), or indeed simply artistic creations.
Tate Archive goes online
December 16 2014
Picture: Tate - Graham Sutherland, sketchbook colour study for the Path in Wood theme. (circa 1957-1959)
One of the richest and most comprehensive digital art and archival resources in Europe and the world’s largest archive of British Art - Tate Archive - is being made available online for a worldwide audience.
Sketchbooks, drawings, family photographs, personal letters and intimate diaries from artists including Paul Nash, Graham Sutherland, Jacob Epstein, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson will be available on the free archive, which has been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund with a grant of £2 million.
Highlights of the project, which will be released in stages, include Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture records compiled by the artist throughout her life. They featuring original photographs, handwritten notes and details of exhibitions, giving a comprehensive record of her sculptures from 1925-1975.
Diary entries include tender love letters with intimate sketches sent by Paul Nash to his wife detailing their early life together as well as his service as a soldier and war artist during the First World War.
A good move. Obviously, the less said about the bits of the archive they chucked out, the better.
Chartres' 'Black Madonna'
December 16 2014
Picture: New York Review of Books
They've been busy 'restoring' the interior of Chartres Cathedral, one of the great architectural wonders of the world. The restoration seems to consist of painting the limestone walls various gaudy colours, with fake marbelling to boot, and many, including Martin Filler in the New York Review of Books, are agog. One casualty of the restoration is the cathedral's well known 'Black Madonna', which is now, er, no longer black. The close up below shows how the Madonna used to look, with its patina caused by centuries of dirt and candle smoke.
More on the restoration here at ArtWatch.
Update - a reader writes:
My wife and I would like to add a very loud ''hear hear'' to Martin Filler's article. We used go out of our way to stop-over in Chartres whilst driving to and from our house in the south-west in France. Even for a confirmed atheist such as myself, the cathedral interior was the most spiritual and awe-inspiring building that I have ever experienced and it truly became an inspirational place of pilgrimage for us. We were shocked and heart-broken, indeed out-raged, when we visited last year to find that the French had wilfully embarked on this catastrophic campaign of so-called restoration. The result is that now we sadly have no wish to return, as we prefer to retain the memories of this Gothic masterpiece when it still retained the accretions of centuries which were responsible for so much of its mystical character.
Perhaps we can now expect the French state to countenance the cleaning of the Mona Lisa?
Update II - there are some good 'before 'n after' photos here at ArchDaily. The 'restored' bits look like something from the wedding cake shop.
Update III - the 'restoration' at Chartres is the work of the Monuments Historique division at France's Culture Ministry - the same people responsible for this boneheaded scheme to build on top of an ancient Roman site. People of France - what is going on?
Update IV - supporters of the 'Restoration' have responded in the NYRB, but their arguments are pretty ineffective, and miss the point.
Leonardo to Louvre Abu Dhabi
December 16 2014
Details have been released of the 300 works of art from French museums which are going on loan to Louvre Abu Dhabi. Reports the LA Times:
Among the items to be loaned are Da Vinci's "La Belle Ferroniere" ("Portrait of an Unknown Woman") from the Louvre in Paris; Claude Monet's "Gare Saint-Lazare" from the Musee d'Orsay; a self-portrait by Van Gogh, also from the Musee d'Orsay; and Matisse's "Still Life With Magnolia" from the Centre Pompidou.
The Chateau de Versailles will be lending the famous "Napoleon Crossing the Alps" painting by Jacques-Louis David.
The loans are of course in effect being rented, with reports that 'Louvre Abu Dhabi' is paying €500m alone for the branding rights.
National Gallery acquires Corots
December 16 2014
The National Gallery has acquired Corot's The Four Times of Day, with help from the Art Fund. The pictures have been on loan to the NG for many years. Says the NG's press release:
The only decorative cycle on public display in the UK by one of the most influential artists in the development of landscape painting and a key inspiration to the Impressionists, will remain on view for future generations to enjoy after being purchased by the National Gallery with the support of the Art Fund.
The Four Times of Day (about 1858), by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, has a long association with the UK. The four paintings, representing Morning (pictured left), Noon, Evening and Night, were acquired by artist Frederic, Lord Leighton in 1865 and were among the earliest Corot works to be acquired by a British collector. Lord Leighton displayed them as the focal point of his London home, where they provided inspiration for his fellow Victorian artists. After his death, the paintings spent more than a century in the same family collection and have been on loan to the National Gallery since 1997. The pictures were acquired for Lord Wantage at Christie’s in 1896 and their sale to the nation was negotiated by Christie’s.
Corot painted the four large panels, which trace the deepening light of the sky from sunrise to star-studded night, to decorate the Fontainebleau studio of his friend and fellow painter Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps. He completed the cycle in a single week prompting Decamps to exclaim, 'Not so fast, don’t hurry so; there is still enough soup for a few days more.' Decamps apparently spent hours in contemplation of the panels, filled with dismay at their quality, technique and effect compared to his own work.
A long time ago, I went round the National Gallery late at night with a trustee (trustees get the 'Freedom of the Gallery', which means they can go when they like) and also the then owner of The Four Times of Day, the late 'Larch' Lloyd. As we stood in front of them I thought what a great ambition it would be to own a work of art good enough to lend to the National Gallery. I'm still working on that...
I wrote about the late night trip here before.
Update - a reader writes:
Another unnecessary acquisition. They already have 21 Corots so why not have helped Leighton House get them back – the latter’s been buying back works from the Lord’s collection over the years.
Update II - another reader writes:
I’ve found the lack of comment on the National Gallery’s Corot acquisition interesting. Does this mean that the vast majority of people deem it to be a good acquisition, I wonder? As compared to the Wilke, this (surely more significant) acquisition seems to have raised hardly a peep.
I’ve always liked the Four Times of Day, and am glad to see them in the permanent collection – they’re striking when viewed together, and they’re also varied, compared to a lot of other Corot landscapes with milky-white skies. I suppose there’s a debate to be had about whether the money would have been better spent on expanding the collection’s range (given they already have more than 20 Corots).
Personally, I've always liked the pictures, and am glad they've been acquired.
Constable's kingfisher found
December 15 2014
The painting belongs to Christchurch Museum in Ipswich. I'd love to be able to link to something on their homepage explaining more about the news, but, as is so often the case, the museum's almost non existent digital footprint means it isn't able to capitalise on the publicity windfall.
Stolen Gauguin and Bonnard found in Italy (ctd.)
December 15 2014
I reported earlier in the year on a Gauguin and Bonnard discovered in Italy, which turned out to have been stolen in London in 1970. Now, the Italian authorities have decided that the current owner, a former Fiat worker identified only as 'Nicolo' who bought them for about £19 in an auction in Italy in 1975, can keep the works, after UK police said that nobody had come forward to claim the works. Reports the Telegraph:
The paintings were originally owned by Mathilda Marks, an heiress to the Marks and Spencer empire, but were stolen by con men from the flat she shared with her American husband in Chester Terrace, near Regent's Park in London, in 1970.
The thieves smuggled the paintings by train through France, intending to enter Italy, but panicked while waiting to cross the border and left them on a train heading towards Turin.
They were found by railway inspectors and languished for years in a dusty lost property office before being put up for auction by Italy's national railway network in 1975.
The Fiat worker, who regularly attended the railway auctions as a hobby, bought the two masterpieces for 45,000 lire – just £19 in today's money.
Whilst I wouldn't wish to deny 'Nicolo' his windfall, it seems to me that this outcome only serves to legitimise art theft, if it's seen that there are no longer any 'victims', and enough time passes between the crime and the art being discovered. In the UK, if you die intestate and without heirs, the state gets your estate. Wouldn't it be better if the UK government had put in a claim for the paintings, and allocated them to a museum?
Update - a reader writes:
Yes, but the estate would only go to the Crown (State) if the intestate was domiciled in England or Wales for which we do not have the facts.
Update II - a reader very astutely notes:
It is strange to me that the insurers, would not have been considered the rightful owners if they had paid for the loss.
Meanwhile, in Tashkent...
December 15 2014
The Guardian reports that employees of the Usbek State Arts Museum have been flogging off originals these last fifteen years, and replacing them with copies. Crafty. Among the illegal sales were:
25 originals by European artists, including the Italian Renaissance painter and sculptor Lorenzo di Credi.
I wonder if anything's happened to that 'Veronese' they discovered in the vaults a few years back.
Art history ads (ctd.)
December 14 2014
I'm not usually in the habit of taking photographs in public lavatories - really I'm not. But I saw this in a service station the other day, dear readers, and thought of you. Can it be that apart from inventing flying machines, crossbows, and parachutes, Leonardo also came up with the toilet roll dispenser?
I suspect not, for Leonardo would surely have managed to fix that annoying thing where, when you pull on the roll in a public lav, it immediately breaks after only one sheet, so you have to rummage around in the holder to try and find the end of the roll, and pull it out again.
Update - the Leonardo Dispensing Solutions website is well worth a visit.
Update II - a reader sends proof that Leonardo also invented the doll:
Update III - another toilet sleuthing reader writes:
This is really sad but...... last year at work we received shiny new Leonardo Dispensing Solutions loo roll holders. Now my daughter is a facilities manager and gets highly excited about such things so I made a mental note to tell her.
After work a friend and I went to the cinema in the same city and visited the ladies before the film began. Imagine my excitement when I noticed that the same loo roll holders were there. But no - on closer examination, these holders were called....... DA VINCI.
I googled it for you and there's a whole world of products:
The Da Vinci versatwin toilet roll system is the smallest and most versatile toilet tissue system on offer. Its compact size and large capacity of 250 metres of paper makes it an attractive, neat and efficient solution for even the smallest washroom. The dispensers control usage by allowing access to only one roll at a time. Only when the first roll is depleted can the second be accessed. This allows for efficient replenishment and ensures that the product need never run out.£29.95 (inc VAT £35.94) each
Update IV - another reader alerts us to Da Vinci surgical appliances.
Re-framing Titian (ctd.)
December 14 2014
Picture: National Gallery
I mentioned recently the National Gallery's fundraising attempt to buy a new frame for one of their Titians (the new frame is on the right). There was a very interesting piece on this on Radio 4's 'Front Row' last week, in which the National Gallery's head of framing, Peter Schade, speaks about the campaign, and, more interestingly, about his work at the National Gallery in general. You can listen to the piece here at about 21 minutes in.
The appeal is now at 64%. The total is £27,000. I still think that's a shockingly expensive price.
Bellottos on the block
December 14 2014
Picture: Arts Council
Two important paintings by Bernardo Bellotto of the Fortress of Konigstein have been put on the Arts Council's 'Notification of Intention to Sell' page, which a price tag of £20,500,000. This means that the owner, identified to me by readers as the Earl of Derby, has had to notify the Treasury that he intends to sell paintings that have until now been conditionally exempt from death duties - that is, death tax was not paid on them, but deferred until a sale is made, on condition that the pictures are sometimes put on public display. The 'notification' gives any potentially interested museums a heads up for fundraising.