York & North Yorkshire

Charity appeals to save Grinling Gibbons' King David panel carving

King David carving Image copyright Fairfax House
Image caption It is thought the artwork was originally commissioned by the Fairfax family in York

An appeal has been launched to save a 17th Century artwork by a woodcarver famed for the realism of his work.

A total of £300,000 is needed to save the piece by Grinling Gibbons, which depicts King David playing a harp.

Staff at York's Fairfax House, who launched the Save the King appeal, have raised £240,000 and are appealing for public help to raise the remainder.

They say it will secure the future of the artwork, which has until now remained in private collections.

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Image copyright Fairfax House
Image caption The artwork also shows Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music, accompanying King David

Fairfax House director Hannah Phillip said Gibbons achieved immense fame during his career and was renowned for his ability to make his artwork come to life.

Gibbons, whose statue stands alongside the likes of JMW Turner and John Constable on the facade of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, is known as the Michelangelo of wood.

"This precious artwork is believed to be the earliest known work by Grinling Gibbons and is the only known sculpture from this master craftsman's time in York," she said.

She added the appeal aimed to secure the future of the artwork, which recently went on the international art market and was due to be sold.

Image copyright Fairfax House
Image caption Art historian Horace Walpole said Gibbons had the ability to give wood "the loose and airy lightness of a flower"

However, its owners have offered to withdraw it from sale if Fairfax House - part of the York Civic Trust charity - can raise the necessary funds to acquire it.

Gibbons spent his formative years from 1667 to 1671 in York, perfecting his craft; his later career saw him becoming master-carver to Charles II.

His carving will feature in a forthcoming exhibition at Fairfax House, and will remain on permanent public display if the necessary funds are raised to acquire it.

To date, Fairfax House has raised just over £240,000 towards the appeal with £100,000 coming from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £100,000 from Art Fund and £42,500 from Arts Council England.

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