Fitzwilliam acquires Poussin Sacrament

November 1 2012

Image of Fitzwilliam acquires Poussin Sacrament

Picture: Fitzwilliam Museum

Amazing - the Fitzwilliam Museum has succeeded in buying Poussin's Extreme Unction, one of the Rutland Sacrament series. The total price with tax deductions (through the laudable Acceptance in Lieu scheme) was £3.9m. The Art Fund helped provide £242,000, supporters of the Fitzwilliam another nearly £1m, and the Heritage Lottery Fund £3m. Well done to everyone involved.

This means that the good news from the Heritage Lottery Fund just keeps on coming. Having in the past been very suspicious of helping museums acquire paintings (much to AHN's repeated frustration), they are now proving to be generosity itself. The HLF's recent policy change in this regard is probably the single most important development for the UK's artistic heritage in the last few years. The Fund has lately helped acquire the Manet for the Ashmolean, and a Reynolds full-length for Birmingham, with really substantial grants. It compares favourably with the Fund's previous stinginess and reluctant support for buying paintings (such as the National Gallery's Titians for example), or indeed any objects.

Of course, it may be churlish to mention it now, but imagine what we might have saved if the HLF had always been this supportive of art acquisitions (like another of the Poussin Sacraments, which is now in Texas).

Update - a reader writes:

Further to your recent observation regarding the HLF's apparent change in policy, (below), perhaps the true test of this will come if there is a willingness on the part of the HLF to substantially fund the acquisition of Picasso's Child with a Dove. Given how poorly Picasso is represented in UK public collections it is certainly a very important work to try and keep- and, like the Manet and Poussin, it would come with a- albeit smaller- tax exemption.

We shall see.

The HLF's recent policy change in this regard is probably the single most important development for the UK's artistic heritage in the last few years.

The Fund has lately helped acquire theManet for the Ashmolean, and a Reynolds full-length for Birmingham, with really substantial grants. It compares favourably with the Fund's previous stinginess and reluctant support for buying paintings (such as the National Gallery's Titians for example), or indeed any objects.

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