Breakfast with Canaletto, the council flat masterpiece

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The Independent Online

"The Canaletto in the council house," quipped Alex Haworth, 24, yesterday as he poured milk onto his breakfast cereal and looked across at the £14m masterpiece hanging on his kitchen wall.

Behind him, Regatta on the Grand Canal (1730-1735, oil on canvas), stretched from ceiling to floor, a classic example of the Italian master's intricate portrayal of early 18th-century Venetian life.

Alex and his younger brother, Ben, 22, had taken the radiator off the wall to accommodate the painting, after winning temporary ownership of the masterpiece in a competition in The Independent.

In an extraordinary and meticulously-planned operation yesterday, the painting was transported from its normal home in the Bowes Museum, County Durham, to a former London Borough of Islington property, now owned by the two brothers.

The Canaletto (which is 2.2 metres long by 1.5 metres high) travelled with its curator, Amy Barker, and never left the sight of a team of seven security guards, two of whom stood at either side of the painting throughout its short tenure with the Haworth brothers.

Ben is a third-year student at the Slade School of Art in London. "It's massive in here, huge. It's kind of crammed in but I like the way it fits," he said. "I would like to keep it, obviously, but I'm not sure how safe it would be without the bodyguards."

He added: "The attention to detail is incredible. I cannot imagine how long it would have taken. The condition of it is very good. He must have known what he was doing!"

The painting also had a special significance for Alex, who visited Venice two years ago as a concert manager for the Monteverdi Choir. He is now a sports agent and is involved with a project dedicated to breaking nautical speed records.

The presence in his home of such a beautiful depiction of a regatta in one of his favourite cities was, he said, "a bizarre experience".

The Haworths were selected from a shortlist of eight entrants who had been whittled down from 150 people who acquired competition passwords from The Independent and Classic FM. The competition was organised by the National Art Collection Fund to broaden public interest in galleries and museums.

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