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Donated Old Master raises £550k for refugee work

An Old Master painting donated to support the Anglican mission agency Us (formerly USPG) in its refugee work in Europe has raised more than £550k ...

An Old Master painting auctioned at Sotheby's raised nearly £550,000, which will be channelled through the Anglican mission agency Us (formerly USPG) and the Anglican Diocese in Europe to provide shelter, food and medicine to refugees in Europe, with a particular focus on Greece.
[Note: Us will receive the ‘hammer price’ of £550,000, minus some costs (with buyer's fees, the purchaser will pay a total of £665,000).]
The oil painting A Grotto in the Gulf of Salerno, by Joseph Wright of Derby, was donated by Godfrey Meynell MBE, 81, of Derbyshire.
The idea for donating the painting, which has been in his family since 1840, came from his son, also called Godfrey.
Mr Meynell MBE said: "We're delighted with the sale. We had a family celebration. We feel this gift comes from the whole of Derbyshire."
The painting depicts Julia. who historians believe was the granddaughter of Roman Emperor Augustus, and married to Paullus.It is claimed the emperor discovered Julia was having an affair, so he exiled her to the small Italian island of Trimerus.
However, an alternative theory suggests Julia was exiled for her part in supporting an attempted revolt against Augustus.
Us Chief Executive Janette O'Neill said: "The income from this sale means that we can answer the biggest humanitarian crisis this century in ways that we couldn’t have otherwise dreamed of.
"We will work to ensure this God-sent gift will help create a better future for marginalised and vulnerable who are fleeing from war and destruction."
The Revd Tim Harford, Us Director for Fundraising and Communications, said: "The fact that Julia is a refugee makes the donation especially poignant. The proceeds will help to restore the lives of refugees arriving in Greece having fled persecution and war."
Mr Meynell told Us: "We’re delighted with the sale. We had a family celebration. It’s a great day for our family and Meynell Langley, our family home, where the painting has been hanging for 175 years.
"We’re very proud of this painting and of Joseph Wright, our local artist. We feel this gift comes from the whole of Derbyshire."
Mr Meynell added: "It was my son’s idea to sell this painting for the refugees in Europe. A story in the Daily Mail suggested the younger members of our family were against the sale, but that’s not true. We are all united and thrilled about it.
"Indeed, my son – an organic farmer and conservationist – is making a sacrifice in making this donation because that would have been his inheritance. I’m very proud of him."
Mr Meynell, a former political officer who for the UK government in South Arabia, offered his thoughts on the current political situation out of which the refugee crisis has emerged.
He said: "I think Britain and America’s involvement in the Iraq war helped bring about this current situation. By removing Saddam Hussein we created a vacuum in leadership, and out of that vacuum IS emerged."
He continued: "As a family, watching the situation in Europe, we were concerned that Greece was facing the brunt of the refugee crisis.
"Previously, Europe had sat back while Greece was forced to adopt austerity measures, and now Europe is once again not doing enough while Greece tries to cope as refugees arrive in their thousands.
"So I’m glad most of the money from the sale of this painting will support work in Greece."
Referring to his Christian faith, Mr Meynell commented on the pathway to unity between Christians and Muslims.
"I feel that consumer-secularism and Islam do not sit well together in the UK. What is needed is a generous Christianity that reaches out to our brothers of the book, the Muslims in the UK."
And of his donation, he commented: "Christ asked the rich young man to give all he had to the poor. The message is for us to be good stewards of our wealth, and balance our responsibilities to our own families with our duty to care for others."
For more information about the support of Us for refugees in Europe, visit

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