Monmouth MP David Davies has prevented what is described as one of the most iconic images in Welsh art from going to a private collection.
Having the issue brought to his attention by a concerned constituent who caught it going for auction, he alerted the Monmouth MP to see what could be done to prevent the work going to into a private collection. Salem by English painter Sydney Curnow Vosper is a 1908 painting depicting a scene within Capel Salem, a Baptist Chapel in Pentre Gwynfryn, Gwynedd.
It is considered noteworthy as a depiction of Welsh piety. Mass reproductions throughout the earlier parts of the 20th century helped it reach its iconic status. Mr Davies wrote to the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport Nicky Morgan MP, making the case to bring the painting into the Government Art Collection.
He said that many people are concerned that the work could be sold to a bidder outside Wales or even the UK.
He added: "I know the Government Art Collection has a budget to acquire works of art which are of national importance. Some of the items previously purchased are, in my opinion, of questionable merit. But there is no doubting the merit of the Salem painting of its importance to our nation. I would respectfully ask you to speak with those responsible for the Government Art Collection and ask them to consider buying this painting when it goes under the hammer on 19th October in Cardiff. I do personally hope the image stays in Wales and is exhibited at a suitable public museum or gallery where it can be admired by members of the public for generations to come."
The parliament under secretary of state for arts, heritage and tourism Helen Whately MP got in touch with Mr Davies to confirm that the Library of Wales stepped forward and acquired it for their collection. She described Salem as "a wonderful painting" going on to say that the image’s use in the Sunlight soap brand promotion has only added to its value and significance.
She said: "It is indeed an iconic Welsh piece of art and I can understand the concern shown when it was announced that it would be offered for sale at public auction."
Prints of the painting appeared in many homes as the result of a promotion done by the Lever Brothers, who owned Sunlight soaps. The soap bars came with collectable tokens and buying seven pounds of soap would acquire enough tokens to exchange for a print of the painting.
This promotion resulted in Salem appearing in many homes across Britain at a time when few households would printed works in their home and this popularised the image.