Matthias Stom (about 1600 – after 1652)

Isaac Blessing Jacob Sicily, about 1635 Oil on canvas 136.5 x 182 cm The old and blind Isaac summons his eldest son Esau to prepare his meal and receive a blessing. His wife Rebecca substitutes her favourite son Jacob who wears goat-skin gloves in order to resemble his hairy brother.  He steps forward gingerly whilst … Read more

Jan Steen (1625/6 – 1679)

The Wrath of Ahasuerus Leiden, Holland, about 1671-3 Oil on canvas 129 x 167 cm King Ahasuerus rises in fury as his wife Esther reveals the treachery of his chief minister Haman, who cringes to the left. According to Bible, Haman plotted to massacre the Jews in the Persian empire.  Queen Esther summoned the two … Read more

Francesco Solimena (1657 – 1747)

The Holy Trinity, with the Madonna and Saints Naples, about 1705 Oil on canvas 101 x 128 cm   This is a preliminary study for a large altarpiece, known as a modello. It was painted for a church of Franciscan nuns in Naples where Solimena worked throughout his life.  Saint Francis, and his follower Saint Clare, … Read more

Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674)

The Vision of Saint Juliana of Mont Cornillon Paris, about 1645/50 Oil on canvas 47.5 x 38.7 cm Saint Juliana (about 1191-1258) was a 16-year-old nun when she began to have visions whilst praying.  She interpreted the appearance of the moon, marked with a stain, as a rebuke to the Church for not having a … Read more

Simone Martini (about 1284 – 1344)

Saint John the Evangelist Siena, 1320 Tempera on wood 41.7 x 30.3 cm This originally formed the right-hand panel of three – a triptych.  The others would have shown the dead Christ in the centre, with the grieving Virgin Mary to the left.  Saint John’s sorrow was a reaction to Christ’s crucifixion.  The panels could … Read more

Luca Signorelli (about 1441 – 1523)

A Portrait of Niccolò Vitelli Città di Castello, central Italy, about 1492-6 Oil on wood 44.2 x 33 cm Niccolò Vitelli (1414 – 1486) was a ruthless mercenary commander who established his family as rulers of Città di Castello.  This portrait was painted after his death.  It was probably commissioned by his sons as a … Read more

Jacob van Ruisdael (1628/9-1682)

A Woodland Landscape Probably Amsterdam, the early 1660s Oil on canvas 61 x 84.5 cm The Dutch landscapist Jacob van Ruisdael painted many types of landscape, including numerous woodland scenes.  In this comparatively open example a drover pauses as his animals cross a river; beyond the bridge, a flock of sheep graze a meadow. In contrast … Read more

A Follower of Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

The Head of a Young Woman Antwerp, perhaps 1640s Oil on wood 56.5 x 48.8 cm This painting was purchased as a study by Rubens of his second wife Helena Fourment.  However, research shows that both the title and the attribution are wrong.  The head was probably copied from the female figure in Frans Rubens … Read more

Peter Paul Rubens (1577 – 1640)

A Portrait of a Carmelite Prior Antwerp, about 1616 Oil on wood 79.5 x 65.5 cm A man dressed in the austere habit of the Carmelite order prays in front of a crucifix.  The order was dedicated to contemplative prayer.  The man’s identity is not known, but his rapt gaze and the sympathetic treatment of … Read more

Peter Paul Rubens (1577 – 1640)

A Landscape in Flanders Mechelen, near Antwerp, about 1635-40 Oil on wood 89.8 x 133.8 cm This slightly elevated view shows the countryside around Het Steen, the castle that Rubens bought in 1635.  Here he painted landscapes for his own pleasure, away from the demands of wealthy and powerful patrons.  In this case, he painted … Read more

Theodore Rousseau (1812 – 1867)

A Landscape in the Auvergne Auvergne, France, 1830 Oil on paper, laid on canvas 33 x 42.2 cm This landscape was painted directly from nature in the summer of 1830.  The young artist reacted against his narrow academic training by travelling to the mountainous Auvergne region.  Here Rousseau sought out rugged views, such as this … Read more

Cosimo Rosselli (1439 – 1507)

The Adoration of the Infant Christ Rome, about 1480 Tempera on wood 177.8 x 149.5 cm This is the main panel of an altarpiece.  A complex group of figures is gathered within a beautiful landscape.  Three saints surround the infant Christ: Jerome with his chest bared; Francis in the grey habit; and Benedict in the … Read more

George Romney (1734-1802)

A Portrait of John Smith London, 1782 Oil on canvas 127 x 101.6 cm John Smith (1703-1787) is shown seated against a window with a snuff box in his left hand.  He was a successful merchant who had some interest in the arts.  He would have been seventy-nine when he sat for this portrait, which … Read more

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