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A pastel on paper stuck down on canvas by Jean-Etienne Liotard (1702-89) ‘The Lavergne Family Breakfast’ 1754. © The National Gallery, London.

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The pictures come from the collection of the late banker George Pinto (1929- 2018) via a tax arrangement with his estate.

Pinto was an art lover and patron of the National Gallery and a trustee of the Wallace Collection. He kept a select collection of paintings he had inherited at his homes in Kent and Knightsbridge and particularly admired the work of Liotard.

The pictures were acquired via the Acceptance in Lieu scheme.

The scheme, which is administered by the Arts Council, allows for the ownership of works of art to be transferred to the nation in lieu of inheritance tax – in this case it settled £10.03m of tax. 

The pictures acquired are: 

  • Jean-Etienne Liotard’s The Lavergne Family Breakfast (1754) which settled £8.76m of tax
  • Thomas Gainsborough’s Portrait of Margaret Gainsborough holding a Theorbo (c.1777) which settled £1.13m of tax
  • Sir Thomas Lawrence’s Portrait of the Hon. Peniston Lamb (c.1790) which settled £146,000 of tax
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‘Portrait of the Hon. Peniston Lamb’ by Thomas Lawrence (1769–1830), an oil on canvas c.1790. © Christie’s.

The Thomas Lawrence portrait had provenance to Brocket Hall and had sold for £62,000 at Christie's back in November 1998. Another Lawrence portrait of the same sitter was identified on the BBC show Fake or Fortune and valued at £500,000.

National Gallery director, Dr Gabriele Finaldi, said: “George Pinto had a passion for 18th-century painting and was a good friend of the National Gallery. It is a great pleasure to welcome these works and particularly the rare and beautiful Liotard pastel into the national collection.

“We are grateful to George’s family, the executors of the Pinto Estate, as well as to the UK government, The Arts Council and the Acceptance in Lieu panel, thanks to which so many superb pictures have come to the National Gallery over the years.”

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An oil on canvas by Thomas Gainsborough (1727-88). ‘Portrait of Margaret Gainsborough holding a Theorbo’ c.1777. Image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

Edward Harley, chair of the Acceptance in Lieu Panel at The Arts Council, said: “The superlative quality of each of these pictures by Liotard, Gainsborough, and Lawrence is a testament to the true connoisseurship of their previous owner and also show that Acceptance in Lieu is a means for museums and galleries to acquire the very best art.”

The National Gallery credited auction house Christie's in assisting in the transaction. 

Pinto, who died in a car accident at the age of 89, was also an avid bridge player and keen golfer.