The National Trust is raising money for the conservation of one of the most important paintings in the much-admired fine art collection at Upton House, near Banbury.
The painting in question is The Massacre of the Innocents, from the workshop of Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
Painted in the mid 16th Century, it is one of the best versions of this painting ever created but has become badly damaged and is in need of extensive conservation work.
It is also at the centre of an historical argument about who painted it. Some critics believe it is a copy of the original by Bruegel the Elder, made after his death, while many experts now think it was really by his son Pieter Bruegel the Younger.
Rachael O’Connor-Boyd, Upton House collections manager, said: “We now have a fantastic opportunity to find out who painted it and to conserve this damaged painting, but we need help – and we would love our visitors to play a very personal and active part by making a donation to our appeal.
“We need to raise £15,000 for a full technical analysis by an international Bruegel expert who will be in the UK this year. Based on her findings, our conservator can then sensitively conserve the painting and reapply flaking paint and remove yellowed varnish that’s making it harder to see the delicate colour and line of the artist’s original intention.”
The director general of the Trust, Helen Ghosh, launched the fundraising campaign at Upton House a fortnight ago and endorsed the ongoing work of the Upton team in displaying and conserving more than 150 works of art.
The pieces were left to the Trust by Lord Bearsted – owner of Upton House in the 1930s – and they create one of the most impressive 20th Century art collections in the United Kingdom.
Ms Ghosh added: “Looking after the wonderful pieces in our care is at the heart of what we do.
“I wish the team every success with their fundraising campaign and hope our very honest approach to needing support for these special projects will attract even more people to come to see the many art treasures at Upton House & Gardens.”
You can help conserve the Bruegel by visiting the Upton House Just Giving page, www.justgiving.com/uptonart