Our latest acquisitions
We are always interested in acquiring objects that hold connections to our historic houses. We benefit from gifts and bequests and occasionally we purchase works of art at auction or by private treaty. We're also a major beneficiary of the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme, through which we are allocated objects that have been accepted by the Government in lieu of tax.
Collection of Flemish, Dutch, French and British paintings and watercolours to Penrhyn Castle
A collection of 34 oil paintings and a set of six watercolours have been accepted in lieu of inheritance tax by the Government and allocated to the National Trust for display at Penrhyn Castle, Wales. The oil paintings include landscapes, historical events, religious scenes and portraits from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. The watercolours depict Jamaican landscapes, possibly scenes of the estate owned by Richard Pennant, 1st Baron Penrhyn (1739-1808). The early Pennant family fortune derived from Jamaican sugar and slave plantations.
A highlight of the collection is ‘The Conversion of Saint Hubert’ of 1660 by the Dutch Golden Age artist Philips Wouwerman (1619-1688). It shows a scene from the life of St Hubert, who as a young man leading a dissolute life, was converted by the apparition of a speaking crucifix between the antlers of a stag at bay: 'Why are you pursuing me? I am Jesus, whom you honour without being aware of it'.
Many of the works are thought to have been originally acquired by Edwards Gordon Douglas-Pennant, 1st Baron Penrhyn of Llandegai (1800-86), who amassed Penrhyn's art collection, once lending to the Castle the reputation of 'The Gallery of North Wales'.
Rothschild Basil pot to Waddesdon Manor
A very rare and very fine 15th-century Basil pot has been accepted in lieu of inheritance tax by the Government and allocated to the National Trust for display at Waddesdon Manor.
Basil pots were items of luxury in Renaissance households. Planted with scented herbs, they were used to perfume interior rooms.The Rothschild Basil pot has a distinctive lustred decoration of stylised bryony flowers and parsley leaves, as well as armorials of unicorn heads. Made in Valencia, Spain in around 1440-70, it is the finest of three known surviving examples.
This pot was first recorded in the collection of Baron Edmond de Rothschild in Paris in 1903. Its acquisition would have been in keeping with the family’s interest in collecting objects which once formed part of courtly European collections of treasures, or Kunstkammern. The Basil pot, which until now has been on loan to Waddesdon Manor, forms the centrepiece of the Kunstkammern display in the Smoking Room.
Rex Whistler's portrait of Lord Henry Paget, later the 7th Marquess of Anglesey to Plas Newydd
A portrait of Henry, Earl of Uxbridge (1922 – 2013), who was to become Seventh Marquess of Anglesey, has recently been purchased at auction for Plas Newydd. The Seventh Marquess, who died in 2013 and is held very dearly in people's memories, was the donor of Plas Newydd to the National Trust.
The portrait shows Henry at fourteen years of age. He is depicted as a young scholar, surrounded by books, in a manner evocative of Italian Reniassance portraiture.
Henry probably sat for Whistler while the artist was staying at Plas Newydd, painting his great Dining Room mural for the Sixth Marquess. Plas Newydd holds one of the largest and most significant collections of Whistler’s work, yet until this acquisition, lacked a portrait of its donor.
The painting was acquired at auction at Sotheby's, London on 12 June 2017.
Masterpiece by Isack van Ostade returns to Waddesdon Manor
Isack van Ostade's painting, Figures Outside an Inn, has returned to Waddesdon Manor as a gift from Lord Rothschild to the National Trust through the Cultural Gifts Scheme.
This landscape is one of the finest examples of van Ostade's work. Painted in 1647 towards the end of the artist’s life, this work demonstrates masterful technical and colouristic skill.
The painting is recorded in Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild's ‘Red Book’ which he printed privately in 1897 and lists his collection of favourite works of art and pictures at Waddesdon.
The Cultural Gifts Scheme enables UK taxpayers to donate important works of art and other heritage objects to be held for the benefit of the public or the nation. In return, donors receive a tax reduction based on a set percentage of the value of the item they donate.
Edward Sackville West's copy of Orlando, with dedication by Virginia Woolf, acquired for Knole
A copy of the novel Orlando by Virginia Woolf (1882–1941), with a dedication by the author to Edward Sackville-West, fifth Baron Sackville (1901–65), was purchased at auction at Sotheby’s, London.
The novel follows the adventures of a poet who lives for centuries and changes from a man into a woman. It is a meditation on history and gender, partly inspired by Woolf’s relationship with Vita Sackville-West (1892–1962) and by the latter’s ancestral home, Knole, which, as a woman, she couldn’t inherit because of the rules of primogeniture. The reluctant heir to Knole was her cousin, Edward Sackville-West.
This copy was presented by Virginia to Edward Sackville-West, a cousin of Vita, who was known as ‘Eddy’ by his friends. Eddy was a prolific writer, journalist and broadcaster, passionate about art, music and books. He had an apartment at Knole from 1926 in anticipation of inheriting the house. Part of his extensive library is still at Knole. This copy of Orlando is a poignant symbol of the complex relationship between Virginia, Vita, Eddy and Knole.
This acquisition was made possible by a grant from the Friends of the National Libraries, by various gifts to Knole and to the National Trust generally and to a fund set up by Miss D.E. Johnstone to support book projects at Hallhouse Farm, Appledore, and elsewhere in Kent.
Iconic Elizabethan miniature portrait secured for Powis Castle and for the nation
One of the most important miniature paintings of the Jacobean age has been secured in perpetuity for Powis Castle, its historic home, and for the nation.
The painting is a cabinet miniature portrait of Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury (1581/3–1648), famed poet, philosopher and statesman. He lived at Montgomery Castle and was first cousin of Sir William Herbert, 1st Lord Powis. It has been in the Powis family since its creation.
It was painted between c.1613-1614 by the royal miniaturist Isaac Oliver. Oliver was a pupil of Nicholas Hilliard and was one of the earliest and most important Renaissance artists working in England.
Oliver shows Lord Herbert in a melancholic and contemplative pose, at rest in a lush landscape along the banks of a stream. His shield, decorated with a heart emerging from flames, is inscribed ‘magica sympathia’. 'Sympathetic magic’ was an aspect of Herbert’s philosophical treatise, 'De Veritate' ('On Truth'), in which he explores the transformation of human desire into sublime knowledge. The sparks rising from the heart represent the struggle to attain this heavenly wisdom.
This work is exceptional not only for its unusual iconography, with the sitter shown full-length, recumbent and in a landscape setting, but also for its comparatively large size (230mm x 189mm) in relation to most miniatures.
It was purchased by private treaty, with the help of grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund, a fund set up by the late Hon. Simon Sainsbury and a bequest from Winifred Hooper, 2016.
The miniature will form the centrepiece of the exhibition House of Portraits at Powis in 2018.
Thomas Gainsborough portrait returns to Knole
Thomas Gainsborough’s elegant portrait of Louis-Pierre Quentin de Richebourg, marquis de Champcenetz (1754– 1822), has returned to Knole after an absence of more than eight decades. This reacquisition for Knole marks the important return of a significant work by one of Britain’s most treasured artists.
Champcenetz was a French courtier and soldier who fought in the American War of Independence. He later served as Governor of the Tuileries Palace where he survived an assault by revolutionary forces on 10 August 1792. His portrait formed part of the collection at Knole since at least 1793 when it was in the possession of John Frederick Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset. In 1930 it was sold to a collector in the United States where it remained, in several different hands, until its reappearance for sale this year.
The portrait was purchased at auction at Sotheby's, New York with contributions from a fund set up by the late Hon. Simon Sainsbury, from the Winchelsea National Trust Centre and Association and from other gifts and bequests.