The leading body dedicated to rescuing works of art for the nation has attacked Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, for selling the Treasury's silver.
David Barrie, director of the Art Fund, formerly known as the National Art Collections Fund, said he was shocked at the surprise decision by the Treasury to auction a collection of 17th-century silver made for the use of the Privy Council.
The first public disclosure of the controversial sale was given last week with the publication by Bonhams of an auction catalogue. Listed were details of candlesticks, snuffers and meat skewers that are expected to fetch at least £100,000 later this month. Some are engraved with the royal arms of King William and Queen Mary and of Queen Anne.
Mr Barrie said the collection should have first been offered to a museum. His own private talks with museum curators suggested the pieces were more important than the Treasury claimed.
Mr Barrie said: "We're astonished that the Treasury should have decided to sell such extraordinarily historically important works of art without apparently consulting the relevant experts.
"One wonders whether it wouldn't have been more appropriate for the Treasury ... to donate them to the Victoria & Albert Museum where they would be properly looked after and seen by millions of people."
But a Treasury spokesman said it had consulted the experts who ran the Government's own art collection, the Department of Culture and English Heritage before the sale. "Although the pieces are clearly attractive and interesting they are not of any major historical significance in themselves," he said.Reuse content