Hubert Robert (1733-1808)

An Architectural Capriccio with Hermit, Bather and Washerwoman Paris, 1796 Oil on canvas 80 x 64.8 cm A capriccio is a fantastic mixture of real and imaginary features, in this case of buildings.  A bell tower emerges from a ruined classical temple which has acquired some additional humble domestic elements.  The figures reflect the same … Read more

Sebastiano Ricci (1659-1734) and Marco Ricci (1676-1730)

An Allegorical Tomb of the First Duke of Devonshire Venice, about 1725 Oil on canvas 217.8 x 138.4 cm This elaborate imaginary tomb of the Duke of Devonshire (1640-1707) was one of a series. It was commissioned by Owen McSwiney to celebrate the political triumph of the Whig party following the Glorious Revolution of 1688.  … Read more

JOSHUA REYNOLDS (1723- 1792)

A Portrait of Richard Robinson London, 1779 Oil on canvas 142.3 x 114.5 cm The Englishman Richard Robinson (1709-1794) was made Archbishop of Armagh in 1765, so when this portrait was painted he was Primate of Ireland. He is dressed in the appropriate clerical garb of the day: wig, hat, dark-grey coat, and black waistband … Read more

JOSHUA REYNOLDS (1723 – 1792)

A Portrait of the Reverend William Beele Devonport, about 1748 Oil on canvas 76.2 x 63.5 cm William Beele (1704-1757) was appointed a naval chaplain in 1727 and he was stationed at Devonport where this portrait was painted. He is shown half-length, framed by an oval-shaped stone niche.  The artist has slightly enlarged the sitter’s … Read more

JOSHUA REYNOLDS (1723-1792)

A Portrait of a Young Man Devonport, about 1746 Oil on canvas 34.3 x 24.1 cm This portrait’s small scale has led to speculation about its function. Reynolds began his career as a portraitist in Devonport and it has been suggested that the man is a naval officer who wanted to take an image of … Read more

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841 – 1919)

Young Woman Seated Paris, about 1876-7 Oil on canvas 66 x 55.5 cm The sitter, Nina Lopez, was one of Renoir’s favourite professional models, so this is not a commissioned portrait.  Renoir painted many half-length figures and they often subsequently acquired evocative titles from the art trade. This work became known as La Pensée or Thought.  … Read more

A Follower of Harmensz. Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)

An Old Warrior Holland, the 1650s Oil on canvas 74.7 x 64.6 cm This painting was purchased as a Rembrandt at a time when the role of his studio was little understood.  The confusion was reinforced by a false signature and date, since removed. The painting certainly reflects Rembrandt’s style of the 1650s with its … Read more

ODILON REDON (1840 – 1916)

The Crucifixion Paris, about 1904 Oil on canvas 46 x 27 cm This crucifixion scene is based on a painting of about 1526 by the German artist Matthias Grünewald.  Redon preserves Grünewald’s central focus, with the weight of Christ’s body bending the cross. However, the grieving figures of the Virgin Mary and Saint John recede … Read more

PIERRE PUVIS DE CHAVANNES (1824 – 1898)

The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist Paris, 1869 Oil on canvas 124.5 x 166 cm Salome, to the right, witnesses the execution of Saint John; she holds a dish to receive his severed head.  In the biblical story Salome’s dance enchanted Herod and his wife Herodias, who persuaded her husband to have the saint … Read more

MATTIA PRETI (1613 – 1699)

The Martyrdom of Saint Peter Naples, the late 1650s Oil on canvas 194.5 x 194.3 cm According to tradition, Saint Peter, Christ’s closest disciple and the first pope, chose to be crucified upside down to avoid comparison with his master.  Here, the two executioners, shown with brutal realism, heave the cross upwards.  One looks directly … Read more

NICOLAS POUSSIN (1594 – 1665)

Tancred and Erminia Rome, about 1634 Oil on canvas 75.5 x 99.7 cm Tancred, a Christian warrior, lies wounded after slaying the giant Argantes, shown to the right.  Tancred is helped by his squire and by Erminia, a Saracen princess, in love with the Christian knight.  She cuts off her hair to bind his wounds.  … Read more

CAMILLE PISSARRO (1830 – 1903)

The Pond at Montfoucault Montfoucault, Normandy, 1875 Oil on canvas 73.6 x 92.7 cm The Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro painted this landscape whilst staying at a friend’s farm in Normandy in the autumn of 1875.  The artist called the remote small holding the ‘true countryside’ and he included working figures in many of his views. … Read more

GIOVANNI ANTONIO PELLEGRINI (1675-1741)

Judith and her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes England, about 1710 Oil on canvas 124.7 x 102 cm The beautiful biblical heroine Judith saved the Israelites from conquest by Assyria.  She stole into the tent of the Assyrian general Holofernes during the night and decapitated him.  Here, she passes the head to her maid.  … Read more

SIR WILLIAM QUILLER ORCHARDSON (1832-1910)

A Portrait of Lady Orchardson London, exhibited 1875 Oil on canvas 124.5 x 97.8 cm The Scottish artist Quiller Orchardson married Ellen Moxon (about 1854-1917) in 1873.  He painted a number of portraits of her as well as using her as a model for some of his well-known genre scenes from high society.  This portrait … Read more

NERI DI BICCI (1418 – about 1492)

Saint John the Baptist Leaving for the Desert Florence, about 1470 Tempera on wood 23.8 x 37.8 cm Saint John, dressed in camel skin, takes leave of his parents outside the walls of Jerusalem.  He journeys to begin his life as a preacher in the desert, which will culminate in his baptising Christ. The panel … Read more

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617 – 1682)

The Marriage Feast at Cana Seville, about 1672 Oil on canvas 179 x 235 cm Christ performs his first miracle, turning water into wine. Murillo has depicted the Biblical episode as if taking place in his own city of Seville. Servants fill Sevillian water pots, while a boy in a decorative orange-red tunic looks on … Read more

Pieter Molijn (1595-1661)

A Landscape with a Huntsman Haarlem, Holland, possibly the 1640s Oil on wood 33 x 54.6 cm This beautifully preserved landscape is typical of the artist’s panoramic views with their spacious open skies.  The huntsman in the foreground and the church in the distance are the only incidents in a relatively featureless landscape.  Interest depends … Read more

Jean-François Millet (1814 – 1875)

A Milkmaid Barbizon, near Paris, about 1853 Oil on canvas 32.5 x 24 cm A milkmaid, silhouetted against the moon, pauses to rebalance a heavy copper pitcher on her shoulder. Despite her small scale, the figure has a monumentality which conveys a timeless quality.  Millet came from a peasant background in Normandy and his paintings … Read more

Jan Miel (1599-1664) and Alessandro Salucci? (1590 – about 1660)

The Arch of Constantine, Rome Rome, the mid-1640s Oil on canvas 126.3 x 175.2 cm The Roman Arch of Constantine (315 AD) is viewed from near the Colosseum, with the modern facade of Saint Gregory the Great seen in the centre.  The great monument has been stripped of its grandeur, acting as a gateway to … Read more

‘Of Exceptional and Outstanding Merit’

Treasures from the Barber Institute of Fine Arts The Wallace Collection, London To mark Lady Barber’s reference to the Wallace Collection as a benchmark of quality for the Barber’s own collections, key items of sculpture and decorative arts from the Barber will be displayed there. Objects will include an ancient Greek helmet, a 14th-century French … Read more

Birth of a Collection

Masterpieces from the Barber Institute of Fine Arts Room 1, The National Gallery, London Between the foundation of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in 1932 and before the official opening of the building and its galleries on 26 July, 1939, works acquired by its first Director, Professor Thomas Bodkin, were stored or displayed at … Read more

Matteo di Giovanni (about 1430 – 1495)

The Madonna and Child, with Saint John the Baptist and Saint Michael the Archangel Siena, about 1485-95 Tempera on wood 57.9 x 40.4 cm John the Baptist, to the left, points to the infant Christ.  His banner proclaims ECCE DEI – ‘Here is [the lamb] of God’.  John wears the camel-hair robe which signifies his … Read more

The Master of the Griselda Legend (worked around 1490 – 1500)

Alexander the Great Siena, about 1494 Oil and tempera on wood 105.4 x 50.8 cm Alexander of Macedon (356 – 326BC) is shown as a youthful warrior posed on a pedestal.  This is one of a series, showing virtuous men and women of antiquity, which decorated a palace in Siena.  The inscription underlines the moral.  … Read more

The Master of the Games (17th Century)

Soldiers Playing Cards Paris, the early 1650s Oil on canvas 85 x 114.3 cm A group of off-duty soldiers play cards in their barracks, their weapons temporarily set aside.  The artificial light casts long shadows and picks out their clothes and faces, hinting, perhaps, that we are looking at a group of portraits. The painting … Read more

Nicolaes Maes (1634 – 1693)

A Portrait of a Lady Amsterdam, the mid-1670s Oil on canvas 113.6 x 89.5 cm The identity of this fashionably-dressed woman posed in a landscape is not known.  The costume and her hairstyle suggest a date from the mid-1670s, after Maes had moved to Amsterdam and when he took up painting society portraits.  Maes had … Read more

Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830)

A Portrait of a Lady London, the early 1790s Oil on canvas 73.6 x 60.9 cm The sitter’s identity has unfortunately been lost, but stylistic and costume evidence suggests a date in the early 1790s.  Lawrence had just then arrived in London where he achieved instant success at the Royal Academy’s exhibition, setting him on … Read more

Nicolas Lancret (1690-1743)

Lovers in a Landscape (The Turtle Doves) Paris, about 1736 Oil on canvas 75.3 x 97.5 cm A young man gazes at his elegantly-dressed partner and points to a pair of turtle doves.  The birds are the perfect model of faithful lovers who reciprocate their feelings with tenderness.  The couple’s romantic encounter in an idyllic landscape … Read more