Fitzwilliam Museum's 200th birthday gift

August 8 2016

Image of Fitzwilliam Museum's 200th birthday gift

Picture: Camrbidge News

The Fitzwilliam Museum is 200 years old this year. They've just announced the acquisition of the above early 17th Century Italian cabinets for £1.2m. The cabinets had been sold last year at Sotheby's in London by Castle Howard, and had been destined to go overseas. But the museum, led by its director Tim Knox, stepped in to save them for the nation. Cambridge News reports:

Described by the museum's director as a “perfect combination of Italian pomp and English splendour", the ebony and rosewood cabinets, inlaid with semi-precious stones and mounted with gilt-bronze, will form the centrepiece of its birthday celebration.

Made in Rome in about 1625 for the powerful Borghese family, they have been part of the private collection at Castle Howard in Yorkshire, since their purchase by Henry Howard, the 4th Earl of Carlisle.

Last year they were put up for auction at Sotherby's, selling to a foreign buyer for a cool £1.2 million.

However as the only surviving pair of Roman hardstone cabinets in a British public collection, they were deemed so important the Government placed a temporary export bar on them, to provide an opportunity to save them for the nation.

The National Heritage Memorial Fund gave £700,000 and the ArtFund gave £200,000. Congratulations to all involved. 

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