Apollo is counting down to Christmas by celebrating some of the greatest acquisitions, gifts and bequests of 2013. We’ll take a closer look each day at one of the outstanding objects, works of art or collections shortlisted for the Apollo Awards Acquisition of the Year.
National Gallery; Ashmolean Museum; Scottish National Gallery; Fitzwilliam Museum; Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery; Temple Newsam House
57 paintings from the private collection of Sir Denis Mahon
Pictured: Allegory of Justice, early 1680s
Luca Giordano (1634–1705)
Oil on canvas, 99.9×96cm
Presented to the National Gallery by the Trustees of Sir Denis Mahon’s Charitable Trust through the Art Fund, 2013
When the art historian and connoisseur Denis Mahon bought his first Guercino in 1934, Italian baroque paintings were decidedly out of fashion, but the masterpieces that he amassed over his lifetime now have a place in some of the finest UK collections. The 57 works that make up this gift were already on long-term loan to their respective homes (25 are in London; 12 in Oxford; eight in Edinburgh; six in Cambridge; five in Birmingham and one in Leeds), but this year sees the completion of their transfer by the Art Fund, which received Mahon’s collection on his death, aged 100, in 2011. Mahon, who joined the Fund as a teenager in 1926, was outspokenly opposed to gallery entrance fees and deaccession; the works are donated on the condition that the beneficiaries pursue neither policy. The lively modello for Allegory of Justice, pictured, was made for the Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence by Giordano (known as Fra Presto for his rapid work) and goes to the National Gallery.