UK Galleries Receive Major Italian Art Collection

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Six museums and galleries in Britain are the recipients of a private collection of 57 Italian baroque paintings that once belonged to banking heir Denis Mahon, valued at over 100 million pounds.  The paintings were formally handed over this week.

The paintings were all already on display at the individual museums and galleries after being on loan to them for many years. They were on loan with the condition that they did not charge an admission to view them or sell works from the collections.

The terms were seen as important at the time, as government funding cuts have hit many art establishments across the country and some local council are seeking to reduce their debt by offering public artworks for sale.

Mahon, a historian and renowned art collector died in 2011 at the age of 100 and bequeathed his collection to the Art Fund charity with instructions that they be placed on display in specific venues in perpetuity.

The terms of the transfer have a clause, which allows Art Fund trustees the right to withdraw works from any museum, which breached the terms of agreement at any point. Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund said, “Sir Denis Mahon was a life-long supporter of the Art Fund and shared our fundamental commitment to widening free public access to art. His vision as an art collector was extraordinary, as was his determination that his collection should ultimately be on public display.”

The baking heir spent most of his life forming one of the most important private collections of the 17th century Italian Baroque art, including works by Guercino, Guido Reni, Domenichino, Ludovico Carracci and Luca Giordano.

Photo: Martin Godwin for the Guardian