Sotheby’s is honored to announce “Treasures from Chatsworth” — a rare public exhibition in the United States of works from the fabled Devonshire Collection, held at historic Chatsworth House in the United Kingdom.
Chatsworth is home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, and has been passed down through 16 generations of the Cavendish family. The house is renowned for the quality of its art, landscape, and hospitality, and has evolved through the centuries to reflect the tastes, passions, and interests of succeeding generations, standing today among the most important stately homes in the United Kingdom. Rich with thousands of objects, the Devonshire Collection represents a grand tradition of collecting by the Cavendish family spanning half a millennium, which ranks as one of the most significant collections of art and objects in Europe.
Coinciding with Sotheby’s 275th anniversary in 2019, as well as the opening of our expanded and reimagined New York galleries, the Treasures from Chatsworth exhibition was designed by the award-winning creative director and designer David Korins, whose work includes the set designs for the Broadway musical phenomena Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen, as well as past Sotheby’s exhibitions. The extended exhibition will offer viewers an immersive experience, featuring extraordinary objects illustrative of the Devonshire Collection while simultaneously bringing to life the experience of Chatsworth House and its spectacular grounds.
Forty-five masterworks have been selected for the Treasures from Chatsworth exhibition to represent the remarkable breadth of the Devonshire Collection — fine art from Rembrandt van Rijn to Lucian Freud, furniture and decorative objects from the 16th century to 21st-century design, and exceptional jewels, costumes, and archive materials commemorating historic occasions will all be on view to the public. A selection of individual highlights is below, with additional works to be announced throughout the spring.
REMBRANDT VAN RIJN: PORTRAIT OF AN OLD MAN
This masterly painting of an old man by Rembrandt van Rijn is signed and dated 1651 — a period during which the artist painted rarely and received few portrait commissions.
Formerly one of three Rembrandt paintings in the Devonshire Collection, the work was seen in the collection of Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington, as early as 1728, marking it as one of the earliest Rembrandt paintings ever acquired by an English collector.
It is not certain whether this work is a commissioned portrait. Alternatively, it may show an old male model, dressed in a rich exotic costume, sitting for a “tronie” — a popular Dutch genre painting of the time. Such works gave artists the opportunity to show off their technique: here, with directional lighting, Rembrandt shows his mastery through lighting in depicting character and old age, with his broad brushstrokes bringing to life the texture and weight of the man’s rich costume.
THE DEVONSHIRE PARURE
In 1856, William, 6th Duke of Devonshire, commissioned a seven-piece set of jewelry known as the Devonshire Parure, incorporating 88 carved gems from the large gem collection at Chatsworth that was assembled primarily by the 2nd and 4th Dukes of Devonshire.
The commission was a response to the Duke’s nephew’s attendance at the coronation of Tsar Alexander II of Russia, as a representative of Queen Victoria. Having previously attended the coronation of Tsar Nicholas I, the Duke could be certain that Maria, Countess Granville, would need a large and remarkable suite of jewels to furnish her wardrobe for the many functions she would attend and host.
Today the engraved gem collection at Chatsworth represents the largest such collection in private hands. While prominent collections such as those of Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel (1586–1646), and George Spencer, Fourth Duke of Marlborough (1739–1817), are now in the British Museum or dispersed through other collections both public and private, the Devonshire gems remain in the family that collected them.
ANTHONY VAN DYCK: PORTRAIT OF JAN SNELLECK
Anthony van Dyck’s striking drawing of the Flemish artist, draftsmen, and collector Jan Snelleck is part of a group of celebrated portraits by Van Dyck of notable people of his age. This work is from a large collection of Old Master drawings purchased via a private sale from Nicolas Anthonis Flinck in 1723/4 by the 2nd Duke of Devonshire.
Van Dyck, a leading pupil of Rubens, was particularly exceptional in the field of portraiture. As a portrait painter in England from 1632, he revolutionized the art of the portrait, influencing not only his contemporaries but also countless artists down the centuries.
Free of charge and open to the public, “Treasures from Chatsworth” will be on view from June 28 through September, 18, 2019, in Sotheby’s New York galleries, located at 1334 York Avenue.