Raphael’s Madonna of the Pinks to Stay in the UK

The National Gallery and The Duke of Northumberland are delighted to announce they have reached agreement on the sale of Raphael’s ’‘The Madonna of the Pinks’ to the National Gallery. The parties are pleased with this result which will enable this extraordinary painting to be held in perpetuity for the British people. At the same time it allows the Northumberland Estates to help finance extensive heritage restoration, landscape, farming, forestry and rural regeneration work in the North East of England.

The painting has been sold to the National Gallery for GBP22 million after the deduction of tax from a gross figure of GBP35 million. In the thirteen years ‘The Madonna of the Pinks’ has been on loan from Alnwick Castle to the National Gallery it has developed iconic status and earned the affection of thousands of art lovers from all over the world. The National Gallery and the Duke of Northumberland have been touched by the interest and scale of support from visitors in favour of the painting remaining in the United Kingdom.

As part of the National Gallery’s commitment to ensuring that Raphael’s ’The Madonna of the Pinks’ is seen by as many people as possible, and as agreed with the Heritage Lottery Fund, the painting will tour the country extensively. Starting as soon as possible, the tour will include Manchester Art Gallery, the National Museums and Gallery of Wales in Cardiff, the McLellan Galleries in Glasgow and – close to its former home at Alnwick Castle – the Bowes Museum, County Durham. The painting will also return to London to take pride of place in the National Gallery’s major Raphael exhibition, which opens in October 2004.

The National Gallery is grateful for the very generous support it has received in raising the money to buy the painting, including grants of GBP11.5 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund and GBP400,000 from the National Art Collection Fund, together with support from the American Friends of the National Gallery, London and many thousands of donations, large and small, from members of the public. Without these donations the National Gallery would not have been able to buy the painting and it would have been sold abroad. The Gallery is also delighted to have received in recent days a generous donation from Sir Christopher Ondaatje which has helped ensure it could proceed with this purchase.

In selling ’The Madonna of the Pinks’ the Duke of Northumberland is pleased that it will enhance the calibre and depth of the National Gallery’s permanent collection. The painting is hugely important to the Gallery’s role as a world-class institution in the collection, study and display of paintings. Above all it complements and enriches the Gallery’s unique group of eight paintings marking different moments in Raphael’s early career and gains from the context they provide.

Charles Saumarez Smith, Director of the National Gallery, said: “The National Gallery and the Duke of Northumberland are absolutely delighted that this extraordinarily beautiful, small painting is now going to stay in this country. It helps to illuminate the early phase of Raphael’s career and ensures that a picture of exceptional tenderness remains to be enjoyed and appreciated both on tour and as part of the National Gallery’s great collection.”

The Duke of Northumberland said: “This sale will create funds to generate a yearly income and allow us to continue to invest in the North East for the long term. I am glad that we have reached an agreement and especially pleased that the painting, which the 4th Duke acquired in 1853, will now remain in the United Kingdom.”

Carole Souter, Director of the Heritage Lottery Fund said: “This is exciting news for both the National Gallery and the regional museums that the Madonna of the Pinks will be loaned to whilst it is on tour over the next year. The Heritage Lottery Fund’s grant to the National Gallery has helped to secure this painting’s future so that it can be enjoyed by people around the country. We congratulate the National Gallery on its energetic and now successful fundraising campaign to keep this work of art in the UK.”

Henry Wyndham, Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, who negotiated the deal on behalf of the Duke, said: “We are very proud to have played a part in negotiating the sale of this exceptional painting to the National Gallery.”

’The Madonna of the Pinks (or Madonna dei Garofani)’ is in oil on fruitwood panel and measures 29 x 23 cm.

The picture shows the youthful Virgin delighting in playing with her infant son, who is seated on a cushion in her lap. The child’s attention has been caught – his animated wriggling momentarily arrested – by the delicate flowers she holds, the pinks by which the painting became known. This exquisite painting was probably painted around 1506-7, at a time when Raphael was most influenced by Leonardo da Vinci, whose works he encountered in Florence. The composition is based on Leonardo’s ’Benois Madonna’ painted about thirty years earlier.

The original owner or patron is unknown, although a nineteenth-century tradition records that it was painted for Maddalena degli Oddi, a wealthy Perugian widow, for whose family chapel Raphael had painted an altarpiece. In the 19th century the painting was in the prestigious Camuccini collection, in Rome, acquired in its entirety (74 paintings) in 1853 by Algernon, 4th Duke of Northumberland (1793-1865). It was displayed at Alnwick Castle until 1992.

From the mid nineteenth century onwards, there were some doubts about the painting’s authenticity. Dr Nicholas Penny (then Clore Curator of Italian Renaissance Paintings at the National Gallery), saw the painting first at Alnwick Castle in 1991 and with the Duke’s permission brought it to the National Gallery for further investigation. Infra-red reflectography revealed underdrawing entirely characteristic of Raphael and its authenticity was affirmed by all leading Raphael scholars. This attribution was verified at a symposium of the world’s leading Raphael scholars held at the National Gallery in October 2002.

A sale of the picture to the Getty Museum was agreed at a price equivalent to GBP34.88 million, subject to the provision of an export licence. However, since the Getty Museum has withdrawn its export license application, the picture has instead been sold to the National Gallery under the private treaty sale arrangements. Under these arrangements the price to the Gallery is net of tax, but includes a douceur by which a part of the tax benefits accrues to the vendor. The net price has therefore been agreed at GBP22 million.

The Gallery is extremely grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund, the National Art Collections Fund, the American Friends of the National Gallery, London, many private donors (including Sir Christopher Ondaatje), and members of the public, all of whom have helped to make it possible to buy the picture.

“Douceurs” were introduced by the Treasury to encourage owners to sell pre-eminent works of art by private treaty to UK museums and galleries. The institution gains the advantage of paying only the net price after the calculation of the seller’s tax liability, plus an incentive or “douceur” of the seller’s tax liability. The seller gains the advantage of selling to a UK gallery and also of receiving a price that includes this uplift of the tax liability.

Published in: on February 22, 2004 at 7:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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