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National Gallery acquires great trio

The National Gallery has taken ownership of three pictures by three 18th century greats. They come from the collection of the late banker George Pinto via a tax arrangement with his estate.

Pinto (1929-2018) was an art lover and patron of the National Gallery and a trustee of the Wallace Collection. He kept a select collection of paintings he had inherited at his homes in Kent and Knightsbridge and particularly admired the work of Liotard.

The pictures were acquired via the Acceptance in Lieu scheme. In this case it settled £10.03m of tax.

The pictures acquired are: Jean-Etienne Liotard’s The Lavergne Family Breakfast (1754); Thomas Gainsborough’s Portrait of Margaret Gainsborough holding a Theorbo (c.1777); Sir Thomas Lawrence’s Portrait of the Hon. Peniston Lamb (c.1790).

Chocolate box has educational use

The Bodleian Library has added an unusual piece of culinary history to its collection.

During the 19th century, French chocolate producer Chocolat Menier created a series of mahogany boxes to be used as teaching devices in schools. The unassuming containers, measuring 14½in (37cm) wide, opened to reveal rows of labelled compartments filled with the raw material of the chocolate trade.

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The Bodleian Library acquired this chocolate box museum from US dealer Ben Kinmont, who offered it for $5500.

The example in question was produced for the Musées Scolaires de l’Ecole de Garchizy in central France. Within is a colour lithograph of the Menier factory with text on the history of chocolate and the producers.

Nine of the compartments contain the remains of cacao beans and one has three glass vials containing cacao butter.

It was offered for $5500 by US dealer Ben Kinmont in a recent catalogue, where it was spotted by the Oxford library.

Gold hits high as a ‘safe haven’ buy

An all-time high for gold was recorded in the UK last week as investors looked to the traditional safe haven at a time of grave economic uncertainty.

The gold fix rose to £1450.85 on May 18, a figure that represented a 26% rise since the start of 2020.

As stockmarkets struggle to make up lost ground after lockdowns were imposed throughout the world, lower interest rates for cash have also added to impetus towards alternative investments.

Brighton precious metals dealer Michael Bloomstein said: “We shouldn’t be surprised that in these unprecedented and nervous times caused by Covid-19 that people are seeking the safe haven of gold. The problem for investors, though, is getting hold of the stuff as it remains quite scarce in the current market.”

He added that recent enquiries show that many bullion dealers have sold investment bars equivalent to one full year’s trading by the middle of May.

One of the problems for both jewellery dealers and members of the public looking to cash in on the high scrap values is that that precious metals traders in the UK are not currently taking items over the counter.

Bloomstein’s shop in Brighton is temporarily closed but is set to reopen in June pending government advice on the ongoing lockdown.

Harpsichord to stay in UK at museum

A harpsichord that was sold at The Canterbury Auction Galleries in 2018 to a US buyer and later barred from export by the government has been saved for the nation by Gainsborough’s House museum.

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This harpsichord sold at The Canterbury Auction Galleries in 2018 is now staying in the UK.

The double-manual harpsichord by London maker Joseph Mahoon (1696-1773) had been temporarily blocked from export following a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA). The museum, with help from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund and the V&A Purchase Fund, matched the £85,560 price that the US buyer had paid at auction (including fees).

Gainsborough’s House museum in Sudbury, Suffolk, is the birthplace of artist Thomas Gainsborough (1727-88). He is known to have had a great passion for music and owned a harpsichord.

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In Numbers

73%

The projected loss in revenue for dealers in the US in the second quarter of 2020 due to the coronavirus crisis, according to an impact survey released last week by the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA).