Exceptional Lorenzo Bartolini sculpture saved for the nation

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) and National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) are delighted to announce the joint acquisition of Lorenzo Bartolini’s marble sculpture The Campbell Sisters Dancing a Waltz, made in Florence in about 1821.

Lorenzo Bartolini’s marble sculpture The Campbell Sisters Dancing a Waltz
Lorenzo Bartolini’s marble sculpture The Campbell Sisters Dancing a Waltz

This exceptional work was subject to a temporary export bar in 2014 and has now been saved for the nation. The purchase price of £523,800 was raised with £275,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and £98,800 from the Art Fund, with the remaining contributions from the V&A and NGS.

The acquisition ensures that The Campbell Sisters Dancing a Waltz will remain in the United Kingdom on public display. It will be shown for the first time at the V&A in London this week in the Dorothy & Michael Hintze Sculpture Galleries, where it will remain until 20 November. It will then return to the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh, where it was on long-term loan between 1991 and 2013.

The Campbell Sisters Dancing a Waltz will be on display in Edinburgh until 2020 and thereafter it will be shown at each institution for a period of seven years, alternating with the display of Antonio Canova’s remarkable sculpture The Three Graces (c1817), which is also jointly owned by NGS and the V&A. Until November, visitors to the V&A will have the only opportunity to see these two great sculptures in the same museum.

Lorenzo Bartolini (1777 – 1850) was trained in Florence and Paris and became one of the leading European sculptors of his day. Showing two women in graceful movement, The Campbell Sisters Dancing a Waltz is unusual in being a full-length, life-size group by an artist primarily known for his portrait busts. It is an exceptional piece which suggests the youth and vibrancy of the sisters, breaking away from traditional sculpted portrait conventions of the time. It also represents the only figure group made by the artist under commission by a British patron.

Beth McKillop, Deputy Director and Director of Collections at the V&A, said, “We are excited that we have the opportunity to display The Campbell Sisters Dancing a Waltz at the V&A. Bartolini’s sculpture is a delightful work and an outstanding addition to the national collection of sculpture housed at the museum.”

Michael Clarke, Director of the Scottish National Gallery, added, “We are thrilled that Bartolini’s masterpiece, which was sculpted in Florence and depicts two Scottish sitters, can continue to be seen in Scotland. For nearly two centuries it was on view in Inveraray Castle, Argyll, and most recently in the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh. Now it will return to the Gallery, where it links beautifully to many other great works of art in the national collection.”

Sir Peter Luff, Chair of NHMF, said: “This is an excellent example of how public and private partnerships, supported by the government-funded National Heritage Memorial Fund, can effectively safeguard our most precious heritage. The Campbell Sisters has been in the UK ever since it was completed by Bartolini in the early 19th century and it’s wonderful that it will now remain here for future generations to enjoy.”

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said: “We are delighted to have given a major grant towards the purchase of this important and accomplished work. It exudes both charm and technical virtuosity, and will surely be widely enjoyed by the visiting public at both institutions in the years ahead.”

Notes to editors

Purchased jointly by the National Galleries of Scotland and the Victoria and Albert Museum, with the aid of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund, and a donation in memory of AVB Norman, 2015.

About the Art Fund

The Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art. In the past five years, the Art Fund has given £34million to help museums and galleries acquire works of art for their collections. The Art Fund also helps museums share their collections with wider audiences by supporting a range of tours and exhibitions, including Artist Rooms and the 2013-18 Aspire tour of Tate’s Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows by John Constable, and makes additional grants to support the training and professional development of curators.

The Art Fund is independently funded, with the core its income provided by 117,000 members who receive the National Art Pass and enjoy free entry to over 230 museums, galleries and historic places across the UK, as well as 50% off entry to major exhibition. In addition to grant-giving, the Art Fund’s support for museums includes the annual Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year, a publications programme and a range of digital platforms. Find out more about the Art Fund and the National Art Pass at The Art Fund website. Please contact Madeline Adeane, the Press Relations Manager, on 020 7225 4804 or email: madeane@artfund.org for more information.

About the V&A

The V&A is the world’s greatest museum of art and design with collections unrivalled in their scope and diversity. It was established to make works of art available to all and to inspire British designers and manufacturers. Today, the V&A’s collections, which span over 5,000 years of human creativity in virtually every medium and from many parts of the world, continue to intrigue, inspire and inform. Designated the National Collection of Sculpture, the museum’s collection concentrates on Western European Sculpture from the 4th century to the end of the 19th century. Highlights of the collection include masterpieces from the Italian Renaissance, ivory carvings of all periods, Northern European wood and other sculpture, commemorative medals and plaster casts. The sculpture collection contains approximately 22,000 objects.

About the National Galleries of Scotland

The National Galleries of Scotland comprises three galleries in Edinburgh: the Scottish National Gallery, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, as well as two partner galleries – Paxton House and Duff House, in the North and South of Scotland. The collection of Scottish National Gallery, which covers the period from the early Renaissance to the end of the nineteenth century is regarded as one of the finest in the world, and includes masterpieces by Raphael, El Greco, Velázquez, Rubens, Van Gogh, Monet, Cézanne and Degas.

Further information

For further press information please contact:

V&A press office: Lucy Hawes on 020 7942 2502 or email l.hawes@vam.ac.uk.

National Galleries of Scotland press office: Michael Gormley 0131 624 6247 or email: mgormley@nationalgalleries.org.