Poussin appeal for Fitzwilliam
August 13 2012
Picture: Cambridge News
Hot on the heels of the Ashmolean's purchase of Manet's Mademoiselle Claus in Oxford, the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge has announced that it will try to acquire one of the Duke of Rutland's Poussins. Extreme Unction is on offer to the museum for a bargain £3.9m under the government's inheritance tax scheme, and is valued at £14 million. The museum has until November to raise the funds - which is not much time. It's perhaps not the sort of picture to ignite a large public campaign like the Manet, so here's hoping the Heritage Lottery Fund will come to the rescue again.
If not, the picture will most likely end up in the US. Extreme Unction is one of the Duke's four remaining Seven Sacraments from Poussin's first series painted between 1637-40. One was lost in a fire at Belvoir Castle in 1816, one was sold to the National Gallery in Washington in 1939, and another was sold recently (for £15m) to the Kimbell Art Museum in Texas.
The second series of the Sacraments can be seen together at the National Gallery of Scotland, and belong to the Duke of Sutherland. The two sets make an interesting example of differing ducal fortunes.