The most important loan in British history
By Martin Bailey. News, Issue 194, September 2008
Published online: 28 August 2008
The Bridgewater collection was assembled by the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, mostly in the 1790s, and after his death it passed to the Dukes of Sutherland.
The paintings were hung in London at Bridgewater House, which was regularly opened to the public from 1806. In 1939 they were moved and taken to Edinburgh, a wise precaution since Bridgewater House was later bombed.
The Bridgewater loan, representing the cream of the collection, originally comprised 33 works, lent to the NGS in 1945 by the 6th Duke of Sutherland (who was then known as the Earl of Ellesmere). This transformed the NGS, turning it into a gallery of international importance.
In 1984 the NGS bought four of the loaned paintings by Lotto, Tintoretto, Dou and Steen from the 6th Duke for £2m. In 2003 the gallery acquired Titian’s Venus Anadyomene, valued at £20m, which was paid for with £11.6m in cash, an in lieu for inheritance tax element (following the death of the 6th Duke in 2000) and a goodwill discount from the family.
Providing the NGS and NG are able to buy the two Titians, this would leave 26 Bridgewater pictures in Edinburgh on a 21-year loan. These are works by Poussin (8, including the Seven Sacraments, Raphael (4, including one with studio participation and one after Raphael), Rembrandt (4, including 2 studio works and one follower), Titian (2), Rubens (2, including one drawing), Tintoretto (1), Veronese (1), Van Dyck (1), Hobbema (1), Ter Borch (1) and Dutch School (1).
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