Academics at the Royal Academy could propose the sale of a £100m Michelangelo sculpture in order to avoid cutting staff, it has been claimed.
The gallery, like many arts institutions across the country, has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and is reportedly considering lay-offs thanks to a 75% drop in revenue.
The RA is said to be planning to consult staff on making 150 people redundant, equalling 40% of the workforce.
As a result, a group of Royal Academicians could put forward a plan to sell a 515-year-old sculpture, known as the Taddei Tondo.
It has been reported that those in favour of the idea have called for a special meeting.
It is thought the piece, which was given to the London gallery in 1829, could be worth up to £100m according to the Art Newspaper.
One anonymous academician told The Observer: "The sale of the Tondo has already been discussed.
"It is worth so much, it could save jobs and get the RA out of the financial mess they have got themselves into."
RA president Rebecca Salter is reportedly against the idea.
A spokeswoman for the RA told the paper this weekend that the institution "has no intention of selling any works in its collection".
She added: We have the privilege and responsibility of being custodians of extraordinary works of art.
"It is our duty to look after our permanent collection, for current and future generations to enjoy."
Taddei Tondo is the nickname for the work which depicts the Virgin and Child and the infant St John carved in marble.
Its proper title is The Virgin and Child with the Infant St John.
It was commissioned by the wealthy cloth merchant Taddeo Taddei and made between 1504 and 1505. It remains unfinished.
The Renaissance term tondo refers to its circular shape.
It is believed it was sculpted at the beginning of the 16th century, during the artist's first stay in Florence.