|Julia by Joseph Wright|
Now here is some exciting news from Us (formerly USPG) who is our principal partner and collaborator in terms of fund-raising and support for our Diocese in Europe refugee response:
The Revd Tim Harford, Us Director of Fundraising and Communications, describes below in his own words how Us came into possession of an Old Master painting that is to be auction at Sotheby’s to raise funds for refugees in Europe:
When my phone rings it is more often than not someone trying to sell me something – advertising space, promotional products, a conference place…So one of my recent phone calls really took me by surprise:
‘I see you are helping the Diocese in Europe to co-ordinate its response to the Europe refugee crisis. My family own an old painting by one of England’s most celebrated artists. It was valued a few years ago at £180,000. We’d like to give it to you so we can play our part in all this.’
What an incredible offer!
I cleared my throat, then my diary, and agreed I would visit the gentleman, his wife and their son two days later. I met a delightful couple. Their home was simple, adequately furnished and equipped, but not displaying any signs of an extravagant or indulgent lifestyle. They talked about their concern for the refugees entering Europe and their heartfelt desire to do something about it. We discussed the sort of things that the Diocese in Europe would like to achieve and how their gift could be put to use to support many people through the most distressing circumstances over the coming months.
Their son took me over to his house to show me the painting in question, hanging in the dining room. Interestingly the painting depicts a young woman in exile, kneeling in a cave, with her hands held out as in an appeal for help. It seems very appropriate. Entitled Julia, by Joseph Wright of Derby, the painting carries the inscription: ‘A cavern with the figure of Julia banished thither by her grandfather Augustus.’ (The cavern in the painting is in Naples and was first sketched by him around 1774.)
On returning to his parents’ home I was fed with lamb chops and new potatoes and given a handwritten note gifting the painting to Us.
Well outside my normal sphere, I have now been in touch with Sotheby’s in London to discuss how we would bring this extraordinary gift to market. The painting is known to them and their specialist in British paintings 1550-1850 has tentatively suggested the painting should be presented for auction at their ‘Old Master and British Paintings’ sale on 9 December 2015, one of their most prestigious sales of the year.
Sotheby’s specialist will shortly be visiting the donors to carry out a valuation of the painting, which I await with great excitement.