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National Gallery: new loans, new acquisitions

The Buccleuch Leonardo, the Halifax Titian plus two fine Danish purchases

Last year the National Gallery of Scotland subjected the Duke of Buccleuch’s celebrated “Madonna of the Yarnwinder” to close comparative scrutiny, using other versions of the picture as well as related drawings by Leonardo and other artists (see The Art Newspaper, No. 13, December 1991, p.2). Now the National Gallery, London, is borrowing the picture, minus the rest of the exhibition, but with the intention of comparing it with other works by Leonardo in their collection. The painting is hung next to “The Virgin of the Rocks” and the cartoon of the Virgin and Child with St Anne and will be on show throughout the early part of the year. One of Titian’s most celebrated portraits, the “Portrait of a Young Man” from the collection of the Earl of Halifax and the Trustees of the Halifax Collection has been lent to the Gallery for at least two years. Datable to around 1510-20, it complements the Gallery’s two early portraits by the artist, the “Portrait of a Man” and the “Portrait of a Woman” (La Schiavona). The Halifax portrait will be on temporary loan to the Grand Palais for the major exhibition of Venetian sixteenth-century painting (“The century of Titian: from Giorgione to Veronese”, 13 March 14 June; see The Art Newspaper No. 25, February 1993, p.4) and will be on show in London after the exhibition closes. Now considered the finest portrait remaining in private hands in Britain, it is among a very few first rank works by the artist in any genre remaining in private hands in Britain.

Continuing its policy of purchasing early nineteenth-century European pictures, the National Gallery has acquired two important new works by Danish artists. “The Forum in Rome” by C.W. Eckersberg was painted in 1814 and is one of a group of works executed en plein air in Rome during the artist’s three year stay in that city. It was purchased at auction in Copenhagen for £167,360 by London dealers Hazlitt, Gooden and Fox, bidding on behalf of the Gallery. The second work is by Christen Købke who studied under Eckersberg in the 1820s. It depicts one of his fellow pupils, Wilhelm Bendz, shown holding a painter’s maulstick and painted around 1830. In 1984 the National Gallery mounted an exhibition of nineteenth-century Danish painting and subsequently purchased a major work by Købke, “The Northern drawbridge to the Citadel, Copenhagen”. The cost of this welcome new addition was £60,000.