A multimillion-pound collection of paintings built up over decades by art historian Sir Denis Mahon has been given to the nation.

The 57 Italian Baroque masterpieces have been shared between six museums and galleries, including the National Gallery in central London, the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh, and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

Sir Denis, who died in 2011, built up the collection and left it to the Art Fund charity, along with a £1 million bequest.

donation Queen Elizabeth II giving Sir Denis Mahon the Insignia of Companion of Honour in 2003


The paintings, with a reported value of £100 million, were already on long-term loan to the respective museums on condition they did not charge admission or sell works from their collections.

Art Fund director Stephen Deuchar said: "Sir Denis Mahon was a life-long supporter of the Art Fund and shared our fundamental commitment to widening free public access to art.

"His vision as an art collector was extraordinary, as was his determination that his collection should ultimately be on public display.

"It is an enormous honour for the Art Fund to have been entrusted with his private collection and to oversee its transfer into the permanent collections of these museums and galleries across the UK."

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    Sold at Sotheby's in New York in May 2012. PHOTO: PA