£2.7 million bid to save Pieter Brueghel the Younger's Procession to Calvary ends in triumph

By Culture24 Staff | 06 January 2011
A photo of a landscape painting
Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s The Procession to Calvary (1602)© National Trust, Robert Thrift
An “extraordinary” painting of Christ’s procession to the crucifixion by 17th century painter Pieter Brueghel the Younger which has hung at Nostell Priory in West Yorkshire for more than 200 years has been saved after campaigners raised the £2.7 million asking price in just three months.

The Procession to Calvary, which is considered one of Brueghel’s finest works and the artistic centrepiece of the idyllic priory, was put up for sale by Lord St Oswald in September. Site owners the National Trust responded by launching a major appeal to salvage the intricate masterpiece, kickstarting the bid with a £500,000 Art Fund grant before raising £680,000 in public donations and £510,000 from trusts and foundations.

A final contribution of more than £1 million by the National Heritage Memorial Fund has sealed a triumphant end to the campaign, allowing Nostell to retain one of only five versions of the painting signed and dated by the artist, joining world-class venues including the Uffizi in Florence and the Koninklijk Museum in Antwerp.

An image of a painting of dozens of people
The top right hand corner of the painting shows Christ carrying the cross© National Trust, Robert Thrift
“Considering the economic climate, this has been a hugely challenging campaign and we are enormously grateful to all our members and supporters who have given so generously,” announced Art Fund director Steven Deuchar, who said the fundraising collaboration had been “very fruitful” and “pulled out all the stops”.

“We have been bowled over by the support and enthusiasm of the public for this quite extraordinary painting, helping us to reach the target.”

The painting shows Christ carrying his cross to the crucifixion, followed by a trail of weeping women among more than 200 onlookers in a contemporary Flemish town embellished with a “fanciful” depiction of the Temple of Jerusalem.

An image from a painting
The Procession to Calvary is considered one of the finest works Brueghel produced© National Trust, Robert Thrift
A dark sky forebodes his fate, flanked by thieves crucified to his left and right in a piece described by Brueghel expert Georges Marlier as “perhaps the most beautiful” painting in his procession series.
Dame Fiona Reynolds, the Director-General of the National Trust, called the deal “wonderful news”.

“This is a marvellous start to the new year with the knowledge that Nostell Priory’s star attraction will stay where it belongs and continue to be enjoyed by visitors,” she added.

“We want to thank everyone who has supported this campaign to save The Procession to Calvary, especially the National Heritage Memorial Fund for enabling us to reach our target today. And our special thanks go to the Art Fund, who have worked tirelessly with us throughout the last three months.”
The Procession to Calvary is on display at York Art Gallery until January 8 2011. It will return to Nostell Priory and be on display from the end of February 2011. Visit the campaign online to explore the painting in greater detail and find out more about the bid to buy it.
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