From an editorial in the Northern Echo:
IT is our fervent view at The Northern Echo that concluding a deal to save the historic Zurbaran paintings in Auckland Castle is crucial to the future prosperity of Bishop Auckland.From Riazat Butt in the Guardian:
How else will the County Durham town find a way to have its own heritage tourist attraction – for that is what the castle and its grounds could be, with the Zurbarans as the centrepiece?
Without Jonathan Ruffer’s offer to invest £15m to make that a reality, the Zurbarans will almost certainly go abroad and the castle lost as a public asset.
Mr Ruffer has today told The Northern Echo that he is willing to “put a lot more money in” to break the deadlock that has developed between himself and the Church Commissioners who are selling the paintings.
It seems to us that Mr Ruffer has been more than generous in trying to save this important North-East heritage.
To Durham, where there is not much in the way of festive cheer now a £15m art deal has bitten the dust, and a fascinating insight into the Church of England, power and politics.From an interview with Jonathan Ruffer in The Northern Echo:
While the sale appeared to be on shaky ground for some time, the story has sprouted legs thanks to a remarkable and revealing article from banker and would be art-buyer Jonathan Ruffer, who blows the whistle in the latest edition of the Church Times on his spat with the Church Commissioners, who manage the Church of England's investment portfolio, and its top dog, Andreas Whittam Smith. Yes - that one.
But today, the Church Times – the leading weekly Anglican magazine – carries a remarkable article by Mr Ruffer in which he says the two leading commissioners, Andreas Whittam Smith and Andrew Brown, are “decent men who have gone wrong” who have “torpedoed” the deals for the Zurbarans and the castle and so have delivered “two slaps in the face for County Durham”.MadPriest, who sent me the latest links to the story, says:
He says: “Andreas Whittam Smith is by nature a buccaneer: quick to offer the hand of friendship, decisive and brave. He generously accepted an apology for a remark I made which had hurt him.
“Andrew Brown is a very different character, the antithesis of the smutty joke: he is wholesome, serious, and dutiful.
He would make an excellent minor royal.
“Yet these men have managed to torpedo two deals, to the detriment of one of the neediest regions of the UK.”
Mr Ruffer paints a colourful picture of Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, becoming involved in the debate. He writes: “I witnessed last month the Primate of All England pleading for the future of the castle.
The Archbishop pleading; Andreas untouchable, untouched.”
Mr Ruffer told the Echo he was defending his reputation with the article. He said: “I am explaining how someone can give a £15m gift and then go back on it – that seems a dishonourable thing to do and I look cowardly and untrustworthy.”
The Right Reverend Justin Welby, the new Bishop of Durham, said: “Both the Church Commissioners and Mr Ruffer are very committed to trying to make this work and benefit the area. I’m very grateful that they have agreed to meet me next week to discuss issues, and I am hopeful that progress can be made.”
This looks like turning into a rather nasty baptism of fire for the new bishop. And he doesn't even get to live in the palace.All right. Why do I care about the Zurbarán paintings in Auckland? For one thing, I spent quite a large number of British pounds on taxi fare to go from my hotel to the town of Bishop Auckland, which is a bit off the beaten path, to visit the castle, in particular to see the paintings of the partiarchs. Here's what I said in my post on my visit to Auckland Castle.
Ever since I heard of their possible sale and removal from their home setting, I've wanted to see the paintings, and my wish was realized. I was able to view the paintings in their proper setting, which was a memorable experience. The paintings and the dining room are indeed impressive. I was thrilled when I heard the news that Ruffer had stepped forward to make it possible for the paintings to remain in place in the dining room at the castle, where they had been since 1756.Guardian.
Photo at the head of the post from the Church Times.