The Art Fund helps Ashmolean Museum acquire three treasures of Western Art

  • 28 January 2009

The Ashmolean is delighted to announce three successful acquisitions made in 2008 with the generous support of The Art Fund, the UK's leading independent art charity. The Museum has acquired an English delftware jug decorated with grotesques, purchased from the collection of the late Simon Sainsbury; an Italian maiolica plate, painted by Ferdinando Maria Campani; and a large etching, Siena by Ben Nicholson.

The glazed earthenware jug is a superb example of English delftware manufactured in London in the early seventeenth century. Painted with the owners’ initials and decorated with grotesques in the Antwerp style, it demonstrates the passage of Italian Mannerist influence from émigré potters who arrived in Antwerp in the early sixteenth century, working in England by 1570. This key work bridges the Ashmolean’s hugely important collections of High Renaissance maiolica and English delftware. As such it will be a star feature of the European Ceramics gallery in the new Museum building. The jug was purchased for £97,250 with a grant from The Art Fund of £43,184 and aid from the MLA / V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Friends of the Ashmolean, Sir Harry Djanogly, Martin Foley, the Oxford Ceramics Group and other donors.

Truth Unveiled by Time, the only example in the UK of an armorial maiolica service made for an English Grand Tourist, was purchased for £7000 with a grant of £3000 from The Art Fund, aid from the British-Italian Society and other private donors. The plate, decorated with an allegorical scene, is one of a small number of works with definite attribution to Campani, perhaps the most talented maiolica painter of the eighteenth century. It bears the arms of the Marquess of Rockingham, builder of Wentworth Woodhouse in Yorkshire, and was probably commissioned by his son the Earl of Malton who was on the Grand Tour in Siena in 1749. This will be a prominent item in the Britain and Italy gallery planned for the reopening of the Ashmolean in late 2009.

The Art Fund has also enabled the Ashmolean to enrich its growing collection of twentieth century and contemporary works of art, with a grant of £2000 towards the purchase of Siena by Ben Nicholson. This large etching was made by the artist in 1966 soon after his travels in Greece and Italy. Siena was one of Nicholson’s favourite places and the city’s cathedral was a subject to which he returned a number of times. This piece is one of three works which represent Nicholson’s experimental print-making in the Museum’s collections.

Dr Christopher Brown, Director of the Ashmolean noted the Museum’s gratitude to The Art Fund for these generous donations: "We have been extremely lucky to secure these important works for the Museum’s collections of Western Art, and the Ashmolean thanks The Art Fund for its continued and crucial support. These grants have enabled the Museum to expand its peerless collections which represent wide-ranging artistic styles and media, preserved for the enjoyment of the public and future generations of visitors."

David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund, said: "These remarkable purchases not only reveal the extraordinary range of The Art Fund’s patronage, but also bear witness to the profound influence that Italian culture has exerted on English artists and collectors down the ages."

For further information please contact Susie Gault:

susie.gault@ashmus.ox.ac.uk, tel: 01865 288298, www.ashmolean.org

The Ashmolean Museum, Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2PH

Notes to editors:

The Art Fund is the UK’s leading independent art charity. It offers grants to help UK museums and galleries enrich their collections; campaigns on behalf of museums and their visitors; and promotes the enjoyment of art. It is entirely funded from public donations and has 80,000 members. Since 1903 the charity has helped museums and galleries all over the UK secure 860,000 works of art for their collections. Recent achievements include: helping secure Anthony d’Offay’s collection, ARTIST ROOMS, for Tate and National Galleries of Scotland in February 2008 with a grant of £1million; putting together a unique funding package to ensure Dumfries House in Ayrshire and its contents were secured intact for the nation in July 2007; running the ‘Buy a Brushstroke’ public appeal which raised over £550,000 to keep Turner’s Blue Rigi watercolour in the UK, and helping to save Rubens’ sketch for the ceiling at Banqueting House, Whitehall, for Tate in October 2008 with a grant of £600,000. For more information contact the Press Office on 020 7225 4888 or visit www.artfund.org .

The Art Fund is a Registered Charity No. 209174

The MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund is a government fund, established at the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) in 1881 as part of its nationwide work.

The annual grants budget, currently £1,000,000, is provided by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA). The Fund supports the acquisition of objects relating to the arts, literature and history -by regional museums, record offices and specialist libraries in England and Wales.

Each year it considers some 300 applications and in 2007-8 awarded grants to 100 organisations, enabling acquisitions of over £4 million to go ahead. Visit the website at www.vam.ac.uk/purchasegrantfund

The Ashmolean is undergoing a major development to build on its strengths as a world-class museum of art and archaeology, with leading support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Linbury Trust. The plan involves building thirty-nine new galleries, an education centre, conservation studios and a walkthrough between the Museum and Cast Gallery. To prepare for the opening of the new Ashmolean in November 2009, the Museum is now closed to the public while the nineteenth century Cockerell building and the new Rick Mather building are being integrated. The Print Room remains open to the public by appointment. The Shop is open for business as usual.