Today, the National Trust and the Art Fund
are launching a £2.7 million fundraising campaign to save an iconic Old Master painting for the nation.
The Procession to Calvary by Pieter Brueghel the Younger is the star attraction at Nostell Priory in Yorkshire, owned by the National Trust since 1954, where it has hung for over 200 years. Now, however, the painting, which is still owned by Lord St Oswald, has been put up for sale, with the risk that Nostells greatest work will no longer be accessible to the public.
Completed in 1602, and amongst Brueghel the Youngers finest works, The Procession to Calvary shows Christ carrying the cross on the way to his crucifixion. He is surrounded by over two hundred figures in a vibrant narrative, set in a contemporary Flemish landscape.
The painting includes a host of carefully observed individual portraits: religious figures, peasants, children, animals, gentry and soldiers. Remarkable for both its compositional dexterity and its detailed characterisations, the picture also includes ambiguous social and political narratives: The Procession to Calvary is one of Brueghels most intriguing and fascinating works.
The fundraising campaign has been given an initial major boost with a £500,000 donation from the Art Fund, but it is hoped that the remaining £2.2 million can be raised by Christmas to secure the paintings future.
Fiona Reynolds, Director-General of the National Trust, said: One of the unique aspects of Nostell Priory is that the majority of its historical collections are intact and still in the setting for which they were acquired. It is exceptional to find a painting by Pieter Brueghel the Younger in a country house and especially one of such quality. To see it at Nostell where it has resided for over two centuries is a very special experience. We hope that the public will join with us and the Art Fund to raise the money we need to ensure that the Brueghel stays at Nostell forever.
Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund, said: We are delighted to be partnering with the National Trust for this major appeal, and are pleased to announce we are kick-starting the appeal with a £500,000 grant. Raising money to save works of art sits at the heart of what the Art Fund is all about and we very much urge all art lovers and those who have a fondness for Nostell to donate to this campaign and ensure that this remarkable painting remains where it belongs for all to enjoy.
To enable as many people as possible to see The Procession to Calvary during the fundraising campaign, the painting will be displayed in London, at the National Gallery from 5 October 9 November 2010, and then at the York Art Gallery from 18 November until Christmas.
The National Trust and the Art Fund are extremely grateful to both Nicholas Penny, Director of the National Gallery, and Janet Barnes, CEO of York Art Gallery, for their vital support during this campaign and in helping the painting to be viewed and experienced by as many people as possible.
Dr Nicholas Penny, Director of the National Gallery, said: The National Gallery is pleased to support a campaign to secure great Old Master paintings for the regions and, above all, for the historic houses for which they were collected. We are delighted to be helping by displaying the work for six weeks enabling thousands of visitors to experience it at first hand."