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Last Updated: Friday, 24 June, 2005, 06:13 GMT 07:13 UK
Call to return Salem painting
Salem Painting (pic Lady Lever Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool)
The painting became famous initially through a soap company competition
A campaign to put one of the most famous paintings of Welsh life on display in Wales again is under way.

Sydney Curnow Vosper's Salem painting showing an archetypal Welsh lady and chapel goers near Harlech, Gwynedd is the property of a museum in Liverpool.

Now Plaid Cymru's culture spokesman Owen John Thomas wants the iconic painting to be shown back in Wales.

But National Museums Liverpool, which owns it, said there were no plans to move the painting at present.

The Salem Painting hangs in the Lady Lever Gallery at Port Sunlight on the Wirral.

Lord Leverhulme, who owned Sunlight soap, bought the original for 100 guineas and offered free reproductions to anyone who bought 7 of soap.

World Museum Liverpool
The painting is a watercolour and is extremely delicate, subsequently we have no plans to move it from the gallery at the moment
Sharon Granville

The picture of chapel-goer Sian Owen in national costume by the Devon-born painter became popular as an image of Welsh piety.

Mr Thomas said he was heading a campaign to have the painting brought back to Wales, either as a purchase or a loan.

"I would suggest that it would be appropriate, especially as the painter's wife Mrs Vosper was from Wales and painting is an important portrayal of Wales in that period," he said.

"I have written to the curator (of the National Museum of Wales) to see if they could purchase it or, if that is not possible, if they may return it on a mid-term loan."

Extraordinary collections

He said the painting could then be displayed around the country, under the Treasures of Wales scheme in which works out circulated around the nation's smaller museums.

But the museums involved said there was no chance of the Salem painting returning to Wales at the moment.

"The painting is a key part of the Lady Lever Art Gallery story and is one of the most popular items in our collection," said Sharon Granville, director of public services at the National Museum of Liverpool.

"We regularly welcome large numbers of Welsh tourists who come to see the painting and experience the rest of Lady Lever's extraordinary collections.

"The painting is a watercolour and is extremely delicate - subsequently we have no plans to move it from the gallery at the moment."

And Michael Tooby, director of the National Museum and Gallery in Cardiff, said there was no plan to call for Salem's return.

"It was commissioned by the Lever family therefore belongs in the gallery they created, now belonging to the National Museums Liverpool," he said.

"They're very generous in lending and we would look at the future at possibly having it on display here again."


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