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Chichester parish art auctioned for £1 million January 3, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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Four scenes from the Passion of Christ, Niccolo di Pietro Gerini, circa 1390

A set of four 14th century Italian paintings belonging to a Chichester parish have been sold at auction at Sotheby’s for £1,105,250. On 5 Dec 2012 four tempera paintings on linen depicting scenes from the passion narrative were sold by St Michael and All Angels, Withyham, East Sussex after a faculty to sell the art was given by the Diocese of Chichester.

Believed to be part of a 14th century narrative cycle, the Sotheby’s catalog states the paintings are datable on stylistic grounds to circa 1390 and are “generally attributed” to Niccolò di Pietro Gerini. They depict Christ washing the Feet of the Disciples, The Betrayal of Christ (or The Kiss of Judas), The Mocking of Christ and The Flagellation.

In 1849 Edward John Ottley presented the set to the parish. Brought from Italy in 1791 by his uncle William Young Ottley, R.A, (1771-1836) the paintings had hung the church until 1990, when they were taken to the Courtauld Institute for cleaning.  After the paintings were identified, they were deemed too valuable to be hung in an unprotected church and were transferred on loan to Leeds Castle in 1997.

Permission to sell the paintings was granted by the Chancellor of Chichester Diocese, Mark Hill QC, who held they had no integral part in the history of Withyham Church or its devotional life; that they had been absent from the church for over 20 years and were unlikely ever to return; and that their potential value could yield much needed income for the church which the donor, Edward John Ottley, intended to benefit by his gift.

The Rev. Adrian Leak, Priest in Charge of Withyham noted the donor, “Edward John Ottley will rejoice that once again Withyham Church will benefit from his gift.”

Proceeds from the sale will be placed in trust for the parish to maintain the church and churchyard. Full-sized replicas of the paintings have been hung in the place where the originals were displayed for over 150 years.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.