In an upstairs room in Liverpool’s grand Walker Art Gallery, there used to be a renaissance painting certain to stop you in your tracks, even among the renowned collection it was temporarily a part of.
Until last week, Titian’s Diana and Actaeon had been on loan there as part of a national tour. By the time it reaches Norwich’s Castle Museum and Art Gallery, however, it will be in even better company.
Diana and Callisto, the sister masterpiece made by the Venetian painter for Phillip II of Spain, has been bought by the National Galleries of Scotland and the National Gallery in London after a fundraising drive nearly matching the £50 million found for Diana and Actaeon in 2009.
“It is a triumph for us, but also for our predecessors,” said Dr Nicholas Penny, the Director of the London institution, who oversaw the release of precious reserve funding from decades of donations in order to complete the deal.
“We have been able to secure both of them for the public, in a period of economic hardship, because of the esteem and affection that both institutions have enjoyed for many decades.
“For more than 100 years these two great paintings by Titian have been regarded as pre-eminent among the masterpieces in private hands in the UK.”
The Duke of Sutherland, who had set an asking price for both pieces described by the galleries as “significantly lower than their market value”, reduced the price for Diana and Callisto from £50 million to £45 million.
The deadline for the sale was shortened to the end of March 2012, having originally been set for December, and the Duke’s Bridgewater Loan series, which includes outstanding works by the likes of Raphael, Rembrandt and Poussin, will also remain in the hands of Scottish curators as part of the pact.
“It has long been an absolute priority for the National Galleries of Scotland to retain the loan in this country and to keep these superlative masterpieces on view for the enjoyment and inspiration of our visitors,” said John Leighton, the Director-General of the National Galleries of Scotland, praising fellow backers including the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and the Monument Trust.
“We are delighted that the purchase of Callisto will now keep that loan intact and allows the public to continue to enjoy some of the greatest achievements of Western European art.”
Made between 1556 and 1559, Callisto – which left Titian’s studio with Actaeon, and has remained paired with it ever since – has only changed hands three times, moving from the Spanish Royal Collection to the Orléans collection, and then to the Bridgewater Collection at the end of the 18th century.
The works will be displayed together on a “60:40 rotating basis” between London and Edinburgh, in line with the English gallery providing more of the money.
The new acquisition will go on display in the capital immediately – joined by Diana and Actaeon at the culmination of its current tour – and will then be displayed in Scotland for 12 months.
Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, applauded the “determination, goodwill and tremendous amount of generosity” invested in the successful campaign.
“Diana and Callisto is a breathtakingly beautiful work of art,” he added. “I am immensely grateful to everyone who has helped to keep it and its companion painting, Diana and Actaeon, in the UK in perpetuity.”
In Scotland, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop was equally pleased.
“It is great for Scotland, our cultural collections and our economy,” she said.
“The arrangements announced today will see both Titian paintings in Scotland for the Commonwealth Games and Year of Homecoming 2014, enticing people from both home and abroad to visit our national galleries and Scotland.”
- Diana and Actaeon opens at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery on March 3, until April 15; then National Museum Cardiff, April 19 – June 17 2012