UK galleries pay $72 million for Titian masterpiece

Thu Mar 1, 2012 7:16am EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Two British galleries have raised 45 million pounds ($72 million) for an important painting by Renaissance master Titian, dipping into their own coffers rather than asking the cash-strapped public to help.

The acquisition of "Diana and Callisto" by London's National Gallery and the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh, follows a similar purchase in 2009 for the accompanying canvas "Diana and Actaeon," which cost the galleries 50 million pounds.

National Gallery director Nicholas Penny said the museums decided to use bequests left them, ranging from 100 to 500,000 pounds, to raise 25 million pounds towards the second work.

"There was no special request for a government grant and there was no public appeal in these very difficult times," Penny told reporters on Thursday at the gallery in central London.

"We have of course used these reserves before, but never on this scale, and no purchase ever made by the National Gallery has begun to approach the magnitude of this acquisition.

"The trustees believed no greater old master painting could possibly be secured."

The acquisition means that Titian's 16th century paintings "Diana and Callisto" and "Diana and Actaeon" can continue to hang together and be viewed by the general public.

The purchase from the Duke of Sutherland also means that the loan of the Bridgewater Collection, billed as the greatest private collection of old master paintings in the world, will remain intact at the National Galleries of Scotland.   Continued...

A staff member poses in front of Titian's painting 'Diana and Callisto' at the National Gallery in London, March 1, 2012.  REUTERS/Paul Hackett