Patricia Rubin: "The Outcry": Despoilers, Donors, and the National Gallery in London, 1909

Abendvortrag / Conferenza serale

In April 1909 the Duke of Norfolk accepted an offer for Holbein's portrait of Christina of Denmark, which had been on loan to the National Gallery since 1880. There was an immediate and sustained public reaction to the announcement of the sale - an outcry, as recalled in Henry James's fictionalisation of the episode. The intended sale raised issues around private interest and public benefit and prompted debate about the definition of Britain's cultural patrimony. While the potential removal of the portrait from the National Gallery has been frequently discussed, the nearly simultaneous gift of just under 200 paintings from the collection of George Salting is less familiar. Salting, a dedicated collector, died in December 1909, leaving literally thousands of works of art to the Nation. Some portions of the bequest have been analysed - the prints at the British Museum and the bronzes in the Victoria and Albert Museum - but many, including the paintings at the National Gallery, deserve attention. This lecture aims to provide an introduction to Salting's contribution to the "nation's treasures" held at the National Gallery in the context of the history of the collection at a moment of contestation.

Patricia Rubin is Professor of Italian Renaissance Art at the Courtauld Institute, where she is also Deputy Director and Head of the Courtauld Institute of Art Research Forum. She has published on fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Italian art, with books on Giorgio Vasari: Art and History (Yale University Press, 1995) and Images and Identity in Fifteenth-century Florence (Yale University Press, 2007).

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