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National Trust's Dutch Golden Age prized possessions all together in Bath

A charming exhibition of Dutch Golden Age paintings from National Trust properties has opened at The Holburne Museum in Bath and is definitely worth visiting this summer

Magus at a Table, Jan Lievens (Image: (c) National Trust, Image Angelo Hornak)

Prized Possessions: Dutch Masterpieces from National Trust Houses brings together 22 works by Rembrandt, Lely, Metsu, Cuyp and de Heem from 12 National trust properties and introduces lesser known Dutch painters such as Simon Pietersz Verelst and Adriaen van Diest.

It is the first time that the paintings have been exhibited together and they come from houses including the 17th century mansion Dyrham Park in Gloucester, designed and decored in the Dutch style by owner William Blathwayt, Ham House in Richmond which includes Peter Lely's portrait of the Duchess of Luaderdale who encouraged his career, and later period house such as Upton House in Warwickshire, home of Shell Oil director Lord Bearsted, whose electric collecting included some of the finest examples of Dutch art.

The delightful Holburne Museum in Bath is a perfect location for this special exhibition. Their exhibition space gives plenty of room to take in the paintings, with the Rembrandt self portrait in central position in the second room.

Self-Portrait wearing a White Feathered Bonnet, Rembrandt van Rijn (Image: (c) National Trust/ Chris Titmus)

National Trust Curator of Pictures and Sculpture, David Taylor, is curating the exhibition with Dr Rupert Goulding, Lead Curator for the South West region of the National Trust. Taylor remarks: " The Dutch gained independence from Spain in 1648 and in a relatively short period of time there was a new confidence and prosperity that saw a burgeoning middle class with money and in interest in commissioning and displaying art. The artists who flourished at this time...attracted patrons and collectors from across Europe.

This is the first time in over twenty years that paintings from around the country have left their homes to appear together in a dedicated National Trust exhibition and we are thrilled that the Holburne Museum will be hosting it. We hope that the works we have chosen will delight not only enthusiasts of Dutch art but anyone who is discovering the joy of 'Golden Age' paintings for the first time."

St Catherine's Church, Utrecht, Pieter Jansz Saenredam, (Image: (c) National Trust)

And there is no doubt that these paintings will entrance the visitor, with the different genres of landscapes, portraits, interiors and still-life giving much to digest and enjoy. One of the many joys of Dutch Golden Age paintings are the hidden meanings found within them. Take Gabriel Metre's The Duet, which shows a young lady holding a musical score (on which the painter has placed his signature, upside down) and about to sing to the accompaniment of a lute played by a young man. But look more closely and you'll see the her feet rest on a foot warmer, (which is supposed to indicate other areas that are heating up), while the presence of the lute is meant to symbolise love and the little dog, fidelity. The painting is a variation on the theme of courtship, inviting the viewer to wonder about the woman's availability.

Gabriel Metre's The Duet, (Image: (c) National Trust, Christopher Hurst)

This really is a most charming exhibition filled with many Golden Age gems, and a great reminder of the close ties between England the Northern Netherlands (or Dutch Republic) in the 17th-century.

A visit to The Holburne Museum also makes a perfect outing, as the Museum's own collection, by Sir William Thomas Holburne, is worth visiting too. The Museum's situation next to the green oasis of Sydney Gardens makes it a delightful place to visit, and it is only a ten minute walk from the station or into Bath itself. There is also a cafe full of tempting sweet and savoury snacks (including pasta and sandwiches) and a comprehensive events programme on offer. A great day out!


Read more about the Dutch Golden Age in Leiden in the latest issue of Timeless Travels magazine. CLICK HERE for more information

Prized Possessions: Dutch Masterpieces from National Trust Houses

Holburne Museum, Bath

Showing until 16 September 2018

CLICK HERE for more information


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