Shining a spotlight on Ickworth's collection

The grand 18th-century Palladian building of Ickworth in Suffolk was always intended to display great works of art and is home to many culturally significant masterpieces. Highlights from the collection include a portrait by Titian and rare Doccia porcelain.

From 18 January 2020 you'll be able to enjoy these treasures in a whole new light with an innovative immersive exhibition of light and dark.

The Fury of Athamas sculpture by John Flaxman on display at Ickworth's new exhibition

Ickworth's treasures in the spotlight

The roof of the famous Italianate Rotunda at Ickworth has been undergoing a £5 million transformation. The complex network of scaffolding has darkened the interior of the building and provided a unique opportunity to showcase some of Ickworth’s architectural and artistic treasures in a whole new light.

Portrait of unknown, bearded man, painted by Titian

Titian’s gaze 

The enigmatic An Unknown Man is by the revolutionary Titian (c. 1488/90–1576), who in his lifetime infused every genre of painting to which he applied his brush with new thinking. Thought to be a self-portrait, it is now the subject of research to see if it was part of a larger, now lost canvas.

The purse of the Lord Privy Seal at Ickworth, Suffolk

Privy purses 

A privy seal is the personal seal of a reigning monarch, often kept in a ceremonial purse. Privy purses were the symbol of office of the Lord Privy Seal. There are two purses of the Privy Seal at Ickworth: the one pictured belonged to John, Lord Hervey (1696–1743), and the other to his son, the 2nd Earl of Bristol.

Statue the Fury of Athamas

Twice-bought fury 

The Fury of Athamas by John Flaxman (1755–1826) is a marble sculpture representing the scene from Ovid’s Metamorphoses when Athamus, in a fit of madness, kills his son Learchus. Commissioned by the Earl Bishop, it was confiscated by Napoleon’s troops in 1798, but was bought back again by the Hervey family.

Self-portrait Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Bru

Pearly whites 

Another Earl Bishop commission, this self-portrait is by a fashionable artist of her time, Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (1755–1842). It is said that, in a time when people’s teeth were often far from white, Vigée Le Brun was courting outrage – or at least astonishment – by revealing teeth in her portraits.

Doccia wine fountain at Ickworth, Suffolk

Sea fountain 

The Doccia porcelain collection at Ickworth, purchased in 1868, is considered to be one of the most important in Britain. Spotlights pick out the florid colours and sensuous shapes of this sea-themed Doccia Fountain centrepiece, with its mermen, fish and conch-blowing child.

All of these treasures feature in Ickworth’s theatrical transformation, alongside other key paintings, ceramics, silver and textiles from the collection.

You can experience the new exhibition, staged in collaboration with London design team The Decorators and lighting designers Studio Dekka, from 18 January until May 2020.

This article is adapted from 'Ickworth Uncovered' by Sue Herdman which appeared in the spring 2020 issue of the National Trust Magazine.