(Northern Echo) Church of England will sell historic Zurbaran paintings

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Church Commissioners are pressing ahead with the sale of a historic set of paintings and are yet to make a decision about the fate of Auckland Castle.

The commissioners, who look after the Church of England’s assets, were at the castle yesterday to listen to views about whether it should remain as the home and office of the next Bishop of Durham.

But of the Zurbaran paintings, the commissioners’ secretary, Andrew Brown, said: “We are certainly pressing ahead with the sale.”

The set of 13 paintings, which have hung in the castle for 260 years and represent a plea for religious tolerance, are likely to be auctioned in the summer.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryStewardship* Culture-WatchArt

10 Comments
Posted January 7, 2011 at 5:00 am

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1. LumenChristie wrote:

I hope they are bought by some Muslims.

January 7, 10:14 am | [comment link]
2. Pageantmaster [Katie bought Welby] wrote:

Back and forth the stories about this go.  First we were told the paintings would be sold; then following local diocesan and civic protests we were told that the Church Commissioners would not sell, but would engage in local consultation to see how they might continue to stay in situ.    Now we are back to the old high handed decision to strip Auckland Palace of these paintings which were in any event a gift from a previous bishop.

We are back to the old problem - an incompetent and insensitive bunch of Church Commissioners who unwisely, dioceses handed over their assets to, and who have lost massive amounts over two decades in foolish trendy disinvestments.  Most recently there was the fiasco about the Un-Christian investments in the Stuyvesant Town project in New York, predicated on upping the protected rents of US veterans by getting the Courts to overturn them, a long shot and a basic error no competent investment manager would contemplate.  Then we have had the plan to dig up the sacred holy mountain venerated by locals in India by Vedanta, and the ridiculous carbon trading South Sea Bubble plan promoted by Al Gore which apparently does not publish any accounts.  You can just see that appealing to the financially feckless Rowan Williams, can’t you?  Not only was this risky investment made, but it was done by disposing of cash and safe investments to do it.  Now carbon trading is off limits following a decision in the US, and it is unclear whether the investment is safe or was got out of in time.

So back to flogging off the Durham’s pictures.  There is a lot of local attachment to them, much as with the Hereford Mappa Mundi, and the Lichfield angel.  The bright idea of the Commissioners is to sell them off in the middle of a financial recession, when any competent investment managers would keep them as a long term investment.  They will only increase in value, and should be available to the church in Durham for the story of faith they represent, the purpose for which they were given to the Diocese of Durham.

In this climate the pictures will represent a drop in the ocean and make little difference to the figures or funds available, but the negative publicity, the alienation of people in Durham, and the damage to the reputation of the church and its mission is out of all proportion to the few shekels the Commissioners pinch by getting rid of them. 

Geordies will conclude that once again they draw the short straw, while Rowan Williams with two palaces at his disposal is raising millions to tart up Canterbury Cathedral, and the Dean and Chapter of Westminster are planning to stick a ridiculous and wasteful gold coronarium on top of the Abbey.  Bonkers.

If wall paintings were not attached to our churches, the Commissioners would try to flog them off as well.  There is a need for radical disposals, but we should start with the Commissioners and those who instruct them and at the very least not allow Rowan Williams anywhere near the church’s finances, and probably anything else as well.  Deliberately or just incompetently, Rowan Williams’ tenure is seeing the wrecking of the Church of England’s finances, mission, and theological meltdown… and then…..there are the left wing loony liberal catholic bishop appointments.

We can’t afford to keep Rowan Williams.  Any offers?

Some days I sit and think. Other days I just sit!!

January 7, 10:34 am | [comment link]
3. Pageantmaster [Katie bought Welby] wrote:

Perhaps the treasure given to a previous Archbishop of Canterbury in his official capacity, and wrongfully held on by him personally and which he then dottily dropped in the river there should be disposed of to pay for the insurance of these pictures, and their display to the public who would no doubt contribute to see them in situ at Auckland Palace.

But there is a poverty of imagination and lack of joined up thinking among those who purport to steward us.

Some days I sit and think. Other days I just sit!!

January 7, 10:44 am | [comment link]
4. old grumpy wrote:

Had these paintings been hung in Lambeth Palace, does anyone think even for a second, that they would be taken down and sold off?

Chris Baker - Durham UK

January 7, 11:23 am | [comment link]
5. Pageantmaster [Katie bought Welby] wrote:

Here are the Zurbaran paintings of the Patriarch Jacob and his 12 sons [from whom the 12 tribes of Israel descend] acquired for the Palace by Bishop Richard Trevor where a room was designed for them.  They should be accessible to the public, and part of an opportunity for explanation and evangelism as part of the heritage of Durham without extortion by the Church Commissioners.  They are already the gift of Bishop Richard Trevor, and should not be just sunk into the £40m black hole the foolish Church Commissioners overseen by the ABC have created in the Church’s finances by their equally mean behaviour in New York.

Some days I sit and think. Other days I just sit!!

January 7, 1:26 pm | [comment link]
6. Pageantmaster [Katie bought Welby] wrote:

By the way, what about sueing the Archbishops and the Commisssioners responsible for the fiasco in New York?  I would have thought there was a case for looking into the incompetent financial management of the church’s assets and personal liability for those concerned.  The standard is the duty of care owed by a prudent financial manager, and you won’t find many experts to say anything but that the financial management showed by the Archbishops and Commissioners is imprudent in the extreme.

Anything which puts investment management back into the hands of proper experienced third party trained financial advisers and looks at recovery from those responsible for these losses should be looked at.

Some days I sit and think. Other days I just sit!!

January 7, 1:47 pm | [comment link]
7. A Senior Priest wrote:

Maaaadness. The money will be completely frittered away, and a part of the heritage of ALL Britons will be lost when they are removed from their proper context. It’s illegal to trash archaeological sites yet it’s OK for a bunch of grey-suited bank clerks (aka the Church Commissioners) to offload the palace of the Prince-Bishops of Durham and disperse its contents.

January 7, 4:45 pm | [comment link]
8. Militaris Artifex wrote:

1. Pageantmaster,

I will gladly offer you a princely sum of your choosing between tuppence and tuppence ha’penny for His Grace, the Dodderer. That is, of course subject to the following provisos:

(a) that he appraises for no less than that sum,

(b) that he can be trained as either a valet, butler, or (at minimum) footman,

(c) that you are able to demonstrate clear title and,

(d) that costs of delivery to my location is included.

Please advise at your earliest convenience whether the proposed terms are acceptable.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

———————-
“The common belief that whisky improves with age is true. The older I get, the more I like it.”[Ronnie Corbett]
“Si vis pacem, para bellum.”[classical adage, believed based on a quotation from Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus]
—[i[]If you can keep your head while all those around you are losing theirs, you obviously don’t understand the gravity of the situation!”—[author unknown]

January 21, 1:47 pm | [comment link]
9. Bill C wrote:

Given the incompetence of the Church Commissioners, I expect to hear that they tried to bring them to London and, true to form, drove the truck containing the treasure across the Wash where the paintings joined King John’s royal treasure.

January 21, 11:50 pm | [comment link]
10. MichaelA wrote:

A terrible development. The prince-bishops hold such a signficant place in British history.

But this is what happens when a church (even the CofE) turns to liberalism and alienates its parishioners. Income dries up, and soon assets have to be sold.

Well, I for one think that the british government should step in and pick up the tab for the castle and the paintings - they have encouraged the development of liberalism in the CofE, now they should help to foot the bill.

January 23, 9:12 pm | [comment link]


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