A Major Acquisition That Will ‘Altar’ MFA

A controversial but historically important artwork has been cleared by a British court to come to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

From The Art Newspaper:

Anglican court says Benjamin West altarpiece can go to Boston

City of London church to sell the masterpiece to fund repairs

245-ne-mb-St Stephen Walbrocut 01

A Church of England court has ruled that Benjamin West’s altarpiece, Devout Men Taking Away the Body of St Stephen, 1776, which was made for one of the most important churches in the City of London can be sold for display in the US. The $2.85m painting is being bought by an anonymous foundation, which is due to lend it to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston . . .

The altarpiece has a colorful history: It was installed in St Stephen Walbrook church (“rebuilt in 1679 by Christopher Wren after it was destroyed in the Great Fire of London”) without proper permission in 1776, and it was removed “in around 1987, again without the necessary permission.”

The whole story is a rollicking, tangled tale that’s well worth checking out in the Art Newspaper. Bottom line:

Following conservation, it will be installed in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston at the entrance to the Art of the Americas Wing. A museum spokeswoman says that the West will create “a spectacular link between paintings of the new world and the old”.


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