David Starkey: Save our Rubens, historian urges





The Tate has until the end of July to raise £6m to save an exquisite Peter Paul Rubens sketch. And, according to historian David Starkey, the possibility that the work might leave the country is "absolutely unthinkable".
The sketch is not simply evidence of a great artist's first, questing thoughts, but an integral part of Britain's history, argued Starkey yesterday.

It is the original plan for the magnificent ceiling of the Banqueting House, London, the only remaining part of Whitehall Palace, most of which burned down in 1698. The subject is the apotheosis of James I, commissioned by his son, Charles I. The final work was installed in 1635-6.

"Mostly it doesn't matter where a Rubens is, or where a Turner is. But when you have a concatenation of history, place and biography like this then yes, it really does matter," said Starkey.
The sketch is valued at £11m. But with tax concessions the Tate can purchase it for £6m, of which £1.56m has already been raised. The museum, which is appealing for public donations, has arranged a deadline of the end of July before the work goes on the open market. It is being sold by the family of Viscount Hampden, which has owned it for more than 200 years. It had been on loan to the National Gallery since 1981.


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