Extreme Unction is a work of huge artistic, historical and cultural importance to the UK. Thanks to the success of our £3.9 million fundraising campaign with the Fitzwilliam Museum, the masterpiece has been secured for the national collection.
The Art Fund joined forces with the Fitzwilliam to help secure Poussin's magnificent work, Extreme Unction, for its collection. The painting is the climax of a seminal set of paintings on the theme of the Seven Sacraments and is considered by many to be the most accomplished. Valued at £14 million, the Fitzwilliam was given a unique opportunity to buy Extreme Unction (or Final Anointing) for £3.9 million thanks to a special government tax scheme. In November 2012 our joint campaign succeeded in seizing this unique opportunity and this extraordinary Old Master was secured for the Fitzwilliam's outstanding collection.
"The work has been held in the private collection of the Dukes of Rutland since the eighteenth century and if it is acquired by the Fitzwilliam, it will be the most important Old Master painting to enter the museum for almost a century."
Extreme Unction depicts a dying man being anointed with oil in accordance with the rites of the early Roman church. It is a work of considerable art-historical importance by the greatest French classicist of the 17th century, but it is remarkable too for its raw impact on the contemporary viewer: a deeply poignant depiction of the moment of death, it combines a stark emotional intensity with a nonetheless vibrant and theatrical composition, the rich colour even tending towards the celebratory despite the profound solemnity of its subject.
In November 2012 we announced the success of the £3.9 million fundraising campaign with the Fitzwilliam Museum. Almost £1 million in donations from the public and charities, including a £100,000 grant from the Art Fund and contributions from almost 3,000 of our members which brought in £142,000, a substantial grant of over £3 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the acquisition and planned outreach work ensured the Fitzwilliam Museum could secure the masterpiece for the national collection.