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A generous gesture

Razia Iqbal | 10:18 UK time, Wednesday, 19 November 2008

We are approaching the 31 December deadline for raising £50m for the Titian painting, Diana and Actaeon, and the good news today is that the National Heritage Memorial Fund is contributing £10m.

Not everyone will agree it is good news though.

The campaign is gaining a head of steam, but some big fish have weighed in, such as Sir John Tusa - chairman of the University of the Arts in London and former managing director of the Barbican arts centre - to say such campaigning is a distraction from other good causes, like securing a future for the UK's most talented art students.

And the argument over whether it is of national importance that the painting stays in the UK isn't exactly raging, but murmuring. The artist Bridget Riley weighs in today with her support. Will it be an arts catastrophe if the painting is lost to private hands?


  • Comment number 1.

    Someone needs to look up the word "catastrophe" then come back to the real world.

  • Comment number 2.

    My apologies to the National Heritage (M) Fund but when did Titian apply for a UK passport? 50m pounds to buy an Italian painting in order to preserve British heritage doesn't seem to make much sense. I'm guessing the painting is British on the same grounds as the Elgin marbles are?

  • Comment number 3.

    Let Sutherland try and sell on the open market and see if he gets his £50m. Has he been charged storage and insurance costs for last 200 years.

  • Comment number 4.

    yes this should go to auction . how else can we establish that £50m is a fair price to pay.

  • Comment number 5.

    This is a massive misjudgement. check out the share prices of the auction houses that will tell you what is happening to art prices at the moment. The billionaires that were buying these things have all been credit crunched think they wont be spending £50million on a painting.

  • Comment number 6.

    If the major artists and celebrities backing the campaign dipped into their own pockets rather than asking for public funds they could raise the 50 million between them without even noticing it was gone.

  • Comment number 7.

    I am presuming it is the Duke of Sutherland which is the national (in)heritage that the NTMF is seeking to preserve rather than the painting.

    There are far better things to be spending GBP 50million on in the present climate - after all if the whole sum is found what else could be done with it?

    500 artists commisioned with £100,000 per artist.
    50,000 arts students given £1000 to buy/produce their degree shows - at least some of which would produce future valuable work.
    Build one entire new gallery, hire and pay the staff to run it for 10 years and show some more of the works already owned but in storage.
    far better uses - no painting is worth that much culturally no matter who painted it.

  • Comment number 8.

    I'm interested in why in the 21st Century it's so important to have the original painting? Surely a copy can be made that when hanging in a gallery is indistinguishable from the original? If not possible now, invest £100 million in research to do this!

    The Duke of Sutherland could then allow the galleries to make copies for display for £1 million each. What's the downside, people viewing the painting know it's not original? Does that matter? If it's one of the greatest artworks of all time would the impact of viewing a copy be any less than the originals?

  • Comment number 9.

    £50 million for a painting! I hope I'm not the only person who thinks this is ridiculous! Do we really need to spend this sort of money on a painting? When you think of all the crazy things happening in the world right now and the levels of poverty some people live in it just seems stupid that something like this is a priority for some people. Money like this should be spent supporting people to improve their quality of life, not on some painting that a minority of people will see! As someone has already mentioned, does it really matter if it's the original or a copy?!

  • Comment number 10.

    My mother in law suffered for 18 months waiting for a hip operation because she didn't have £6k,, I find it very hard to put into words how I feel about this without swearing, so called civilised societies actually contemplating spending £50 million on a painting.

  • Comment number 11.

    Burn them, sack the people suggesting this and let's get back to the real world.

    These people are elitist idiots who have no sense of reality - the fact the BBC have given time to this is an outrage - somebody iin the BBC should resign as a result of this.

  • Comment number 12.

    as I have said previously on this issue give him a couple of pickled cows in part ex.

  • Comment number 13.

    Where is the British heritage in a Venetian master's painting of a Greek myth? It isn't a particularly good painting. Diana was supposed to be incredibly beautiful. In Titian's hands she is a chubby frump. And where is the black slave in Greek mythology? That's an addition for a time when European aristocrats owned slaves and they assumed Greek goddesses owned them too.

    Let the Duke sell it on the open market. Maybe an Italian gallery will be daft enough to pay £50m for it. I don't see why Brits should pay a penny toward it, and I think this latest contribution of £10m by the National Heritage Memorial Fund raises serious questions about its inappropriate use of funds.

  • Comment number 14.

    Why doesn't the BBC support the British pound sign? Has it been taken over by Microsoft?

  • Comment number 15.

    UK collections are already groaning with autograph Titians.

    The National Gallery has 11 and there are as many again in collections in Liverpool, Cambridge, Oxford, Walsall, Glasgow, Edinburgh, London's Wallace Collection, the disgracefully inaccessible Royal Collection and in various National Trust properties.

    Although good luck finding a simple reliable list of these. Such is the complacency/indifference as to what we already have, there isn't one.

  • Comment number 16.

    Granted the Dukedom of Sutherland has a very tainted reputation, especially where money is concerned. History shows instances like the eviction of WW1 veterans' families. However, some of the comments are woefully ill informed.

    Does anyone know where the painting was exhibited? Has it been on public display? I suspect that many contributers are of the opinion that it has been gracing the halls of a draughty castle. They would be wrong.

    This is not a work that has been locked away. It does have significance and, in my opinion, great charm. Then again beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

  • Comment number 17.

    Let the beholders pay for it then.

    Will it be going back to Scotland if bought?

    From the National Heritage Memorial Fund website:

    In recognition of the vital role it plays and to help meet an increasing number of applications, the Government initially doubled NHMF's income from £5million to £10million for 2007-2008 and recently confirmed this increased funding until 2011.

    Isn't it wonderful what the government is doing with mainly English taxes?

  • Comment number 18.

    Burn it and claim the insurance. Who cares, its a painting . Get a real job.

  • Comment number 19.

    BBC News has publicized the fact that this work has been on loan to a Scottish museum for years (it must save the duke a bomb in insurance premiums). So it's unfair to accuse previous comments of being "ill informed".

    Just because this painting has been in the duke's family for generations doesn't make it important to British heritage. It would be more appropriate to have it displayed in an Italian museum. Spain also has a claim on this work, because it was commissioned by the King of Spain. Plus it is vastly overpriced. The duke might well get £60m to £70m on the open market.

    Christie's and Sotheby's are both having sales of Victorian art this December. There are many British treasures on offer, including "Flora" by Waterhouse, which has been in an American collection for years. It's worth a fraction of the Titian's cost, £200,000 to £300,000. There are a total of 7 Grimshaw's on offer, from £40,000 to £600,000. Visit my blog for details:

    Any of these treasures has a far better claim on British art heritage funding than the Titian, and look how cheap they are in comparison. But nobody is raising funds to buy them!

    The Titian appeal has nothing to do with the quality of the art or with British heritage and everything to do with upper-crust elitism. I've no doubt some of its sponsers are hoping to be in the Queen's Birthday Honours List if they keep the Titian here. Dame Tracey Emin maybe? How on earth can she honestly claim to have been "inspired" by the Titian? To leave her bed unmade?

  • Comment number 20.

    The idea that Titian cannot be understood to have contributed to British Heritage just because he was Venetian is too simplistic. His influence spanned Europe, following his students and buyers. Van Dyke's portraits of the English Court owe a great deal to Titian's influence over the painting of the time. Our history wasn't only created within the geographical space of the British Isles; it has been formulated by the ebb and flow of people and ideas we have accepted and engaged with.

    It is a lot of money, and I understand people's concerns; but the paintings are important and I really value the opportunity to go to the National Gallery and enjoy them. I hope that a balanced debate will encourage people to think about art and its value, and to visit our museums.


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