A 17th century painting that was part of one of the most important collections of historical portraits in England has been acquired by Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery
for the citys permanent collections.
The Portrait of Johann Friederich, the Elector of Saxony and the Reformers was purchased thanks to funding support from the Art Fund
(£5,344) and the V&A/MLA Purchase Grant Fund (£6,120).
The painting is a copy of an original 16th century work and shows the leaders of the Protestant Reformation a movement that aimed to reform the Roman Catholic Church in Northern Europe during the 1500s.
At the centre of the portrait is Johann Friederich, the Elector of Saxony - a powerful supporter of the Reformation movement. The painting also includes portraits of Martin Luther and other German and Swiss reformers.
Although the painter of this particular portrait is unknown, the original work was created by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553), a leading 16th century artist who became one of the best known propagandists for the Protestant Reformation.
The version now acquired for Plymouth was originally commissioned by Edward Hyde, the first Lord Clarendon (1609-1674), MP for Saltash in 1640. Lord Clarendon rose to the post of Lord Chancellor and advisor to King Charles I and was a keen scholar and historian. Throughout his lifetime he acquired a series of important historical portraits.
Until 2010, the painting had been on loan to Plymouth alongside other works from the Clarendon Collection. It has now been permanently acquired for the Museum.
"This painting is a fascinating addition to our art collections in a number of ways, said Acting Keeper of Art, Alison Cooper. "It has local links through Lord Clarendon and links to works in our internationally important Cottonian Collection. It also helps us maintain a good record of the religious history of the region, adding to the variety of portraits we own and boosting our representation of the Tudor period. The work will become the subject of many ongoing research projects looking at portraiture of this period.
Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund, said: "With its dark background and vividly detailed faces, the painting offers a striking portrayal of these influential historical figures. Were pleased to have helped Plymouth acquire a work with such strong local links.
Two other newly acquired works are also now on display at the Museum and Art Gallery. Infant Tamar, evening warbler song is a landscape painting generously donated by the artist, Kurt Jackson in honour of the Museums centenary. Hakutai (A Thousand Years) by Naoki Takeyama is an enamel work in electric blue enamel and silver leaf. This was acquired in May through Art Fund Collect, an annual initiative run by the Art Fund in partnership with the Crafts Council, enabling UK curators to pick outstanding contemporary objects to add to their public collections.