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£100,000 painting given to aid refugees

04 December 2015


AN 18TH-CENTURY painting, thought to be worth more than £100,000, has been donated to the Anglican Mission agency Us (formerly USPG), to raise funds to help refugees in Europe.

The oil painting, A Grotto in the Gulf of Salerno, with the figure of Julia, banished from Rome, by Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-97), is expected to raise up to £150,000 when it is auctioned on 9 December at Sotheby’s in London. It was donated by a family in Derbyshire in November from their private collection.

The director for fund-raising and communications at Us, the Revd Tim Hartford, said he was “truly lost for words” when he received the call from the benefactor, who wishes to remain anonymous.

The canvas, recognised as a classic of the British Romantic movement, depicts Julia — believed to be the granddaughter of Roman Emperor Augustus — kneeling in a cave, holding out her hands for help. The emperor is thought to have discovered Julia’s extra-marital affair, and exiled her to the Italian island of Trimerus.

“The fact that Julia is a refugee makes the donation especially poignant,” said Mr Hartford.

In a separate move, the Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd Trevor Willmott, has launched an Advent appeal to help refugees. The diocese of Canterbury’s Advent Justice Appeal, which will run until Christmas Day, is raising money for two new posts: one in Kent and the other in Calais, with the Roman Catholic diocese of Arras, to co-ordinate support for refugees.

Speaking after a recent trip to the “Jungle” camp in Calais, Bishop Willmott said he did not want to “embarrass” the Government or make anyone feel guilty, but: “We must not turn a blind eye to the suffering on our doorstep.”

Churches have been invited to dedicate the collection from one of their Advent services.

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