The unique shared venture to purchase Portrait of Peter Darnel Muilman, Charles Crockatt and William Keeble, which dates from about 1750 when the artist was in his twenties, cost the Tate and Gainsborough's House, in Sudbury, Suffolk, pounds 1.07m. The portrait will rotate between the two galleries every two years.
There had been a strong possibility that the portrait would leave Britain - a number of American collectors who had viewed the painting on its pre-sale tour to New York, had flown to London for a final look. The purchase was completed with substantial help from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the National Art Collections Fund, the art charity.
Once it leaves Sotheby's, the picture will be on view at Gainsborough's House, birthplace of the 18th century master, until the end of the year, visiting the Tate in January. The regular two-year loan period will begin at a later stage.
Although the National Gallery possesses a work of this type, Mr and Mrs Andrews (sold through Sotheby's in 1960 for pounds 130,000), Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate Gallery, said: 'It was vital that the National Collection of British Art should represent this significant moment in Gainsborough's development.'
Sudbury is an appropriate shared setting. The portrait is one of a small group depicting friends and landowners painted by Gainsborough in his native Suffolk. It will rub shoulders with other early Gainsboroughs and a portrait of two boys by Francis Hayman, Gainsborough's teacher, whose influence - along with that of the Dutch Old Masters - is apparent in this work.
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