Art: Sudden Passion

Falling back upon that most cherished of British last resorts—the letter to the London Times—the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres solemnly intervened in a crisis that had united the United Kingdom in common indignation. The earl wrote in his capacity as chairman of the National Art-Collections Fund—a body founded 59 years ago expressly to protect Britain's treasures from falling into the hands of acquisitive American millionaires. Now the fund was out to protect Leonardo's exquisite drawing of the Virgin and child with St. Anne and St. John the Baptist, which its owner, the Royal Academy, intended to sell at auction to...

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