The National Portrait Gallery and the Art Fund announced yesterday that they have received over £3.2 million in support of their appeal to secure the last self-portrait of Sir Anthony Van Dyck, and prevent it from going to a private collection overseas. This includes a recent pledge of £1 million from The Monument Trust, the largest single gift yet given to the campaign. A further £1 million has been raised from the public, with more than 5,600 individual contributions received so far from supporters both nationally and internationally.
The National Portrait Gallery was given an initial three months to acquire Van Dyck’s exceptional Self-portrait (1640-1) priced at £12.5 million, following a temporary Government export bar (issued in November 2013) to prevent it from being taken overseas. That export bar expires on 14 February 2014 but may be extended for a further five months.
Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says:
This is an incredibly generous response from The Monument Trust and from so many people across the country. Every pound really counts in helping to make it possible to keep this great painting on public view. The most common gift we have received from members of the public is £10, which goes to show that gifts in all amounts make a huge difference and continue to be vital in our efforts to save this outstanding self-portrait for the nation.
The painting has been in a British private collection for nearly 400 years but has been sold to a private collector who now wishes to take it abroad. This is the only chance a museum or a gallery in the United Kingdom has of acquiring the masterpiece.
The enigmatic portrait dates from the end of Van Dyck’s life and presents an intimate image of an artist at work. He shows himself apparently in the act of painting, his hand raised in the process of applying paint to a canvas just out of sight. For today’s viewer, it conveys a sense of direct engagement with the artist as an individual, despite the passage of almost 400 years.
Within a year of producing this portrait Van Dyck was dead, buried in Old St Paul’s Cathedral with the epitaph: ‘Anthony Van Dyck – who, while he lived, gave to many immortal life’.
Donations to the National Portrait Gallery’s Save Van Dyck’s Self-portrait appeal can be made online at www.savevandyck.org
Van Dyck’s Self-portrait is displayed adjacent to the Seventeenth-Century Galleries on the Second Floor of the National Portrait Gallery, London. Admission free.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.