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The Striking portrait of the flamboyant Egyptologist, Giovanni Belzoni, by Jan Adam Kruseman (1804-1862) has been donated to the Fitzwilliam under the Cultural Gifts Scheme by Daniel Katz Limited, in honour of Tim Knox who served as Director of The Fitzwilliam Museum between 2013 – 2018.
To read the press release visit the Arts Council website.
The oil painting is thought to be a portrait of the 19th century explorer and archaeologist Giovanni Battista Belzoni (1778-1823), known as the “Great Belzoni”.  
The characteristics displayed by the sitter in the portrait – such as the strongman pose, ample facial hair and oriental costume – can be identified in other known portraits of Belzoni. 
Born in Italy, Giovanni Belzoni studied hydraulic engineering before travelling throughout Europe and coming to England in 1803. He worked as a circus strongman at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, where his height (at almost 2 metres tall) and large build meant he became a freak show attraction, impressing audiences with displays of his strength under his stage names the “Patagonian Samson” and “the Great Belzoni.” In 1815 Belzoni sailed to Egypt and was employed by Henry Salt, British consul to Egypt, to remove and transport objects like the granite head of Ramesses II to England for the British Museum. 
In 1823 (the year before this portrait was completed) Belzoni presented the Fitzwilliam Museum with the lid of the sarcophagus of Ramesses III, which he had discovered in the Valley of the Kings and transported back to England. An unusual gesture for Belzoni as the antiquities he acquired were usually sold to finance future expeditions. As an early benefactor of the museum, Belzoni is credited as the founder of the Fitzwilliam’s extensive collection of Egyptian art. 
Professor Geoff Ward, Acting Director of the Fitzwilliam said: “As Acting Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum I am delighted that, thanks to Daniel Katz Gallery, this imposing but genial portrait of the Great Belzoni will henceforth be on show to the public. I am delighted too that it honours the contribution to the Museum made by our last full-time Director, Tim Knox.  From July to October 2019 the portrait will be at the heart of an exhibition about Belzoni in the Fitzwilliam's Octagon Gallery, which will draw on our collections to look at the life of this extraordinary individual.”
The Museum is thrilled to announce that a second painting has been acquired for the Museum in honour of the Directorship of Tim Knox.  The portrait of Charles-Jean-Pierre de Barentin, comte de Montchal, vicomte de la Motte (1705-1763), Seigneur de Noyen, Grizy & Brigadier des armées du roi, was painted in 1736 by Nicolas de Largillière.  It was bought from the Perceval and Gow Funds, with generous donations from the Aldama Foundation, Hartley-Johnson Bequest, and many other supporters.
Representing 18th-century French portrait painting at its peak, the painting brilliantly complements the museum’s existing holdings of French paintings, drawings and prints. Currently, this magnificent portrait presides in splendour in Gallery 4, over a group of works by contemporaries or near contemporaries such as François Desportes, Jean-François de Troy, Nicolas Lancret, Jean-Baptiste Pater and Largillière’s own pupil, Jean-Baptiste Oudry.

With its fictive bellicose setting and fanciful armour, the painting also has a place within a series of portraits of men in armour displayed throughout the museum.

Thomas Gainsborough's portrait of Gertrude Leveson-Gower, Duchess of Bedford has also been allocated to the Fitzwilliam under the Cultural Gifts scheme.

The Cultural Gifts Scheme was launched by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport in March 2013 as an important element of its expanding programme to encourage philanthropy for the arts. It is administered by Arts Council and enables UK taxpayers to donate important objects to the nation during their lifetime. Items accepted under the Scheme are allocated to public collections and are available for all. In return, donors will receive a reduction in their income tax, capital gains tax or corporation tax liability, based on a set percentage of the value of the object they are donating: 30 per cent for individuals and 20 per cent for companies.

Under Acceptance in Lieu the Fitzwilliam has been allocated the following:

  • The Pilkington Chinese ceramics collection
  • Edgar Degas: Danse Espagnole
  • William Blake works on paper

Read the Cultural Gifts Scheme & Acceptance in Lieu Annual Report 2018

Posted on : 
Tuesday 4 December 2018