You've got just four weeks from today to gaze on Titian's masterpiece, Diana and Actaeon, at the National Gallery, hanging with its sequel, Death of Actaeon, which was acquired by the National Gallery in 1972. They haven't been seen together for 200 years. The painting's been brought down from Scotland to help accelerate the huge and desperate joint fundraising campaign by the National Gallery and National Galleries of Scotland to find £50m by New Year's Eve to buy it before its owner turns to the open international art market where finding a couple of hundred mill to ship it and others from the collection abroad is unlikely to be a problem.
Diana and Actaeon is part of the Bridgewater Collection of Old Masters which has been on loan to the National Galleries of Scotland for 60 years. But the credit crunch makes even the most affluent, hereditary landowners tighten their belts and the current owner of the collection, the Duke of Sutherland, needs to "rebalance" his not inconsiderable assets. Hence he's offering Diana and Actaeon at a bargain price, relatively speaking, and if the Galleries manage to do it, he's offering another Titian, it's partner painting, Diana and Callisto, for a mere £50m subsequently. The twin purchases would secure the loan of the entire collection for a further 21 years and the £100m presumably will shore up the Duke's estate rather nicely.
He owns the paintings so of course he can do what he likes with them and the terms do sound favourable. But is the fate of a pair of beautiful, historic paintings compelling enough to motivate the public, private donors, businesses and trusts to shell out urgently, given Christmas is icumen, in this economic climate? The Bridgewater Collection is apparently considered of such importance to our nation that incoming Prime Ministers are briefed on its contents but does Joe Public, however art aware, really care if the Titians are saved for Britain? You tell us.
Or you can tell us to shut up and support the campaign. The paintings are on display at the National Gallery until 20 November.