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Apollo Advent Calendar: Day 13

13 December 2013

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.

Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Extreme Unction, c. 1637–40
Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665)
Oil on canvas, 95.5×121cm
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the Fitzwilliam Museum, and acquired with additional contributions after a public appeal led by the Art Fund from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Friends of the Fitzwilliam Museum, the Monument Trust, and numerous private donors and charitable organisations

Following a period on display at the National Gallery while funds were raised to secure its acquisition (achieved late last year), this measured masterpiece from Poussin’s first series of the Seven Sacraments is at the centre of an ambitious exhibition initiative at the Fitzwilliam. The painting, commissioned by scholar and patron Cassiano dal Pozzo, depicts a man being administered the last rites. In 1785 it was acquired in Rome with the rest of the series by the Duke of Rutland, and caused a sensation when it was subsequently exhibited at the Royal Academy. Joshua Reynolds judged the works to be Poussin’s greatest, in preference to the later series of 1644–48, on long-term loan to the National Galleries of Scotland from the Duke of Sutherland.

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