Colnaghi Foundation Journal 01 - Page 100

Martin Colnaghi and the National Gallery
Martin Colnaghi and the National Gallery
Fig. 7 / Lorenzo Lotto, Virgin
and Child with Saints Jerome
and Nicholas of Tolentino,
1522, oil on canvas, 91 x
75.4 cm, London, National
Fig. 8 / Thomas
Gainsborough, The Bridge,
ca. 1786, oil on canvas,
40 x 48.3 cm, London,
Tate Britain.
suited the changed conditions of the art market, where
Old Master paintings were reaching unprecedented sale
prices. Arguing their case, the Gallery’s Trustees won
the day when a “Variation of the Trust” was passed
in 1941, which allowed income to be accumulated for
up to ten years before being spent on a given purchase
– a strategy that allowed more expensive paintings to
be acquired.91 To this end it was also agreed that the
Trustees could dip into the Fund’s capital (so long as it
was replenished),92 and later still, in 1955, the Treasury
agreed that the Fund could be used in conjunction
with other Trust Funds and the grant-in-aid, a move
that ensured that there was more disposable income for
expensive picture acquisitions.93
This practice was not unusual. National and regional
museums and art galleries across the UK, Europe and
the US had always accepted gifts and bequests from
private benefactors with stringent terms and conditions
attached, and in numerous cases it had proved difficult
to hang newly bequeathed groups of eclectic paintings
within a public gallery arranged along historic and/
or geographic principles. Consequently, negotiations
to modify the terms of obligation had frequently
taken place.94 A good comparison with the Martin
Colnaghi Bequest is that of the Mond Bequest, which
the National Gallery accepted around the same time,
in 1909. The chemical manufacturer Ludwig Mond’s
Collection included paintings by Bellini, Raphael,
Titian and Cranach. In 1928 the Mond Room was built
with the aid of a grant from the estate of Dr Mond to
house his collection. After the end of the Second World
War, however, the National Gallery and the Mond
family agreed to distribute the bequeathed pictures
throughout the Gallery’s permanent collection and to
have a plaque with an inscription placed in the Mond
Room as a permanent memorial to his generosity.95
Similar episodes have taken place beyond the walls of
Trafalgar Square, including the redistribution across
the galleries in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London,


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