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Friday, 15 November, 2002, 09:43 GMT
30m to save masterpiece
Madonna of the Pinks
The painting is about to be sold to the United States
Almost 30m of lottery cash may be used to keep a 16th Century masterpiece, owned by the Duke of Northumberland, in Britain.

The National Gallery is to ask the Heritage Lottery Fund to buy Raphael's Madonna of the Pinks, which has been displayed at the London gallery for the last 10 years.

The duke is about to sell the painting to the J Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles.

He has defended the sale, claiming proceeds will help retain jobs on his estate in Northumberland.

Alnwick Castle, Northumberland
The painting previously hung in Alnwick Castle

Art critics have called the painting one of the greatest Old Master paintings still in private hands.

The National Gallery believes it would be a "matter of the deepest regret" if the painting went abroad.

Director, Charles Saumarez Smith, says the 29m needed to keep it in the UK should be met by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

He said: "The Heritage Lottery Fund has reserves in the region of 100m to draw on in exceptional circumstances. This is one."

A gallery spokeswoman added: "As far as I'm aware, we are making a bid in the region of 29m to the Heritage Lottery Fund to keep the painting in Britain.

"Both internally and externally, there is a strong feeling that we would like to keep this work, to save it for the nation."

Public benefit

Competition is high for Heritage Lottery funding which currently stands at an estimated 300m a year.

A spokeswoman for the fund said any application for funding to keep the Raphael would be assessed according public benefit and value for money.

Madonna of the Pinks depicts the Virgin Mary playing with her infant son and holding a sprig of pinks, and dates from about 1507, before Raphael began working at the Papal court in Rome.

Huge estate

Its original owner is not known but Algernon, the 4th Duke of Northumberland, acquired it in 1853 from the prestigious Camuccini collection in Rome.

It was dismissed as a copy until about 11 years ago when infrared analysis of the painting showed up the characteristic underdrawing used by Raphael.

Ralph Percy, the 12th and current Duke of Northumberland, said he was being forced to sell the painting to help pay for the cost of running the huge estate in and around his ancestral home at Alnwick Castle.


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17 Jul 02 | Entertainment
22 Oct 02 | Entertainment
19 Apr 02 | Entertainment
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