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Sir Denis Mahon retracts his gift to the Walker in protest against entry charges

Baroque paintings given to National Gallery of Ireland instead

London

Sir Denis Mahon is giving Ireland three paintings which originally had been promised to Liverpool. This follows the introduction of admission charges at the Walker Art Gallery, run by the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside. A £3-a-year charge was introduced on 1 July, despite pleas by Culture Secretary Chris Smith to delay the move.

The three Italian pictures going to the National Gallery of Ireland are Guercino’s “St John the Baptist” (on long-term loan to the Walker since 1991), Giordano’s “Venus, Mars and the forge of Vulcan” and Mola’s “Landscape with St Bruno”. These works are likely to need an export licence, which raises the possibility of it being deferred to give a UK museum the chance of buying any which meet the Waverley criteria of being of outstanding importance to the study of a subject, and of either outstanding historical or artistic value to the nation. Such a move would cause an uproar, since Sir Denis had originally offered them to the National Art Collections Fund as a gift.

The three Old Masters will join five others which Sir Denis had promised to bequeath to Dublin. These are Guercino’s “Jacob blessing the sons of Joseph”, Reni’s “Cleopatra”, Domenichino’s “St Mary Magdalene”, Annibale Carracci’s “St Mary Magdalene” and Bourdon’s “Abraham’s sacrifice”. All eight will be displayed together (15 October-31 December) before being integrated into the gallery’s collection.

Following the successful show at the National Gallery in London, two-thirds of Sir Denis’s collection will be exhibited at the National Gallery of Scotland from 13 November to 15 February 1998. Under arrangements made with the National Art Collections Fund, eight of the paintings eventually will be deposited there after Sir Denis’s death.

Three other Mahon paintings are being lent to Rome for a survey of Pietro da Cortona at the Palazzo Venezia, from 29 October to 25 January 1998. Sir Denis’s entire collection of seventy-six pictures will then be reassembled in Bologna, at the Pinacoteca Nazionale, for a show running from 14 March to 10 May 1998.