Once-in-a-lifetime chance to get close to Dutch illusionist art

Press release
A Perspective View of the Courtyard of a House (c.1664) is among paintings brought down to floor level while the Dyrham Park staircase undergoes conservation.
Published : 10 Sep 2019

Visitors to the National Trust’s Dyrham Park near Bath have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get up close to some of the 17th-century Baroque house’s finest paintings.

As part of a major conservation project, both staircases in the house are currently undergoing vital repairs, requiring the relocation of the paintings that normally hang above them. 

Rather than store the paintings away, the works of art are being housed in a ‘pop-up gallery’ in two rooms, allowing the rare opportunity for them to be appreciated at close quarters. 

The redisplayed paintings include portraits of the Blathwayt family who created the house in the late 1600s, views of Greenwich and Portsmouth, and 17th-century Dutch artworks reflecting William Blathwayt’s time living and working in Holland, where he developed a love of contemporary perspective oil painting. 

Among the paintings brought down to floor level is A Perspective View of the Courtyard of a House (c.1664). Painted by Samuel van Hoogstraten – one of Rembrandt’s most successful pupils, whose work was admired by the diarist Samuel Pepys – the 3m high painting plays with illusion to blur the line between appearance and reality. 

In its temporary position, visitors can appreciate details not usually easily seen, such as the playing card representing earthly pleasures; the exotic bird, perhaps alluding to abundant wealth; and the tiny figure of a man – glimpsed through a window – tending to a garden.

Eilidh Auckland, House and Collections Manager, said: “This is a once in a lifetime chance to see these magnificent pieces of art really close. You can see things you maybe wouldn’t normally spot and it’s a rare treat to be able to see these paintings at such close quarters in our specially created ‘pop-up’ gallery.”

The conservation work on staircases, wall hangings and items in the collection follows a massive re-roofing project which was finished in 2016. Together, the conservation works aim to create an engaging and meaningful journey into the 17th century while giving people more space to play, eat, shop and park.

For the duration of the project, visitors can watch ‘conservation in action’ and find out about some of the work in behind-the-scenes tours (Monday to Friday, volunteers permitting).

The pop-up gallery will be in place until 2020.