Painting sale is not going to help church

How great thou art?

As a Honiton resident for almost 25 years I have been very interested to read the about the William Salter painting, The Entombment of Christ.

Since its donation over 170 years ago, as I understand it for the benefit and enjoyment of the townspeople of Honiton, this painting has enjoyed the custody of St Paul’s Church. Certainly, we currently live in straitened times and the Rector must be finding it difficult to raise the necessary amount for general running expenses and Parish Share required by the Diocese. However, I struggle to see that trying to raise money through the sale of the painting will provide the answer to the church’s prayers, certainly beyond the very short term at most.

I can’t help wondering if there hasn’t been a bit of naivety along the way. Some very important facts seem to be missing or obscured which would enable a considered and objective decision to be made. I gather that recently the Rector appeared to have no problems whatsoever asking churchgoers to donate money to cover the veterinary costs of treating a cat she had rescued. This makes me think she is capable of involving herself in alternative ways of raising the money for the church. It would avoid running the significant risk of depriving Honiton of a potentially valuable painting, donated by an internationally known Honitonian and painted with dedication and care. The painting appears to have been placed ‘in trust’ for the people of Honiton, resulting in it not actually being the property of the Church or under the auspices of the Parochial Church Council any more than the rest of Honiton’s residents!

Surely, there is a considerable difference between ‘custodianship’ and ‘ownership’ and it would not surprise me if, as a result of needing to establish ownership in order to decide whether to sell the picture, legal costs would be incurred. Is the painting listed on the church terrier (inventory) and if so what information is given relating to it? If the painting is sold without definitive ownership being established then surely it would be the equivalent of the curator of Allhallows Museum selling off the exhibits! Not only that but by failing to establish ownership, deciding that the painting should be sold and in doing so potentially effectively blocking the restoration (by refusing the Midweek Herald’s offer to spearhead the necessary fund-raising campaign) would the Parochial Church Council be within the law and would they have the right to use the proceeds from the sale? What reasons were given for refusing the offer of raising the necessary restoration costs as those quoted seemed somewhat unspecific?

Whilst the appreciation of ‘fine art’ tends to be a very individual thing, has the true value of the painting been assessed, both in its current state and if it were to be restored? If the reported restoration costs are �3,000, how does this figure compare with a proper valuation when the work has been completed?

Carolyn J Asher

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