National Galleries of Scotland £2.5m painting coup

Still Life of Flowers by Dutch artist Jan van Huysum. Picture: Contributed
Still Life of Flowers by Dutch artist Jan van Huysum. Picture: Contributed
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A FLOWER painting worth £2.5 million has been acquired by the National Galleries of Scotland - in lieu of death duties from a former owner of the work.

• National Galleries of Scotland acquire £2.5m painting by Dutch artist Jan van Huysum

• Flower painting is the first to enter any Scottish public art collection

• Artwork, entitled Still Life of Roses, dates from about 1718

It is the first piece by Dutch artist Jan van Huysum to enter any Scottish public art collection.

And it has gone on public display at the flagship NGS attraction on The Mound for the forseeable future.

He was one of Europe’s leading creators of flower still-life paintings in 17th and 18th century Holland and his work is held in major galleries around the world, including the Louvre in Paris and the National Gallery in London.

Although he specialised in flower painting, van Huysum also painted several landscapes throughout his career. He was the eldest son of Justus van Huysum, a versatile painter whose subjects included landscapes, seascapes, battle scenes, portraits, and flowers.

It has not been made public where the painting has been held in recent years, although its previous owners did try to sell it off at auction via Sotheby’s in New York.

Jan van Huysum studied under his father but soon surpassed him in his skills, specialising in “exquisitely detailed” floral paintings.

Described as “magnificent” by experts at the National Galleries of Scotland, the painting - officially known as Still Life of Roses, Tulips, Peonies and other Flowers in a Sculpted Vase and a Bird’s Nest on a Ledge - is the first Dutch still life to be held by the organisation. It dates from about 1718.

NGS chiefs put a bid in for the work under the UK-wide “acceptance in lieu” scheme operated by the Arts Council of England, which normally sees around 10 major works of art a year secured for Scotland’s museums and galleries.

The scheme allows trustees of an estate to give significant items to the nation in lieu of death duties. The Scottish Government and arts organisations are able to join forces to make a case for a work of art to head north of the border, with no cost to the public purse.

Last year, a precious bowl that once belonged to Charles the Great, founder of the Roman Empire, was acquired for the National Museum of Scotland as it had been owned by the tenth Duke of Hamilton, Alexander, owner of Hamilton Palace.

Michael Clarke, director of the Scottish National Gallery, said: “Van Huysum was an absolute master of the art of flower painting in 18th-century Holland.

“Expensive flowers had been imported into Holland from the seventeenth century onwards and there was a great demand from the affluent merchant classes for paintings which depicted these exotic blooms.

“The hyper-realism and technical sophistication of many of these flower paintings is incredible.

“This is a really major example, and we are delighted to have been allocated it through the government’s acceptance in lieu scheme.”

Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The ‘acceptance in lieu’ scheme allows the Scottish Government to acquire important works of art on behalf of our national collections.

“With up to 10 items allocated to Scotland each year, it is an excellent way to enrich the range of internationally renowned paintings and artefacts that are available for everyone in Scotland to enjoy.

“The Jan van Huysum painting is an important and valuable acquisition and one which I hope gives great joy to the Galleries’ many thousands of visitors.”