The Cumberland Art Gallery opened in November 2015 to showcase paintings from the Royal Collection. The works are situated in the apartments design by William Kent for a Georgian Prince – the Duke of Cumberland. The rooms themselves are fascinating – as are the historic scenes they have witnessed over the years.
The Georgians seemed to have made a tradition of actively disliking their eldest sons and George 11 was no different. The Royal couple disliked their eldest son Frederick to such an extent that he became known as ‘poor Fred’ and their third and youngest son William Augustus quickly became their favourite.
William Augustus was awarded the title Duke of Cumberland at only 5 years old and had the privilege of living in these rooms especially designed for him at Hampton Court Palace. William Augustus was an able soldier who distinguished himself at Dettingen but later earned himself the harsh nickname of ‘The Butcher’ for his successful suppression of the second Jacobite Rebellion at Culloden in 1745.
But the real stars here today are Holbein, Caravaggio, Bassano, Gainsborough, Canaletto, Gentileschi (both Orazio and his daughter, Artemesia) – and not forgetting either the small matter of a Rembrandt self portrait!
The rooms leading towards the gallery are lined with some very early copies of the Raphael Cartoons (The originals are now in the V&A) and the famous set of Windsor Beauties painted by Sir Peter Lely. These ladies sum up the sensuality of the Stuart court and also the increasingly positive and free role that women had after the Restoration.
Spoilt for choice, really. The Bassano of the Adoration of the Shepherds is a fascinating picture to look at closely because of the symbolism within it. The broken columns signifying the end of the old regime and the beginning of a new one with the birth of the Christ child. The tree perhaps representing the cross to come. The shepherds bringing their traditional gifts of a lamb, a musical instrument and poultry. Just notice the eyes on those chickens! This artist came from the country town of Bassano, (famous for its bridge) around 65 kilometres from Venice. It is a place where there are more animals than Holy Families and this artist is famous for painting animals into his pictures – and this man certainly knows his chickens.
Margaret Lemon, the mistress of Van Dyck who on hearing he was going to get married is said to have tried to bite off his thumb to prevent him being able to paint. A woman scorned if ever there was one!
And many more beautiful paintings to please the eye and lift the soul….