Arts: Devotees come to rescue of favourite painting

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The Independent Online
A chance encounter with an old favourite got the "Beauties of Bath" exhibition at Christie's, London, off to good start even before its formal opening last night.

The exhibition is intended to draw attention to Bath's Holburne Museum - both to the treasures it contains and the fact that without a substantial injection of cash it may not survive in its elegant Georgian home for much longer.

So organisers were delighted when two long-time fans of the Holburne noticed the display while visiting another exhibition at the St James's auction house and offered to "adopt" the 1776 George Stubbs painting Reverend Robert Carter Thelwall and his family (shown left). The adoptive parents, who did not wish to be identified, visited the Holburne together 38 years soon after getting married and have returned many times since - but were unaware of unending financial struggle.

Rev Carter and his ladies are in serious need of attention. In the 1770s Stubbs was experimenting with methods of painting and for the Carter family used a thin delicate layer of pigment on unprepared panel. But it is peeling and the conservation work to be paid for by the new benefactor is likely to cost many times more than the pounds 84 commission Stubbs received.

The exhibition, which runs until 3 February, includes paintings by Gainsborough, Allan Ramsay and Angelica Kauffmann.

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