Lord Archer Donates Satan Statue to Ashmolean Museum for Considerable Tax Break

A bargain for a devil?

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 25: Mary Archer poses after she was made a Dame with her husband Jeffrey Archer at a Royal Investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace on October 25, 2012 in London, England. Photo by Sean Dempsey - WPA Pool/Getty Images.
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 25: Mary Archer poses after she was made a Dame with her husband Jeffrey Archer at a Royal Investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace on October 25, 2012 in London, England.
Photo by Sean Dempsey - WPA Pool/Getty Images.

Jean-Jacques Feuchère, Satan.
Image: Courtesy the Ashmolean Museum.

In a shrewd move designed to minimize his tax bill, Lord Jeffrey Archer, “a millionaire author, former MP and convicted perjurer,” according to the description in the Financial Times, has donated a 31-inch statue of Satan to the UK’s Ashmolean Museum. It will be the centerpiece of the Oxford-based institution’s 19th-century gallery opening this spring.

The sculpture, which was crafted by French artist Jean-Jacques Feuchère in the 1830s, had been on loan to the museum since 2010, and is also the gift of Archer’s wife, Dame Mary Archer. It is regarded as a precursor to Auguste Rodin‘s famous sculpture The Thinker, and is one of three large casts of the sculpture known to exist. The other two are at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and at the Louvre in Paris. Feuchère‘s Satan is one of the most forceful and expressive examples of brooding melancholy in Romantic art,” Ashmolean curator Matthew Winterbottom said in a statement in January.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 25: Mary Archer poses after she was made a Dame with her husband Jeffrey Archer at a Royal Investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace on October 25, 2012 in London, England. Photo by Sean Dempsey - WPA Pool/Getty Images.

Mary Archer poses after she was made a Dame with her husband Jeffrey Archer at a Royal Investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace on October 25, 2012 in London, England.
Photo by Sean Dempsey – WPA Pool/Getty Images.

According to his website, Archer has been collecting art for over 40 years; his personal collection includes works by artists such as Pierre Bonnard, Raoul Dufy, Edouard Vuillard, Alfred Sisley, Fernando Botero, and Camille Pissarro.

However, it hasn’t always been easy for Lord Archer; in 2000, he was convicted of two counts of perjury and of “perverting the course of justice,” according to the New York Times, in a prostitution case. He spent four years in prison for creating false diaries and for making false statements after a tabloid newspaper reported on his illicit activities.

The UK government introduced the Cultural Gifts Scheme in 2013 to allow collectors to reap the benefits of donating artwork to museums in exchange for tax breaks. Archer’s donation of Satan reduced his bill by about £48,000 or just under $70,000.

As a result of the tax break program, the Ashmolean Museum was the recipient last year of a John Constable painting The Valley Farm (1835) and a JMW Turner work The High Street Oxford (1810).


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