National Trust acquires rare Isaac Oliver miniature for record £2.1m

Work depicting aristocrat as a young poet will remain on view at Powis Castle in Wales.

Isaac Oliver, Edward Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert of Cherbury (around 1610-14) (Image: © National Trust)
Isaac Oliver, Edward Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert of Cherbury (around 1610-14) (Image: © National Trust)

One of the finest British miniatures, by Isaac Oliver, has been bought by the National Trust. Valued at £5.2m, it has been acquired for £2.1m, because of tax concessions on a sale to a public collection. Even at the lower figure, it is probably a record price for a British miniature.

Depicting Edward Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert of Cherbury, the miniature (around 1610-14) will remain on display at the National Trust-owned Powis Castle, near Welshpool in Wales. The sitter was a poet, philosopher and statesman. He is shown as a fashionable and melancholic young lover with his head resting on his hand, as he lies stretched out on the banks of a stream in a shady forest. His shield includes a bleeding heart.

castle
Powis Castle (Image: © National Trust)

Although the private seller is not being identified, it is believed to be a descendant of the sitter’s family, now the Earls of Powis. The acquisition was supported with grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (£1.5m) and the Art Fund (£300,000), along with the remainder raised by the National Trust. The sale was arranged by the London-based agent Omnia Art.

The Oliver miniature now requires conservation to consolidate the paint, since there are some slightly loose surfaces. The pigments will be examined to determine their light sensitivity. This work will be done in the coming months. The miniature is then likely to be lent to several venues before returning to Powis Castle. It will not go back to the library, but will have its own special display.

Four Clive of India treasures from Powis Castle were sold off by the Earl of Powis’s family in 2004 at Christie’s, fetching £4.7m.

by Martin Bailey

Source: The Art Newspaper

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