It has just been announced that the estate of Sir Denis Mahon is donating a painting attributed to Gaspard Dughet (1615-1675), Landscape with a Storm, to Osterley Park, where it had been on loan since 2001. Through the Art Fund the Mahon estate is also donating a further group of important Italian baroque paintings to a number of UK museums.
Sir Denis Mahon, CH, CBE (1910-2011) was an art historian of independent means who in the 1940s and 1950s pioneered the study of Italian 17th-century painting. He built up his own collection of Italian baroque pictures at a time when they were out of favour and relatively inexpensive.
Perhaps as a result of his fascination with ‘unfashionable’ pictures, Sir Denis was strongly opposed to the deaccessioning of art from public collections. He also campaigned for free entry to museums and to improve the effectiveness of the scheme whereby works of art can be accepted by the Government in lieu of inheritance tax. He effectively used his own collection as a juicy carrot dangled in front of the various civil servants and ministers of the day – an interestingly ‘political’ use of fine art.
Sir Denis had already donated another Dughet, Wooded Rocky Landscape, to Osterley in 1996. Both paintings help to recreate the lost late 18th-century picture hang at Osterley. This painting had previously been owned by the important 19th-century collectors William Graham (1818-1885), a Glasgow cotton manufacturer, and Charles Henry Mills, 1st Baron Hillingdon (1830-1898), owner of the bank Glyn, Mills & Co (which, coincidentally, took over the bank Child & Co, owned by the Child-Villiers family of Osterley, in 1924).
Dughet, a French painter born in Italy, was the brother-in-law and pupil of Nicolas Poussin, and his pictures were popular among British Grand Tourists.