Public display for historic artworks at Chatsworth House

On show: Leda and The Swan.
On show: Leda and The Swan.
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OLD masters from some of the world’s greatest artists held by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire are going on show to the public for the first time in 100 years.

Chatsworth House’s Devonshire Collection of drawings includes works by figures including Da Vinci, Raphael, Rubens, Van Dyck and Titian.

They will go on display in a specially-built, jewel-like Old Master Drawings cabinet – a specially-built room for a rolling display from the 3000-strong collection – and the exhibition will be launched to the public on Sunday, July 1.

A spokesman for the Duke and Duchess said: “It is considered the greatest historic family collection outside the Royal Collection at Windsor, due to its scope and quality.

“The first exhibition of drawings is called World Class: Masterpieces from the Devonshire Collection.

“It will display many of the collection’s finest works.”

Works include Leonardo da Vinci’s Leda and the Swan, which dates back to 1503/4 and depicts Leda, wife of the King of Sparta, shown with the god Jupiter who has taken the form of a swan to seduce her. Helen – later Helen of Troy – Clytemnestra, and Castor and Pollux are seen hatching from the eggs at Leda’s feet.

Also going on show is a landscape picture of a riderless horse by Titian, Raphael’s picture of a seated woman reading with child and a Rembrandt artwork depicting an actor in his dressing room.

The spokesman said: “Because of their importance, age and fragility, the Old Master Drawings will form a rolling exhibition, with each work displayed for a limited time before it is returned to dark storage to rest in order to preserve it for future generations.

“Chatsworth has been able to bring the drawings out of storage for display in the cabinet, which has the appropriate lighting, environment and security, thanks to the recent £14 million ‘masterplan’ restoration work at the house.”

The drawings will be on show at eye-level in the display room, which has been revamped as an 18th century collector’s cabinet.

The ceiling height has been raised and some 1690s’ wooden cornice, carved for the 1st Duke, has been rescued from store and reused.