Chatsworth Old Master drawings loaned out to Sheffield

Works from one of the UK’s most significant collections of Old Master Drawings will go on display at Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery as part of a new exhibition partnership between Chatsworth, Museums Sheffield and The Lightbox, Woking.

Tuesday, 5th November 2019, 11:07 am
Updated Wednesday, 6th November 2019, 2:48 pm
Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, an actor, William Ruyter, in his dressing room, circa 1638.

Featuring works by Carpaccio, Poussin, Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Dyck and more, Lines of Beauty: Master Drawings from Chatsworth opens at the Millennium Gallery next February.

When the collection of around 1,800 works was originally established by the first Dukes of Devonshire over 300 years ago, viewing them would have been reserved for the social elites of the time.

Today, the drawings form part of regular changing public displays at their Chatsworth home. Opportunities to see them en masse remain limited due to the need to safeguard these delicate works on paper from light damage. As such, only a small selection of works is usually available to view at any one time.

Nicolas Poussin, The Rape of the Sabines, circa 1633

Curated in a partnership between Chatsworth and Museums Sheffield the new exhibition will feature 59 drawings and marks the first time the drawings from The Devonshire Collections have been seen in Sheffield since 1966.

At a launch event last week at Chatsworth House the Duke of Devonshire said. “We haven’t shown this many drawings in one go for 20 years. The big snag is they are difficult to show because they are so fragile, and need to be looked after very carefully.

“The two organisations with whom we are collaborating (Museums Sheffield and The Lightbox, a gallery in Woking, Surrey, where the drawings will be shown in early 2021) are very professional. We feel very privileged to be in the hands of these two expert organisations. They will ensure that the works are well presented.”

As part of that, special interactive consoles have been made that will allow viewers to get really up close with the drawings and learn more about them.

Sir Anthony van Dyck, An English landscape of meadows and wooded hills, with a square tower in the distance, 17th century

The Duke said he was keen that the drawings should be seen by new audiences rather than just visitors to Chatsworth although he hoped that after seeing the exhibition people might be encouraged to come to the stately home.

He added that another aspect of the exhibition was to encourage people to draw, and special events will take place alongside the display.

Among the drawings coming to the Millennium Gallery are works by Dutch Master Rembrandt van Rijn including his pen and ink drawing, An actor, William Ruyter, in his studio (circa 1638).

There are also drawings in pen and ink with chalk and watercolour by Sir Anthony van Dyck, one of the most prominent Flemish painters of the 17th century.

Giuseppe Porta, called Salviati. The legend of the seven kings paying homage to a pope, early 1560s

Another highlight is Nicolas Poussin’s The Rape of the Sabines (circa 1633), one of a number of preparatory drawings depicting the story from Roman mythology. Poussin’s two paintings of the subject are held in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Louvre in Paris.

Also represented is Renaissance Master Vittore Carpaccio. John Ruskin was a great admirer of the Italian artist and his version of Carpaccio’s St George and the Dragon is one of the highlights of the Guild of St George’s Ruskin Collection, housed at the Millennium Gallery.

Much of the collection of 1,800 Old Master drawings was acquired by the Second Duke of Devonshire. Chatsworth has recently acquired a portrait of him, which has now been restored and will go on display alongside the exhibition.

Kate Brindley, Director of Collections & Exhibitions at Chatsworth, said: “Our collaboration with Museums Sheffield has enabled us to look afresh at our collection of drawings, and together share the fascinating stories behind their creation. This is a rare opportunity and we hope that many people will take the opportunity to enjoy these incredible drawings for the first time”

The Duke of Devonshire

Lines of Beauty follows the success of Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing, which saw 12 works by the Renaissance Master from the Royal Collection go on display at the Millennium Gallery in spring 2019.

Kirstie Hamilton, Director of Programmes at Museums Sheffield said: “Drawing remains as vital and universal a skill today as it was when these works were created.”

Lines of Beauty: Master Drawings from Chatsworth will be on view at the Millennium Gallery from February 14 to May 25, 2020. Admission is free.