Saving Britain's Titians

Now that the bankers have fled for Dubai, what's the next victim of Britain's credit crisis to face offshoring? An unlikely pick: a pair of Titian canvasses in Edinburgh's National Galleries. The paintings—first acquired by the Duke of Bridgewater in the wake of the French Revolution—have been on display in the U.K. for more than 200 years. But economic duress has led the duke's cash-strapped heir to threaten to sell the paintings to the highest bidder unless the museum can come up with the first half of the art's price tag ($150 million) by month's end. It won't be easy: the duke's asking price is nearly five times higher than any previous amount raised by a museum to retain a piece in its collection, and Britain has very few solid tax incentives for donating artwork to public institutions.

Still, the gallery's launched a campaign to rally the public and save the paintings as "national treasures" (despite their Italian Renaissance heritage). Celebrities like Damien Hirst have lobbied for the cause, and Kim Cattrall from "Sex and the City" posed in the buff for a photographic re-creation of one of the pieces, "Diana and Actaeon." The museum has even set out a tip jar for the art-loving public. But given the grim times, Brits may find it difficult to splurge on such an extravagant gift for themselves—especially one they thought was theirs all along.