Tax scheme helps gallery
Portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie saved for nation
Valued at more than £1 million, the work is by Allan Ramsay, one of the greatest Scottish portrait painters of the eighteenth century and is thought to have been created at Holyrood in Edinburgh during the Prince’s short time in the city.
The portrait was gifted in lieu of £1.23 million inheritance tax through the Acceptance in Lieu of Tax scheme.
Edinburgh-born Ramsay (1713-1784), the son of a poet of the same name, studied in London, Rome and Naples, before returning to Scotland in 1738.
He worked for the grandest patrons both north and south of the border, creating a reputation for displaying great sensitivity to the characters of his sitters and masterly renderings of their clothes and poses in his paintings.
His portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie is a regarded as an “accomplished early work”, created when the sitter was 25 and the artist 32. Charles is depicted in half-length format, turning to confront the viewer directly. He wears a powdered wig, has a velvet robe fringed with ermine, and the blue riband and star of the Order of the Garter. The portrait was used as a prototype for painted and engraved versions, which were employed to promote the Jacobite cause.
Since the eighteenth century the painting has formed part of a collection outside Edinburgh; it has come from the Wemyss Heirlooms Trust and was last exhibited in the city in 1946.
Attention was drawn to its status by a BBC 2 Culture Show Special last month, presented by Bendor Grosvenor. The painting will be displayed in Gallery 4 of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery as a centrepiece to the Gallery’s outstanding collection of Jacobite art which is one of the great strengths of the collection. The National Galleries of Scotland houses a collection of Ramsay’s drawings and paintings.
Christopher Baker, director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, said: “This meticulous and dashing portrait is a work of great historical resonance, which in a real sense has now come home, as it will be celebrated as a key work in the nation’s Jacobite collection and as such become widely accessible.
“We are immensely grateful to everyone who has made its transference to public ownership, through the AIL scheme, possible.”
Edward Harley, the Acceptance in Lieu Panel chairman, said: “The Acceptance in Lieu Panel is pleased to have helped this iconic image of Bonnie Prince Charlie return to the city in which it was painted 270 years ago.
“It now takes its fitting place as one of the highlights of the great collection of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery where it can be enjoyed by all. This is indeed a unique moment in Scottish history.”
The Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) scheme allows those who have an inheritance tax bill to gift significant items to the nation and satisfy more tax than by selling items on the open market.
This also allows museums and galleries to increase their collections at no cost to them while the donor gets full market value. AIL is a reserved matter but “executive devolution” arrangements are in place to enable Scottish Ministers to deal with cases in which there is a Scottish Interest.
AIL is administered across the UK by the Arts Council, which also oversees the Cultural Gifts Scheme. Combined the two Schemes are capped, so can offset a total of £40m per annum.