Rare European masterpieces including Rembrandt to go on display at County Durham castle

Auckland Castle Clock Tower in Bishop Auckland, County Durham
-Credit: (Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

Paintings by Dutch and Flemish masters are set to go on display at a County Durham Castle.

Auckland Castle in Bishop Auckland will display paintings by Rembrandt, David Teniers and Paulus Potter, alongside Spanish, French and Italian works at the European Masterpieces exhibition which opens on July 6. The exhibition aims to illuminates the surprising connections between artistic communities across the continent in the 17th century.

It will be held in the Bishop Trevor Gallery, the private apartments created by 18th century Bishop of Durham, Richard Trevor. Known as "Saint Durham", the bishop was an avid collector of art with a personal fortune which allowed him to indulge his passion.

In 1756 he purchased the series of paintings of Jacob and his Twelve Sons by Francisco de Zurbarán (1598 - 1664), which still hang in the Long Dining Room at the castle today. Taking these paintings as a starting point, the new exhibition will lead visitors on a tour through 17th century Europe showcasing works of art created by Zurbarán's contemporaries.

Still life of glistening fish will contrast with large-scale Biblical paintings and tiny scenes of everyday life in the Low Countries, showing the differing national and regional schools of painting while exploring their shared influences.

Francisco Barranco, Still Life with Fish, Shellfish and Onions
Francisco Barranco, Still Life with Fish, Shellfish and Onions -Credit:© Zurbarán Trust

Clare Baron, head of curatorial at The Auckland Project, said: "In an age before modern technology and modern transport, it is easy to assume that artists worked in isolation from their counterparts in the rest of Europe. The reality was very different.

"The most successful artists of the seventeenth century were well travelled, moving between cities and across borders to seek work or fulfil commissions for powerful patrons. And if they could not travel themselves, artists exchanged ideas through prints, books, and letters.

"Many took the opportunity to seek inspiration whilst abroad, studying the works of art that filled the palaces of Europe: be that the collection of Philip IV in his new palace of Buen Retiro outside Madrid, the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II in Prague, King Louis XIV in Paris or the great collections of popes and cardinals in and around Rome."

The European Masterpieces exhibition will open on July 6 and run until October 6.