Save the king! Campaign launched to keep historic masterpiece in York

A close up of part of the King David Panel by Grinling Gibbons. Photograph: Fairfax House
27 Apr 2017 @ 11.43 am
| History

One of York’s great buildings has launched a campaign to bring this artistic masterpiece home to the city.

This is the King David Panel, carved by Grinling Gibbons – known as ‘the Michelangelo of wood’.

It is believed to be the earliest known work by Gibbons – and is the only known sculpture from this master craftsman’s time in York.

The panel will be lost to international art collectors – unless Fairfax House can raise the funds to buy it and keep it in the city.

If they succeed the artwork will be the focal point of the house’s new exhibition, Made in York: Inventing and Enlightening the Georgian City (5 May-12 Nov 2017).

York connections

Grinling Gibbons by Godfrey Kneller. Photograph © Dcoetzee on Wikipedia

Gibbons spent his first three formative years – in about 1667-1671 – in York perfecting his craft.

Now recognised worldwide as the genius master-carver who pioneered a radically new style in sculpture based on realism, he developed his technique in the city.

The panel recently went on the international art market and was due to be sold in March, putting this vital piece of work by Britain’s greatest national carver at risk of being lost.

It will be withdrawn from sale if Fairfax House, via its owners the York Civic Trust, can raise the necessary funds to acquire it.

Another £60K needed

The panel in full

The trust has already raised £240K through the Heritage Lottery Fund, Art Fund and V&A Purchase Grant Fund.

But another £60K is needed. You can either

  • donate online
  • send a cheque made payable to: Fairfax House Grinling Gibbons Appeal
  • or call into Fairfax House to make your donation in person.

Find out more about the appeal on the Fairfax House website.

Fairfax House director Hannah Phillip said:

Our vision is that through this appeal, Fairfax House will secure a lasting legacy for the nation and to unlock the door to an object that has remained hidden away in private collections throughout its life.

Above all, we want to bring awareness to the extraordinary genius and skill of Grinling Gibbons, and show what extraordinary things could be created from the medium of wood by the hand of one individual.

New exhibition

Fairfax House in Castlegate, York. Photograph: Richard McDougall

Fairfax House is the perfect home for the King David Panel. Not only because it was carved in York, but because the Georgian townhouse already holds an outstanding collection of 17th and 18th-century furniture and art.

Made In York

Fairfax House, 27 Castlegate, York

May 5-Nov 12 2017

£3-£7.50

More details

Gibbons’ carving will take centre stage in a brand new exhibition.

Made in York: Inventing and Enlightening the Georgian City launches on Friday, May 5.

It explores the wealth of pioneering artists, craftsmen and thinkers who lived and worked in this city between 1670 and 1830.

The detail is amazing

As well as Gibbons, other artists and thinkers were nurtured in York, including Thomas Chippendale, Laurence Sterne, John Goodricke, John Flaxman and Joseph Rose.

For the first time, this landmark exhibition will be showcased throughout the townhouse, vividly animating both Fairfax House’s beautiful period rooms and its exhibition gallery.