The Art Fund backs Tate campaign for Rubens Sketch

  • 20 March 2008

The Art Fund, is helping Tate raise the £6million needed to save the very first sketch Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) made for his magnificent ceiling paintings in the Banqueting House, Whitehall.

Tate has so far secured £1million towards this sum including £300,000 from Tate Members. Now The Art Fund has given a grant of £500,000 and created a special website, www.artfund.org/savetherubens, where anyone wanting to donate money can do so. £4.5million remains to be raised.


'The Apotheosis of James I and other studies: sketch for the ceiling of the Banqueting House, Whitehall', of about 1629-30, has been owned by a private collection in England for over two hundred years.  Tate now has a unique opportunity to acquire this beautiful painting for the nation.

The painting is valued at £11.5million but is on offer to Tate at £6million net of special tax concessions. Tate has so far secured £1.5million towards this sum including a grant of £500,000 from The Art Fund and £300,000 from Tate Members. 

David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund, said: “This exquisite sketch shows Rubens at the very height of his powers and gives a vivid insight into how this great artist approached this enormously important and influential commission. It is hard to think of any work of art that better deserves to be saved than this.”

Stephen Deuchar, Director of Tate Britain said: “This Rubens work is the only sketch for the overall composition of the Banqueting House ceiling that exists and is a unique treasure in the history of British art. Tate Britain, the national gallery of British art, does not currently own a work by Rubens. By acquiring this painting we can begin to represent the magnitude of his importance in Britain. I am delighted that The Art Fund and Tate Members recognise the importance of this work and have given substantial sums towards saving it for the nation.”

Peter Paul Rubens was the most celebrated painter of his time in Europe and was hugely influential, both on his contemporaries and on later artists, including many in Britain.  While visiting Britain as an ambassador for King Philip IV of Spain in 1629-30 his commission for the ceiling of Banqueting House, Whitehall, was confirmed. 

This beautiful work is Rubens’ preliminary sketch for seven of the nine eventual component panels of the ceiling.  It is in excellent condition and demonstrates the richness of Rubens’ approach, expressed with remarkable freedom and fluidity. No other sketch for the overall composition of the ceiling survives, making this an exceptionally important treasure within British art.

The Apotheosis of James I and other studies  is on show in a special temporary display at Tate Britain from 18 March 2008, where it will be shown alongside Apollo bestowing Royal Liberality, suppresses Avarice, modello about 1632-33 (The Courtauld Institute Gallery), an ‘intermediate’ sketch for one of the ceiling paintings.

Special Display: The Apotheosis of James I and other studies: sketch for the ceiling of the Banqueting House, Whitehall

From 18 March 2008

Tate Britain, Room 1, Level 2 galleries

Open 10.00-17.50 every day. Admission Free.

For information please call 020 7887 8888 or visit www.tate.org.uk