Chatsworth Old Master treasures to go on show in Sheffield Millennium Gallery

An exciting new exhibition of Old Masters drawings will go on show in Sheffield next year, thanks to a special partnership with Chatsworth House.

Thursday, 17th October 2019, 11:54 am
Updated Friday, 1st November 2019, 12:20 pm
Sebastiano del Piombo, A reclining apostle, circa 1516. © The Devonshire Collections Reproduced by kind permission of Chatsworth Settlement Trustees

Lines of Beauty: Master Drawings from Chatsworth has come about as part of a collaboration between Museums Sheffield and the Peak District stately home, said the Duke of Devonshire at a special launch event in the house.

The exhibition will feature works by Carpaccio, Poussin, Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Dyck and more.

When the collection was originally established over 300 years ago, viewing of these works would have been reserved for the social elites of the time.

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Sir Anthony van Dyck, An English landscape of meadows and wooded hills, with a square tower in the distance, 17th century © The Devonshire Collections. Reproduced by kind permission of Chatsworth Settlement Trustees

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.

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

The Duke said that 65 drawings from the collection are being loaned out for the exhibition, which will appear in Woking, Surrey, after Sheffield.

Nicolas Poussin, The Rape of the Sabines, circa 1633 © The Devonshire Collections. Reproduced by kind permission ofcChatsworth Settlement Trustees

He said: “We haven’t shown this many drawings in one go for at least 20 years.

“They are a very important part of the historic collection.

“The snagging point is they are so difficult to show because they are so fragile, and need to be looked after very carefully.

“The two organisations with whom we are collaborating are very professional.

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called il Guercino: Venus scolding Cupid, while an older cupid binds him to a tree, 17th century. © The Devonshire Collections. Reproduced by kind permission of Chatsworth Settlement Trustees

“We feel very privileged to be in the hands of these two expert organisations.”

The Duke said he was keen that the collection should be seen by new audiences, rather than people having to visit Chatsworth to see any of the drawings.

Much of the collection of 1,500 Old Master drawings in total was amassed by the Second Duke of Devonshire.

Chatsworth has recently acquired a portrait of him, which has now been restored and was on display at the launch.

The Duke said he wants the exhibition to be accessible to people.

Special interactive consoles have been made that will allow viewers to get really up close with the drawings and learn more about them.

He added that one point of the exhibition is to encourage people to draw, and special events will take place alongside the display.

Kim Streets, chief executive of Museums Sheffield, said: “We have been working with Chatsworth for years.

“We’ve borrowed things from time to time and the Duke was very supportive of the Going Public contemporary programme. He was a former trustee of Museums Sheffield.”

Going Public is a project that looks at the future of how private and public art collections can work together.

Kim said: “We’re particularly excited because of our recent Leonardo drawings exhibition. People were enthralled, fascinated and excited to get up close to the work of a master.

“That was 12-13 double-sided works. This is 65 works.

“We want to use it as a way of inspiring drawing, for you to be inspired to try your own hand, and that’s something we’re quite good at.”

She added: "We’ve got these treasures on our doorstep. To be able to bring them into the city and shine a spotlight on them is very, very exciting and feels like a real privilege.”

Lines of Beauty: Master Drawings from Chatsworth opens at the Millennium Gallery on Friday, February 14 and continues to May 25. Entry to the exhibition is free.