Blen­heim’s lost mas­ter­pieces

The Week Middle East - - Arts -

“No one could ac­cuse the Duke of Marl­bor­ough of be­ing afraid of a chal­lenge,” says Han­nah Fur­ness in The Sun­day Tele­graph. The 12th Duke, for­merly Jamie Bland­ford, who in­her­ited Blen­heim Palace in 2014 after a “colour­ful” early adult­hood, has em­barked on an am­bi­tious project to lo­cate and re­trieve the hun­dreds of art­works and books sold by his an­ces­tors over the years. In par­tic­u­lar, he wishes to lo­cate works lost in a “fa­mous” 1886 sale, when paint­ings by Van Dyck (pic­tured), Ti­tian, Rem­brandt, Rubens, Gains­bor­ough, Reynolds, Car­avag­gio and Hol­bein were sold at Christie’s to cover death du­ties. Be­fore the sale, he said, Blen­heim had the “best art col­lec­tion in the Western world”. In 1881, 18,000 books from the palace’s Sun­der­land Li­brary were sold, mak­ing nearly £60,000. Even itemis­ing the lost arte­facts will be a decade-long en­ter­prise. “It’s colos­sal,” said Alexa Frost, the ar­chiv­ist head­ing the project.

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