Zurbaran's dozen Jacob masterpieces saved from the auction block

Art collectors hoping to get their hands on some highly prized 17th century Spanish works have had their hopes dashed.

Church commissioners had contemplated selling a number of works by Basque artist Francisco de Zurbaran to raise £15m in funds for the Church in poor areas.

But a donation by investment manager Jonathan Ruffer has ensured the paintings will remain at Auckland Castle, the home of the Bishop of Durham, where they have resided since 1756.

The 12 original eight foot works were painted between 1640 and 1645, and portray Jacob and his sons. They are expected to form part of a public exhibition at the castle as it becomes a leading public heritage site.

One of several renderings of Francis of Assisi by Zurbaran

The director of the National Gallery, Nicholas Penny, commented: "It is excellent news that the Zurbarans remain in their historic home and that the castle will be more accessible to the public.

"We hope to be able to support this exciting venture in the future with loans from the National Collection."

Zurbaran's 1635 piece Entierro de Santa Catalina made £185,000 at an Ansorena sale in 2008, a reminder to disappointed investors that they can still find the artist's work at auction.


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