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.
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey deferred granting an export licence for the piece at the end of 2014 – following the sale to a foreign bidder at auction – on the recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, (RCEWA) administered by Arts Council England.
The acquisition ensures that The Campbell Sisters Dancing a Waltz will remain in the UK 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.
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.”
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 (c. 1817), 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.
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.”
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 also represents the only figure group made by the artist under commission by a British patron.