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Fitzwilliam Museum launches public appeal to secure Nicholas Poussin masterpiece

14th August 2012

Fitzwilliam Museum has launched a public appeal to permanently secure a Nicholas Poussin masterpiece, which is valued at £14 million.

Interestingly, the painting, entitled Extreme Unction, which is from a series of works detailing the Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church, will be available to the Cambridge institution for a bargain £3.9 million.

This drastically cut price is possible through the UK government's acceptance in lieu scheme, which allows taxpayers to "offer items of cultural and historical importance to the state in full or part payment of their inheritance tax, capital transfer tax or estate duty".

The painting, which depicts the final sacrament (anointing of the sick), is currently owned by the 11th Duke of Rutland’s 2000 Settlement.

Poussin's tour de force was originally acquired by the Dukes of Rutland in 1785. The trustees agreed to sell it because they incurred inheritance tax when they sold the seventeenth century artist's other sacramental work Ordination for £15 million to the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. It will use the £3.9 million to pay this off.

"This would be the most significant old master painting acquired by the Museum in nearly a century and would transform our representation of French art and of the classical tradition through a masterpiece by the greatest French painter of the seventeenth century," the gallery commented.

"It is a 'destination painting' that will both benefit from the context of our great European collections and add greatly to the experience and programmes that we can offer the public."

The museum now has until November of this year to raise the money, hence the launch of its appeal. As well as generating funds via the public, Fitzwilliam has applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund and joined forces with the Art Fund to source capital from other avenues.

According to the Art Fund, which helps museums and galleries buy works of art, ten per cent of the total has already been raised.

Cadogan Tate specialises in the transportation and storage of fine art, delivered through expert art logistics.

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