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Friday, 1 November, 2002, 06:49 GMT
Duke defends masterpiece sale
Raphael's Madonna of the Pinks
The painting has been on loan to the National Galley
One of Britain's richest men says he is selling a world-famous painting to a US museum to save jobs in north-east England.

The Duke of Northumberland expects to receive 35m from the John Paul Getty Museum for Raphael's Madonna of the Pinks - regarded as one of the most important privately owned paintings in the UK.

But the move has put the Duke on a collision course with critics including the National Gallery in London, where the masterpiece has been on loan for 10 years.

A spokesman for the Duke's estate said money from the sale to the Los Angeles gallery would be used to safeguard rural jobs through his business venture, Northumberland Estates.

He also said any proceeds would be used for the upkeep of Alnwick Castle, the Duke's ancestral seat.

'Serious loss'

The Duke, thought to be worth about 250m, has denied the sale is to offset the price of his wife's Alnwick Garden project, a tourist attraction expected to cost more than 40m.

The Duke of Northumberland
The Duke says the sale will safeguard jobs

The duke said: "Though we shall be very sad to lose this picture we are glad that it will continue to be available for the public to see.

"Its sale will enable us to continue to preserve our heritage and invest in projects aimed at improving life, culture and employment in Northumberland."

But a spokesman for the National Gallery said: "As one of the greatest Old Master paintings still in private hands in Britain it would be a very serious loss to the nation should it leave the country.

"The National Gallery intends to make every effort to purchase it for the public to enjoy."

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 ON THIS STORY
National Museum curator Karen Plazzotta
"We're hoping to keep the painting in the UK"

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See also:

01 Oct 01 | England
17 Jul 02 | Entertainment
25 Jun 02 | Entertainment
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