A Couple Donated a Rare 16th-Century Statue to a U.K. Museum to Cover Their Inheritance Tax Bill

Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum has received the bronze sculpture of Apollo.

Antico, Apollo Belvedere (c. 1505). Photo courtesy of the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Pier Jacopo Alari Bonacolsi’s Apollo Belvedere has been donated to Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum in lieu of a £10.5 million ($13.1 million) inheritance tax bill.

The rare parcel-gilt bronze with inlaid silver eyes was made in the early 16th century. It is a bronze recreation of a marble statue in the Vatican collection, made in the second century C.E. Bonacolsi’s figure measures about 16 inches-tall in comparison to the original marble’s 6.8 feet. In the sculpture, Apollo, the Greek God of archery as well as music and dance, stands having just fired an arrow.

Little is known about Bonacoli, who was nicknamed Antico. He was likely born near Mantua and may have been trained as a goldsmith.

Antico, Apollo Belvedere (c. 1505). Photo courtesy of the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Antico, Apollo Belvedere (c. 1505). Photo courtesy of the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Director and curator of the Fitzwilliam, Luke Syson, said the bronze will become the “new lynchpin of our sculpture collection” adding that it is “perhaps the most quintessentially Renaissance work we own.” Already in its collection is the Boscawen Collection of 56 bronzes given to the museum by lieutenant colonel Mildmay Thomas Boscawen. Antico’s Apollo Belverdere was once part of this collection. In a statement, the museum said that “it is difficult to exaggerate the significance and rarity of the statuette which was the jewel in the crown of the Boscawen sculpture collection”.

The gift came from the collection of Cecil and Hilda Lewis—a property developer and his wife, both of whom were keen art collectors and philanthropists—via the Acceptance in Lieu (AiL) scheme run by the Arts Council. The scheme allows works to be gifted in lieu of inheritance tax, and over the past 10 years has seen £479 million ($599.7 million) worth of items passed to the nation. Christie’s Heritage and Taxation Advisory Service oversaw the negotiations for the donation.

Arts and Heritage Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay has said that he’s delighted that “the Acceptance in Lieu scheme enables museums across the U.K. to acquire exceptional works of art such as this, and to provide the public with access to an astounding array of cultural treasures.” 

Antico’s Apollo Belvedere is now on view at the Fitzwilliam.


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