Save Van Dyck: FAQs

We recently launched a fundraising appeal to help the National Portrait Gallery buy Van Dyck's final self-portrait. Here are our answers to some frequently asked questions about the campaign.

Self-portrait by Van Dyck, 1640/41 © Philip Mould & Co.

Self-portrait by Van Dyck, 1640/41


© Philip Mould & Co.

How much money do you need to raise?

We will need to raise £12.5m for the National Portrait Gallery to acquire the painting.

When do you need to raise it by?

We have an initial three months from the date of the export bar (Thursday 14 November) to demonstrate our serious intention of raising sufficient funds. Should we be successful in this initial stage we would look to extend the export bar and we understand this would be for a further five months – taking us to July 2014.

How much have you raised so far?

We began the campaign with £1.2m; £500,000 from the Art Fund and £700,000 from the National Portrait Gallery’s Portrait Fund and Acquisition Budget. To date (12 December 2013), the public appeal has raised over £500,000. The Art Fund has also offered £150,000 towards a national tour of the portrait.

How was the price of £12.5m arrived at?

£12.5m is the price offered by an overseas buyer for this painting. The valuation is in line with independent advice and with other international Old Master portraits. Indeed, a Rembrandt portrait was recently sold to the Getty Museum for £16.6m. A portrait by Rubens sold in 2010 for £9m, and a portrait by 18th-century French artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard sold at Bonhams on 5 December 2013 for £15.2 million.

Was there an opportunity to buy this portrait earlier?

In December 2009, the portrait was sold at auction for £8.3m. The National Portrait Gallery was made aware of the auction. Unfortunately, it is rare for a public museum to have sufficient funds in hand to make a bid and the Gallery was unable to pursue the acquisition at that stage.

The portrait was subsequently offered to the Gallery and to Tate for £9.5m in 2010. The two institutions explored how to acquire it for the nation. Despite the support of the Art Fund, sufficient funds were not available from major funding bodies at that time and the economic climate was even more challenging, so it was decided that we could not proceed with a public appeal.

We now have a vital last chance to finally secure this important painting for the nation and are now in a position to explore a wider range of funding sources.

As part of the British heritage, can’t an export licence be withheld?

To stop a work of art being exported, a British institution needs to match the price submitted on the export application, as stipulated by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art, otherwise an export licence will be granted.

Why doesn’t the government fund the purchase of the portrait?

There is indirect government support through the National Portrait Gallery’s contributions and we will be approaching major national funding bodies. Acquisitions of this kind have almost always depended on significant private support as well as public contributions.

Why doesn't the National Portrait Gallery put in more from its own resources?

As a part-publicly-funded national institution, the National Portrait Gallery has heavy demands on its own limited resources and cannot divert funding needed for the public programme towards acquisitions.

What happens if you don’t raise the funds by the deadline?

We are exploring every possible avenue in the hope that we will be able to secure sufficient funds before the deadline. Every donation from the public – large or small – will play an important part in placing the painting in a public setting where it can be appreciated and enjoyed by everyone.

Will supporters be refunded if the campaign is unsuccessful?

In the event that we exceed the campaign target or are unsuccessful in reaching it, money raised will be used to fund other Art Fund or National Portrait Gallery activities. Your donation will only be returned to you if you have indicated to us when you submitted your donation that you would prefer the Art Fund to return your donation in these circumstances.

Why is the purchase of the portrait so important?

Certain very special works of art have great meaning and importance for our national heritage. These works deserve to be made publicly accessible so that they can contribute to our understanding of our past and be enjoyed by present and future generations. We believe that the purchase of this important portrait will pay enduring dividends in enjoyment, learning and understanding for many people.

What makes this portrait special and unique to the UK?

Van Dyck lived and worked in the UK for 10 years and his work is synonymous with the court of King Charles I. He was knighted for his services and was the first artist to receive the title of ‘Principal Painter’. More importantly, he was one of the most skilled and admired artists ever to work in Britain and this is one of his greatest paintings. Van Dyck had a greater and longer-lasting influence on British portraiture than any other painter and he also changed the status and perception of the artist in Britain from craftsman to creative genius, and became the first ‘celebrity’ artist. There is no self-portrait of him in any British public collection.

Is the extraordinary gilt frame original?

There was a developing taste for very rich frames in the so-called auricular style in the 1630s. This superb frame is probably original to the portrait and its design is likely to have been influenced by Van Dyck. The sunflower surmounting the frame was a symbol that Van Dyck adopted; its meaning has been much discussed but it may represent the king, or royal patronage.

Are other self-portraits in existence by Van Dyck and was he ever painted by other artists?

There are self-portraits by Van Dyck in Vienna, Munich, New York, St Petersburg and Madrid. Head and shoulders with sunflower (c. 1633) is in the collection of the Duke of Westminster, with copies elsewhere. There are portraits of Van Dyck by Rubens at Fort Worth, Texas and at Windsor Castle.

This final portrait of 1640-41 is arguably the finest quality self-portrait produced by Van Dyck and is likely to be the only self-portrait from Van Dyck’s British period ever to be made available for acquisition by a British public collection.

Please donate to our campaign to keep this extraordinary work of art in the UK. Thanks for your support!

Venue details

National Portrait Gallery St Martin's Place Greater London WC2H 0HE 020 7306 0055

Entry details

50% off with National Art Pass

Saturday - Thursday: 10am 6pm
Friday: 10am 9pm
Closed 24 26 Dec

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