Fitzwilliam Museum Saves Nicolas Poussin Masterpiece for the Nation

The Fitzwilliam Museum has reported that the campaign partnered by the Museum and the Art Fund has raised the necessary  £3.9m to enable the institution to acquire Nicolas Poussin’s masterpiece Extreme Unction (c. 1638-40). The successful conclusion has realised through the help of a substantial grant of approximately £3 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and almost £1 million in donations from members of the public and charitable organisations.

The museum spokesperson said; “We are extremely grateful to the charities and thousands of individual donors who have contributed. Supporters of the Fitzwilliam Museum gave a total of £692,000 including significant funds from Friends of the Fitzwilliam. As well as providing a grant of £100,000, the Art Fund also raised funds through contributions from nearly 3,000 members, bringing in approximately £142,000. The Museum is thankful for the support of a number of other trusts and foundations.These hugely generous donations and grants mean that the Fitzwilliam Museum can now take advantage of an extraordinary opportunity provided by HM Government’s Acceptance in Lieu scheme to acquire the painting for £3.9m instead of its market value of £14m. For the Museum, this will be the most significant Old Master acquisition in nearly a century. Now it will be available for all to see, free of charge, in perpetuity”.

The museum is planning a touring exhibition of the painting, together with talks and seminars, to museums and galleries around the country. Dame Jenny Abramsky, chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), said: “We were impressed with the Fitzwilliam and Art Fund’s dynamic fund-raising campaign and their desire to seize the moment and secure the painting on behalf of the nation.”Dr Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, which assists museums and galleries to purchase works of art, said public generosity together with the HLF grant and support from the National Gallery had helped to “safeguard this masterpiece and bring it into the public domain.”Acting director of the Fitzwilliam, David Scrase said the museum was “extremely grateful” and “absolutely thrilled”.”Now this masterpiece will be available to all, transforming our existing collections at the Fitzwilliam,” he said.

The Fitzwilliam received resounding support throughout the campaign, not least that of the National Gallery where is has been on display for the majority of the campaign, and will remain until 11 November. Their support has been invaluable When the painting returns to Cambridge, it will go on special display in the Octagon Gallery from early December. This is the most important painting to enter the museum’s collection in almost a century.

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