The Triumph of Venus by Rubens will be displayed at the National Gallery for the first time in many years after it was acquired for the nation through the AIL scheme. Photograph (c) National Gallery

Acceptance in Lieu scheme secures 12 new treasures

Geraldine Kendall, 06.01.2012
Rubens masterpiece and Iron Age burial ornament among the bequests
The government’s Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) scheme announced over Christmas that it had secured 12 new cultural treasures for the nation, including one of its most expensive bequests - The Triumph of Venus, a rarely-seen £4.4m painting by Rubens.

AIL was founded in 1910 and allows donors to offset their inheritance tax liabilities by leaving objects of cultural, historical or artistic significance to the public.

Arts Council England (ACE) published details of the 12 donations last month. Pieces of note include Rome from Monte Mario, a landscape by Turner depicting the artist’s visit to the city in 1820, and a £680,000 collection of paintings, drawings and etchings by Walter Sickert.

The oldest gift is the Capel Garmon Firedog, a large, intricately decorated artefact dating from the 1st century AD that was discovered in a peat bog in 1852.

The object, which was probably part of a chieftain burial, is one of the most important discoveries from the Iron Age in Europe and will remain at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, where it is currently on loan.

Other recipients include Aberdeen Art Gallery, which was allocated a late sculpture by Barbara Heptworth, and heritage centres at Somerset and Swindon, both of which will share a 14th century archive from the Wyndham family.

Two more archives were also donated. One, which will be accessible online, features records and letters from the 1930s to the 1970s belonging to Lord and Lady Mountbatten, covering the former’s time as last Viceroy of India. Among the documents is a note from Mahatma Ghandhi indicating his tacit approval to India’s partition.

The other will go to the National Maritime Museum and features papers from Royal Astronomer Nevil Maskelyne, who is best known for inventing the star charts that transformed naval navigation in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. 

Culture minister Ed Vaizey said: “This has been another amazing year for acceptance in lieu. It’s brilliant to see so many wonderful items entering public collections where they can be enjoyed by everyone.”

Museums Association collections coordinator Sally Colvin said: "One of the great benefits of AIL is that secured objects are shared around the UK for a range of audiences to benefit. And that’s true again here with the 12 objects being spread from Aberdeen to Somerset."

Art Fund acquisitions

In addition to the news from ACE, the Art Fund announced that it boosted its membership by 15% to over 90,000 members in 2011.

The charity supports public acquisitions through membership and fundraising, and committed over £4.4m to help museums and galleries acquire objects last year.

That sum facilitated 150 acquisitions, including the Museum of Somerset’s Frome Hoard, the largest hoard of Roman coins yet to be discovered, and the British Museum’s Nimrud Ivories, a collection of carved figurines invaluable to the study of the Assyrian civilization.