UK Accepts Rare Portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds in Place of $6 Million Inheritance Tax

It has been hanging in a castle for over 200 years.

Sir Joshua Reynolds Portrait of Frederick, 5th Earl of Carlisle (1769).
Sir Joshua Reynolds Portrait of Frederick, 5th Earl of Carlisle (1769).

The Tate in London is the lucky beneficiary of the latest instance of art being accepted in lieu of a hefty $6.1 million (£4.7 million) inheritance tax, according to the Arts Council England.

The work, a major full-length portrait of the 5th Earl of Carlisle (1748–1825), at age 20 was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1769, at the request of the sitter. It has been hanging on the walls of Castle Howard in North Yorkshire for over 200 years and will remain on public display there, according to the Arts Council. However, the portrait won’t stay there. According to the press release, it will make a trip “elsewhere around the country including Tate Britain.”

Castle Howard in North Yorkshire. Courtesy of Flickr via Michael Beckwith

Castle Howard in North Yorkshire. Courtesy of Flickr via Michael Beckwith

The current owners of the painting were facing a hefty inheritance tax bill. Its new position, as an object of trade, “has been enriching our heritage for over a century,” said Edward Harley, chairman of the Arts Council’s Acceptance in Lieu panel. “I am delighted that this masterpiece by Reynolds, one of the most important painters of the day, has entered our national collection under the scheme.”

Reynolds’s record at auction is $14.6 million (£10.3 million), set at Sotheby’s London in 2001 for Portrait of Omai, standing in a landscape wearing robes and a headress. According to the artnet Price database, which lists over 1,100 of his works at auction, five paintings have sold for over $5 million each, while 11 works have sold for over $1 million each.

The 5th Earl of Carlisle was a key arts patron in Northern England during the 18th century. Reynolds captured him in in formal robes surrounded by classical architecture and his dog, in a lively ad highly skilled manner, “marking his entry into society following his Grand Tour and his position as head of this important family dynasty,” according to the release. The work was exhibited at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, in 1985 as part of “The Treasure Houses of Britain: Five Hundred Years of Private Patronage and Art Collecting.”

Alex Farquharson, director of Tate Britain, remarked that the work is the first full-length male portrait by Reynolds to join the Tate collection. “The glamourous portrait in oil of the early and his beloved dog Rover, is an outstanding example of the type of painting for which Reynolds is most highly acclaimed.”


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