Double portrait

The English School double portrait, c.1650, bought by Compton Verney.

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As reported in ATG 2578 in Janaury, Compton Verney was raising the £304,534 (the sale price plus fees and VAT) to secure the picture after it had been blocked from export.

It has now revealed that the money has been raised and it has completed the purchase. Grants of £154,600 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and £50,000 from the V&A Purchase helped secure the picture with the remainder coming from the Compton Verney Collections Settlement.

The picture, titled an Allegorical Painting of Two Ladies, was originally sold at Trevanion Auctioneers in June 2021 (ATG 2499) for a hammer price of £220,000. It was then temporarily barred from export in 2021 in the hope a UK institution could raise the funds.

Double portrait

The English School double portrait, c.1650, which will go on display at Compton Verney in 2024.

The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA) said at the time that the work should remain in the UK because of its “outstanding significance” to the study of race and gender in 17th century Britain.

Andrew Hochhauser, chair of the RCEWA, said: “This anonymous mid-17th century painting is a great rarity: it shows two women with beauty patches, one black and one white, side by side, presented as companions and equals.”

The painting will now undergo conservation and research at Yale in the US, before being unveiled in a display at Compton Verney in Warwickshire 2024.

Geraldine Collinge, Compton Verney CEO said: “We are pleased to be able to work with our colleagues at Yale – their world-class conservation facilities and expertise will restore the work to the highest standard for UK display, along with providing further insight and greater understanding of the painting and its context.” 

Dr Simon Thurley, chair of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, said: “This dual portrait provides great opportunities to enrich our understanding of race and gender in the 17th century. We look forward to hearing the outcomes of the research that will be undertaken at Yale.”

The 2ft 1in x 2ft 6in (64 x 75cm) unattributed oil on canvas from the Cromwellian period had previously been in the collection of Lloyd Tyrell-Kenyon, 6th Baron Kenyon, who died in 2019. It had been kept for at least a century at Gredington, the family’s Shropshire manor house which was demolished in 1980.

The artwork came to nearby saleroom Trevanion (20% buyer’s premium) along with other paintings, books and works of art from Lord Kenyon’s estate.

Lord Kenyon was quoted in a 1949 article in Country Life as saying: “We have a curious picture which has hung here for many years, but of which I know of no real explanation.”