Arts Arts Editor Muse

Antonia Shaw

One hundred million pounds is a vast amount of money by anyone's standards. This figure is the amount the National Galleries of Scotland (the NGS) wish to raise in order to retain two of Titian's masterpieces in their collection.

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One hundred million pounds is a vast amount of money by anyone's standards. This figure is the amount the National Galleries of Scotland (the NGS) wish to raise in order to retain two of Titian's masterpieces in their collection.

Widely acknowledged as one of the greatest colourists of all time, Titian pioneered the use of oil paints and inspired generations of artists. The pieces in question, Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Calliso, originally created as part of a cycle of works for King Philip II of Spain from 1556 to 1559, have been displayed in the UK for over two hundred years and have enriched our cultural heritage.

Since 1945, The Duke of Sutherland has loaned these celebrated paintings to the NGS, as part of the historic Bridgewater Collection. It is one of the most important anthologies of Old Master paintings on loan to an institution in the UK, and forms the core of the NGS' world-famous displays of European art.

The Duke has offered the works to the NGS and the National Gallery in London for £50m each. If the galleries raise the funds to buy Diana and Actaeon, then the second painting, Diana and Calliso will be offered for sale in four years. His offer comes with the added incentive that, should the two galleries manage to raise the necessary funds; the entire collection will remain on long-term loan to the NGS.

Whilst the cost of the paintings appears daunting, this figure actually only represents one third of their estimated open-market value. These galleries are seizing a £100 million bargain. As a result, they began frantically campaigning for funds in August 2008.

This immense expenditure has produced divergent reactions. Should we spend such significant sums of public and private money on great works of art? Particularly in the global age we live in, must the works remain in Great Britain?

Glasgow MP, Ian Davidson, speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland, claimed "It is difficult to argue that this is part of Britain's cultural heritage when it's a picture by a long dead Venetian. I don't believe it is worthwhile spending this obscene amount of money, particularly when the National Gallery already has around 20 Titians."

However, the loss of these works has been likened to removing the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. Is culture not of equal importance to the defence, health and education that we invest in so heavily? Without art, what do we have?

Furthermore, this early intervention would be paid off by the inspiration and education of future generations. Countless artists have gleaned inspiration from these works and many are active in the campaign including Tracey Emin, Lucian Freud and David Hockney

The price seems heavy, but this investment is essential.

If you wish to support the campaign, donate online at:

www.nationalgalleries.org

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