Page last updated at 11:34 GMT, Monday, 5 January 2009

Titian work sparks political row

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Lorna Gordon takes a look at the paintings in August 2008

A painting by Titian has sparked a political row after the Scottish Government confirmed it had pledged a "significant sum" towards its purchase.

It followed newspaper reports that the government was contributing 17.5m towards acquiring the work of art.

The National Gallery of Scotland and London's National Gallery are hoping to raise 50m to buy Diana and Actaeon.

But Glasgow MP, Ian Davidson, questioned the logic of spending such large sums during an economic downturn.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Davidson, the member for Glasgow South West, said: "It is difficult to argue that this is part of Britain's cultural heritage when it's a picture by a long dead Venetian - it's not as if it's Jock McTitian.

Very few people will ever have heard of Titian, many will have thought he was an Italian football player.
Ian Davidson, MP Glasgow South West
"There are substantial numbers of works of art that I think it's worth spending public money on, what I don't believe is worth while is spending this obscene amount of money, particularly when the National Gallery already has around 20 Titians.

"Very few people will ever have heard of Titian, many will have thought he was an Italian football player. What is the point of wasting this money in this way?"

An announcement is expected in a matter of days on whether the National Galleries of Scotland has been successful in its campaign to buy the 16th century work of art.

The painting has been on loan to the gallery from the Duke Of Sutherland but he decided to sell it in the summer.

The campaign, launched in August, was recently boosted by a 10m pledge from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

The Scottish Government has confirmed it has made a "significant financial commitment" towards the purchase of the painting but said the amount of 17.5m "was speculative".

A spokesman said: "The story is speculative, and we will announce the factual position when the arrangements for the purchase have been finalised."

He said the timing of any agreement would be a matter for the galleries and the vendor.

The spokesman added: "We recognise the national importance of the Bridgewater Collection and are determined to do everything we can to ensure that this world-class collection remains on public view in Scotland. We have made a significant funding pledge to the National Galleries of Scotland which was essential to get its fundraising campaign off the ground.

Finance Secretary John Swinney told BBC Scotland the government made financial decisions wisely.

While he would not be drawn on the speculation, he said: "The Scottish Government takes very seriously the delivery of value for money and all of the commitments that we make. We make wise decisions to ensure that we invest for the future of Scotland that is what we have done to date, and that is what we will continue to do."

The painting has been on public display at the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh and London for more than 200 years.

Private buyer

If the galleries raise the funds to buy Diana and Actaeon, then a second Titian painting - Diana and Callisto - will be offered for sale in four years.

If they fail to raise the required 50m then Diana and Actaeon could be sold to a private buyer.

The two Titians were created as part of a cycle of works for King Philip II of Spain from 1556 to 1559 and form part of the Bridgewater collection, which has been on loan to the National Galleries of Scotland since 1945.

The collection also includes three paintings by Raphael, a Rembrandt, a Van Dyck, and a Tintoretto.

Should the two galleries manage to raise the necessary funds, the entire Bridgewater collection will remain on long-term loan to the Scottish gallery.

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