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Norfolk treasure on shortlist for Britain’s favourite work of art in Art Fund poll

04 December 2018

Voting has opened to find the Art Fund’s Work of 2018 – and Norfolk treasure the Winfarthing Pendant is on the shortlist.  The nationally-significant Anglo-Saxon gold treasure, which was found by a Norfolk student while metal-detecting at Winfarthing near Diss, was saved for the nation earlier this year following a fundraising appeal by Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery.

Now the beautiful gold and garnet pendant is one of 10 works nationally to make the Art Fund’s shortlist to name the nation’s favourite acquisition of the year. Anyone can vote in the poll which can be accessed via the Art Fund website.

The poll runs until Saturday 15 December.  The winner will be announced on Tuesday 18 December.  All those who vote will be entered into a free prize draw, with the chance of winning a lifetime National Art Pass worth £1,850.

The Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art, and has helped UK museums and galleries to buy all of the items on the shortlist, including the Winfarthing Treasure, for public display.  The purchase of the treasure, valued at £145,050, was also supported by grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Friends of the Norwich Museums.

The Winfarthing Treasure was discovered in December 2014 by Tom Lucking, then a student at the University of East Anglia, while pursuing his hobby of metal-detecting.  Recognising he had discovered an undisturbed grave, he left the burial intact until it could be excavated by archaeologists from Norfolk County Council’s Find Identification and Recording Service, based at Gressenhall.

Excavation showed the grave to have contained an aristocratic Anglo-Saxon lady who died between about AD 650-675.  Her jewellery included a large gold pendant inlaid with hundreds of tiny cloisonné-set garnets forming sinuous interlacing beasts and geometrical shapes.

The pendant is currently on display until 19 February 2019 in the British Library’s major exhibition Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms – proof of the pendant’s beauty and considerable archaeological importance.  It will go back on display at Norwich Castle Museums & Art Gallery on its return next spring.

Tim Pestell, Senior Curator of Archaeology at Norfolk Museums Service, said:  “The purchase of such an important find for the Norfolk Museums archaeology collections was a highlight of the year.  We’re delighted that it’s now made the Art Fund’s national shortlist for Work of the Year 2018 – the Art Fund were instrumental in helping us secure the Winfarthing Treasure for the public and it’s lovely to see this extraordinary find recognised in this way.  We are very grateful to the Art Fund for supporting the acquisition alongside the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Friends of the Norwich Museums.

"Please vote for the Winfarthing Treasure – and help to give this rare Norfolk discovery the recognition it deserves.”

The full list of works in the poll are:

  • Kehinde Wiley, Ship of Fools (2017), Royal Museums Greenwich
  • Unknown maker, Anglo-Saxon pendant (650-700), Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery
  • Leonora Carrington, Portrait of Max Ernst (c1939), National Galleries of Scotland
  • Lubaina Himid, Toussaint L’Ouverture (1987), Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (mima)
  • Grayson Perry, Posh Art (1992), Victoria Art Gallery
  • Eric Ravilious, Beachy Head (1939), Towner Art Gallery
  • Unknown artist, Am Not I a Man and a Brother (c1800), International Slavery Museum
  • Artemisia Gentileschi, Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria (c1616), National Gallery 
  • John Bellany, The Boatbuilders (1962), Scottish Maritime Museum
  • Yinka Shonibare MBE, Earth (2010), Wolverhampton Art Gallery

The shortlisted works encompass painting, sculpture and treasure.  Their combined value is £5.2m. All of these works of art and objects joined public collections in the past year, and Art Fund contributed over £800,000 towards their acquisition, including the cost of conserving Artemisia Gentileschi’s Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria.

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