The sale of British country house treasures continues apace with Lord St Oswald’s decision to dispose of Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s The Procession to Calvary, 1602 (pictured). The Brueghel is initially being offered to the National Trust, which owns Nostell Priory, Lord St Oswald’s family seat outside Wakefield in Yorkshire, where the painting has hung for over 200 years.
The Art Newspaper has also learned that Lord St Oswald also wants to sell £2.4m worth of other items to the National Trust. These include paintings by Dirk Valkenburg, Daniel Mytens and Nicolaes van Veerendael. Among the furniture are two Chippendale pieces (a clothes-press and a chopping-block), as well as other items from Nostell Priory’s north bedrooms. The National Trust is expected to raise the money for these, or use its own funds. For the Brueghel, the National Trust and the Art Fund have launched a joint appeal to raise the necessary £2.7m by Christmas.
Another version of the painting sold for £5.2m at Sotheby’s on 5 July 2006—above the £3.5m upper estimate and a record price for Brueghel the Younger. Although slightly smaller, the Nostell Priory version is arguably finer, and worth a similar sum. If the National Trust manages to raise the £2.7m price-tag, the painting would sell in a private treaty deal, with the tax advantages of a sale to a public collection.
The Art Fund has offered a £500,000 grant. An application for around £1m is expected to be considered by the National Heritage Memorial Fund, probably at its 14 December meeting. It will also be important to seek public support—to date £100,000 has been secured. The Brueghel is currently on display at the National Gallery in London (until 9 November) and then at York Art Gallery (18 November to Christmas).
As we reported (July/August, pp1,6), an increasing number of works are being sold from UK country houses. The Chatsworth attic sale on 1-4 October at Sotheby’s (see below) raised £6.5m. The Ashdown House sale at Sotheby’s, which took place after we went to print on 27 October, was estimated to bring in at least £1.3m.