British embassy art burned
Works almost certainly destroyed last month when building was set on fire by pro-Gaddafi protesters
By Martin Bailey. News, Issue 225, June 2011
Published online: 02 June 2011
TRIPOLI. Paintings in the British embassy in Tripoli were almost certainly destroyed last month, when the building was set on fire by pro-Gaddafi protesters. On 1 May crowds ransacked the embassy and ambassadorial residence after Nato air strikes on Muammar Gaddafi’s compound killed members of his family.
The Government Art Collection (GAC) had 17 works on loan to Tripoli. The embassy fire probably represents its worst loss since the second world war.
The most important works of art were three historic paintings: Philip Reinagle’s Harrier Killing a Bittern, 1797, Salvator Rosa’s (style of) Mountainous Landscape, around 1720, and Edmund Havell Jr’s William Stratton, 1840. There were also two important royal portraits of George V and Mary (after Luke Fildes and William Llewellyn).
The residence and the political office of the embassy lies off Sharia al Shatt. The British embassy had to organise an emergency evacuation, with ambassador Richard Northern and his remaining staff flying out on 26 February. Removal of documents and computers was a priority, and there was no opportunity to save the works (the royal portraits are nearly three metres high).
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