16 MARCH 1962, Page 4

We Know What We Like

Till: fuss about the Royal Academy's decision 1 to sell its Leonardo is, as these fusses usual]: am largely composed of cant. Particularly en joyable is the spectacle of the House of Corti mons, which has.done so much to encourage ar in this country (even going so far as to allocate Money for the building of an exciting Foundation Stone on the South Bank), working itself up into a state Of alarm and concern over a picture thtit few of its members would have been aware, until last week,. existed. Nevertheless, beneath the comic aspects of the affair there are importati considerations.

If the Academy, which has always been irid pendent of State aid (and so it should have been in view of the way it has sat firmly on the ilea( of progress in the .arts for over a century), is in straitened circumstances, it is obviously entitled to raise the wind in any legal manner it thinks lit. Nor, if the money is not forthcoming front any British source, can the Government reason ably withhold an export licence. The Leonardo is not an English art treasure, which might be reasonably 'detained' in this country. Nor can the Government reasonably be expected to find the money. If it had a million pounds to spend On the arts (which it hasn't) it could spend such 't sum in a thousand better ways.

Nevertheless it would still be a pity if the car toon went abroad. An intriguing suggestion has been mooted, doubtless with his tongue in his cheek, by .Sir Tom O'Brien. It is that the leaditti commercial television companies, whose pressions of devotion to the arts are second it number and volume only to those of the House of Commons, should form a consortium to buyO the picture and present it to the nation. The Academy could hardly refuse a reasonable offer.. t The television companies would 'go far towards - convincing us all that they mean what they so frequently say. The only 'party left dissatisfied

Would be Sotheby's, who would not get their com- mission. If it is too late for the Pilkington Com- mittee to take Sir Tom's suggestion up, might not the House of Commons do so?