Anthony Van Dyck painting saved for the nation after unprecedented public funding drive

Arts Correspondent

A 17th century self-portrait by Sir Anthony Van Dyck has been saved for the nation after a £10 million fundraising drive backed by unprecedented wave of public support.

The National Portrait Gallery and the Art Fund masterminded the campaign to buy the work, and celebrated with cakes emblazoned with the image.

Over 10,000 individuals sent in, texted, donated online and dropped cash into collection boxes to raise £1.4 million, the largest public support for a work of art. Their donations ranged from £1 to £20,000.

Sandy Nairne, director of the gallery, said: “This portrait is one that changes portraiture in this country. It has enormous power in terms of its effect on so many people who have contributed to make it possible to acquire it for the nation.

He continued: “It’s a portrait that is extraordinarily poignant. It was painted in the last year before Van Dyck passed away. It has a resonance and particularity to it that gives it additional significance.”

The previous largest sum raised from public donations to save an object of cultural significance for the nation was in 2010, when £900,000 of £3.3 million was raised from individual donations for the Staffordshire Hoard.

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said: “This is the big one. It seemed such a huge total but then the momentum picked up. There was a sense of popular will overcoming the immensity of the financial challenge. It was inspired by the sheer beauty and importance of the painting.”

The Heritage Lottery Fund donated £6.3 million to make sure the work would remain on display to the British public.

In 2012, Titian’s Diana and Callisto was saved for the nation after a £45 million deal overseen by the National Gallery, but Mr Deuchar said there was never a public campaign to raise money.

The self-portrait will be on display at the gallery until the end of August before it undergoes conservation work. It will go on a nationwide tour to six museums and galleries from January.

The "Save Van Dyck" campaign was launched after an export bar was put on the painting last year. James Stunt, son-in-law of Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, had applied for the export license to take it to his LA home.

Yet following what he called “the people’s passion” to keep it in the UK he pulled out of the purchase. In light of that the gallery was able to negotiate the lower price of £10 million to buy the portrait from £12.5 million.

Van Dyck, who was born in what is now known as Belgium, was invited to England by King Charles I in 1632.

When asked about why the public were so taken with the portrait, Mr Nairne said: “For me it is the immediacy of the painting; the 400 years disappears. We’re here with him now. It’s as if we’ve just walked into the Blackfriars studio in January 1641, and he’s just turned round.”

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