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Titian (c.1485/90-1576), The Triumph of Love.

LONDON.- A rare painting by the great Venetian painter Titian (c.1485/90-1576) has come into public ownership through the Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) scheme, with an additional grant of £180,000 from independent charity The Art Fund.

The AIL scheme enables items deemed to be of historical or artistic importance to be given in place of inheritance tax and is administered by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), on behalf of the government.

The circular painting, The Triumph of Love has not been seen since it was exhibited in 1960 at the Royal Academy. It depicts Cupid armed with bow, quiver and arrow standing on the back of a roaring lion which growls impotently as love rides triumphant. The group is given a Venetian setting, with a fantasy lagoon view and the Dolomites rising in the distance.

Scientific examination by The National Gallery has recently confirmed the painting’s high quality. Titian’s spontaneous and creative under drawing has now been revealed beneath the paint surface. Owing to the painting’s grimy and over-painted appearance, some doubts had been raised as to its authorship. The imaginative composition, the changes of mind visible in the under drawing and brushwork, and the freshness of the modelling of the figure of Cupid all testify that this is a painting by Titian and not the work of a pupil or follower.

The painting, which dates from the mid 1540s, was made for Titian’s friend and patron, Gabriel Vendramin (1484-1552), who also commissioned the National Gallery’s The Vendramin Family venerating a relic of the True Cross from the artist. The Triumph of Love had a specific function as a timpano or cover which would have been placed over another painting, for reasons of decorum. In Gabriel Vendramin’s collection, it acted as the cover for a portrait of a noblewoman dressed in black, also by Titian and as yet unidentified.

The painting has undergone careful conservation and cleaning at the National Gallery and will be on display as part of an exhibition in Room One of the National Gallery from 21 July – 20 September, admission is free. It will then be on permanent display in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, which will re-open in November 2009 following a major redevelopment project.

The amount of tax that could have been settled by the acceptance of this painting exceeded the actual liability payable by the offeror. The painting actually settled £619,856 and the Ashmolean Museum, to whom the painting has been permanently allocated in accordance with the condition of the offering estate, has contributed £430,144, of which £180,000 has been donated by The Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation).

MLA Chair, Sir Andrew Motion, said: "This haunting image of Cupid having subdued the fierce lion is a wonderful acquisition for the Ashmolean Museum and will be a major attraction when the museum reopens this year. The acceptance of this painting has only been possible because of the combined efforts of Government and private donors and again demonstrates what is possible when the tax system acts as an encouragement to private philanthropy."

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Titian (c.1485/90-1576), The Triumph of Love