Three iconic works from the National Gallery Collection – Manet’s The Execution of Maximilian, Canaletto’s A Regatta on the Grand Canal and Rembrandt’s Self Portrait at the Age of 63– will be touring galleries and museums around the country between 2014 and 2016.
The Masterpiece Tour is part of the National Gallery’s aim to promote the understanding, knowledge and appreciation of Old Master paintings to as wide an audience as possible. This opportunity to bring hugely popular National Gallery paintings to the public’s doorstep is being made possible by the generous support of Christie’s.
The three masterpieces will be going on the road – one per year – between 2014 and 2016. Each annual tour will run from January to July and visit three different regional museums. It will spend around six weeks in each venue.
The National Gallery is currently looking for the nine venues to host the Masterpiece Tour – any museum or gallery can apply to take part, as long as they meet certain criteria.*
Dr Nicholas Penny, Director of the National Gallery says, “The National Gallery was created for the benefit of the British public, but it must be acknowledged that many members of that public find it difficult and expensive to come to Trafalgar Square. Indeed it is now both easier and cheaper to fly to London from distant continental European cities than it is to reach London by bus and train from towns only a hundred or so miles away. We hope that the masterpieces sent on these tours will reach people who have never visited their national collection or haven’t done so for ages and we hope that many of those whom we do reach then feel inspired to visit or revisit.”
Steven P. Murphy, CEO, Christie’s says, “We have seen a significant cultural shift over the past few years as more and more people in this country and globally engage with art. We are particularly honoured to support this fantastic project which will make three celebrated masterpieces easily accessible to people around the country. The National Gallery aims to promote the understanding, knowledge and appreciation of art, and we are excited to support them and their aims with the Masterpiece Tour.”
The first painting to tour in 2014 will be The Execution of Maximilian by Edouard Manet (about 1867–8). This masterpiece depicts the fatal moment when the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian was captured by Mexican forces and executed alongside two of his generals, Mejía and Miramón, on 19 June 1867. The left-hand section of the canvas showing General Mejía was probably cut off by Manet himself. After the artist’s death the canvas was cut up into smaller fragments, some of which were sold separately. Edgar Degas eventually purchased all the surviving fragments and reassembled them on a single canvas. It has been part of the National Gallery Collection since 1918.
In 2015 the Masterpiece Tour will feature Canaletto’s A Regatta on the Grand Canal (about 1740). Canaletto masterfully conveys the atmosphere of the annual carnival regatta in Venice in a painting that shows a one-oared light gondola race. The arms of the Doge Alvise Pisani, who ruled from 1735–41, are visible on the ‘macchina della regatta’ (or floating pavilion) on the left, from where coloured flags were presented to the winners.
Rembrandt’s Self Portrait at the Age of 63 (1669) will go on tour in 2016. This was painted in the final year of Rembrandt’s life and is one of his last pictures. Rembrandt painted and etched self-portraits throughout his life, but those executed in his final years, in which he presents himself in a reflective mood, are among the most poignant and challenging. This work has been on display at the National Gallery since 1851.