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Cumberland Art Gallery highlights

Thomas Gainsborough

Diana and Actaeon, c1785-8

This is the only known mythological scene by an artist more famous for his studies of later Georgian royalty and the upper classes. As punishment for spying on her while bathing, the goddess Diana throws water in the face of Actaeon, transforming him into a stag that is destined to be killed by his own dogs. Gainsborough blends the figures into the landscape to evoke the mystery and power of nature, an approach that reaches back to Titian and forward to Renoir, Cézanne and Matisse.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Hans Holbein the Younger

'Noli Me Tangere', 1526-8

'Noli Me Tangere' is Latin for 'Touch me not', the words Jesus speaks to his friend and follower, Mary Magdalene, on the morning when she discovers him risen from the dead. She is greatly surprised to find that the man she has mistaken for a gardener is Christ. The world Holbein has created here looks real, but he has saturated the tomb with a divine golden light, brighter than the morning dawn, to convey the extraordinary event of the Resurrection.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Duccio di Buoninsegna

Triptych: Crucifixion and other Scenes, c1302-8

Christ is at the centre, but this work is about his mother, the Virgin Mary, who appears four times. Duccio skilfully painted her emotions so that the viewer could identify with her sorrows, acceptance and trusting faith. This altarpiece was for private use. Its hinged sides originally closed like doors to protect and conceal the painting. When opened for prayer by candlelight, the gold leaf glowed and shimmered, evoking the riches of heaven.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Sir Anthony van Dyck

Portrait of Mary, Princess Royal and later Princess of Orange, c1637

Court artists worked directly for the royal family. Van Dyck’s portrait of the 6-year-old daughter of Charles I is a statement of dynastic wealth – the expensive lace, pearls and gold damask curtain – but also a delightful image of a little girl with her hands clasped uncertainly in front of her silver apron, attempting a mature pose beyond her years.

Accepted by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to Historic Royal Palaces, 2008.

Rembrandt van Rijn

An Old Woman, called ‘The Artist’s Mother’, c1627-9

Rembrandt’s painting is a timeless and moving record of old age. The hooded eyes, thinning lips and the loose and creased folds of skin are all exaggerated and highlighted, designed to evoke our pity and perhaps a sense of our own mortality. Such paintings, virtuoso exercises of imagination, also brilliantly displayed Rembrandt’s talent, and helped establish his reputation.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Jacopo Bassano

The Adoration of the Shepherds, c1546

Charles I established the Royal Collection as one of the greatest private art collections in the world. This masterpiece was one of his many enlightened acquisitions. Bassano sets the story of Christ’s birth in the foothills of the Dolomites, with his own home town in the distance. The naturalistic setting is reinforced by the strikingly realistic shepherds and animals. Instead of a traditional stable, Bassano locates the event in a ruined temple. The old stones will be used to build a new church, symbolising the rise of Christianity.

Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017.

Sir Anthony van Dyck

Charles I on Horseback, c1635-6

Charles I assembled a grand art collection that reflected his self-image as a magnificent monarch and true connoisseur. This is van Dyck’s complete ‘modello’, presented to the King for his approval, in preparation for the life-size painting now in the National Gallery. It is an evocative image of kingship, much copied afterwards - a grand statement of monarchical power which van Dyck painted just a decade before the King’s execution.

Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017.