Prized Possessions at Petworth House
During the winter of 2018/9, Petworth House and Park celebrated Dutch art and design when it hosted the final stage of the major National Trust exhibition, Prized Possessions - Dutch paintings from National Trust Houses.
Prized Possessions - Dutch Paintings from National Trust Houses
26 January - 24 March
'Prized Possessions' brought together Dutch 17th-century paintings by some of the finest masters of the 'Golden Age' from National Trust collections around the country and examined how and why this style of art was desired, commissioned and displayed in Britain.
At Petworth House, the exhibition was seen for the first time in a country house context, having previously been exhibited in galleries at the Holburne Museum in Bath and The Mauritshuis in The Hague.
The exhibition included nearly two dozen works from Trust houses around the country by celebrated artists such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Peter Lely, Gabriel Metsu, and Cornelis de Heem.
Rembrandt van Rijn
Of particular interest was this intriguing self-portrait, painted c.1635 and shows Rembrandt at a period in his life when we was successful and rich - he had recently married and moved from his native Leiden to Amsterdam, where he had been made a burgess of the city, and where he was taking on pupils and studio assistants to learn his painting techniques. The portrait shows a confident man, aware of his importance and his skills as an artist.
Every self-portrait by this great painter is important, and this particular work exemplifies his evolving painting style in the 1630s, when he experimented with how to paint different surfaces and materials (such as the curls of hair, described by scratching into wet paint with the wrong end of a paint brush). This self-portrait has only recently been reattributed as being by Rembrandt himself. As such it adds another picture to the known body of work painted by this celebrated and much-loved artist.
Aspects unique to Petworth
With Petworth House as a venue, the exhibition invited visitors to discover more about the influence of King William III and Queen Mary II on the Dutch-inspired design choices that were made for the property in the 1680s by the Duke and Duchess of Somerset at a seminal moment in the house's history.
Unique to Petworth, the exhibition included Dutch paintings on loan from the private collection of Lord Egremont that had never been displayed publicly at Petworth House before.
Alongside this, visitors to the exhibition could also see additional Dutch works on display permanently in the state rooms of Petworth House including 'The Three Younger Children of Charles I', 1647 by Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680), commissioned by Algernon Percy, the 10th Earl of Northumberland, after the King's children were put in to his custody by Parliament during the English Civil War.
Grinling Gibbons: The Painter in Wood
There was also a unique opportunity to see a display of specially commissioned photographs of Grinling Gibbons' carvings by Peter Thuring, situated in the same room as the original carvings.