Tate Britain Room 1
20 March 2008 – 11 January 2009
Special Display: The Apotheosis of James I and other studies: sketch for the ceiling of the Banqueting House, Whitehall
Tate Britain, with the help of The Art Fund, the UK’s leading independent art charity, is actively seeking support to raise £6 million to save the very first sketch Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) made for his magnificent ceiling paintings in the Banqueting House, Whitehall.
The Apotheosis of James I and other studies: sketch for the ceiling of the Banqueting House, Whitehall, of about 1629–30, has been owned by a private collection in England for over two hundred years and Tate now has a unique opportunity to acquire this beautiful painting for the nation.
The painting is valued at £11.5m but is on offer to Tate at £6m net of special tax concessions. Tate has so far secured £1.5m towards this sum including a pledge of £500,000 from The Art Fund and £300,000 from Tate Members. The Art Fund has built a dedicated website for the campaign. Anyone wanting to donate money can do so from this website, which can also be accessed via Tate Online.
Stephen Deuchar, Director of Tate Britain said:
This Rubens work is the only sketch for the overall composition of the Banqueting House ceiling that exists and is a unique treasure in the history of British art. Tate Britain, the national gallery of British art, does not currently own a work by Rubens. By acquiring this painting we can begin to represent the magnitude of his importance in Britain. I am delighted that The Art Fund and Tate Members recognise the importance of this work and have given substantial sums towards saving it for the nation.
David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund, said:
This exquisite sketch shows Rubens at the very height of his powers and gives a vivid insight into how this great artist approached this enormously important and influential commission. It is hard to think of any work of art that better deserves to be saved than this.
Rubens has always been recognised as one of the greatest painters in Western art and his ceiling paintings for the Banqueting House, Whitehall comprise the most important artistic commission of the period in Britain. The Apotheosis of James I and other studies gives a crucial insight into the artist’s earliest ideas for the design.
The Banqueting House was designed by Inigo Jones and constructed between 1619 and 1622. Rubens was in London from 1629–30 acting as a diplomat working for peace between Spain and England. During his time here the commission to paint the ceiling was confirmed. This initial sketch was probably painted in London and shown to King Charles I, James I’s son, for approval. The final nine canvasses were painted in his Antwerp studio and installed around mid-March 1636.
The Apotheosis of James I and other studies will be shown in this special temporary display at Tate Britain, which is open until 31 July, where it will be shown alongside Apollo bestowing Royal Liberality, suppresses Avarice, modello about 1632–33 (The Courtauld Institute Gallery), an ‘intermediate’ sketch for one of the ceiling paintings.