The Earl of Leicester is passionate about ensuring Holkham’s collections of art and antiquities, manuscripts and books, are enjoyed by as many people as possible. Every year, roughly 45,000 visitors come to Holkham to see the collection in situ. In addition to this, many works are loaned to other institutions, both internationally and within the UK, ensuring that the Holkham collection can be appreciated by an even wider audience.
In Autumn 2019 running into early 2020, there are three exhibitions displaying works from the Holkham Collection, in Cambridge, Paris, and Tokyo.
Claude Lorrain, The Origin of Coral
On loan from 5 October 2019 – 14 June 2020, Through the Eyes of René Huygue: The Splendour of French Paintings – Formation and Transformation of the ‘Grand Manière’, Tokyo Fuji Art Museum, Tokyo
Claude Lorrain was a celebrated French landscape artist of the 17th Century, though he spent a large part of his career working in Italy, and most of his patrons were Italian; after his death, he became very popular with English Grand Tourists and there are a number of works by Claude in the collection, many of which hang in the Landscape Room.
The Origin of Coral was painted in 1674 for Claude’s patron Cardinal Carlo Camillo Masimi, and it was acquired by Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester, around 1753. The work depicts dancing nymphs celebrating the return of Perseus and Pegasus having slain Medusa – her head lies in the background. According to myth, recounted in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, on his return from slaying Medusa, Perseus placed her head on some seaweed at the edge of the Red Sea in order to wash his hands; her blood seeped out onto the seaweed, turning it hard and red, and thus creating coral.
This exhibition will include works from some of the most celebrated French artists from the 17th to the 19th Century, and aims to pay tribute to the late René Huygue, a French Art Historian, and curator at the Louvre. It looks to chart the evolution in French Art from the Fontainebleau School of the 17th Century through the 18th Century influence of Rocco, and finishing with Napoleon’s influence in the early 19th Century, and will include around 70 works from numerous institutions.
The work will travel with the exhibition to the Kyushu National Museum and to the Osaka City Museum, returning to Holkham in Summer 2020.
Bastiano da San Gallo, The Battle of Cascina
On loan from 24 October 2019 – 24 February 2020, Leonardo da Vinci, Louvre, Paris
Marking the 500-year anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, the Louvre is organising an exhibition celebrating his life, which will aim to display their collection of works by the master; they currently hold the largest collection of his paintings in the world, along with 22 of his drawings.
In 1504, Leonardo was commissioned to paint a mural on the walls of the Hall of the Five Hundred in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, depicting the Florentine victory at the Battle of Anghiari. At the same time, Michelangelo was commissioned to paint a fresco on the opposite wall, his fresco showing the Battle of Cascina.
In the event, neither fresco was completed. The cartoon Leonardo produced is well-known, primarily through a copy by Rubens now in the Louvre, and through other preparatory drawings by Leonardo himself. By contrast, relatively few examples of Michelangelo’s preparatory work survive. The cartoon, though much admired and studied by contemporaries, was destroyed, but not before Michelangelo’s pupil, Bastiano da Sangallo (1481-1551) made a copy of the central section of the fresco.
It is this copy that usually hangs at Holkham and that will form part of the exhibition. The painting was acquired from the Barberini Palace in Rome by Thomas Coke, First Earl of Leicester, sometime between 1712 and 1718, and has previously travelled to a number of international exhibitions, including to Florence, Canada, New York, and a year-long tour of Japan.
Virgil, Opera including the Georgics (between 26 November 2019 and 24 February 2020 only)
Anon., A Noble Book of Cookery for a Prince’s Household
On loan from 26 November 2019 – 26 April 2020, Eat, Feast, Fast: the Art of Food in Europe (1500-1800), Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
In November, two manuscripts will travel to Cambridge for the forthcoming exhibition which aims to explore the history and culture of food and eating through a multi-sensory display, including four historical reproductions, comprising a Jacobean sugar banquet, a European feast, and a Georgian confectioner’s workshop.
The first of the two works is a late-fifteenth century Flemish manuscript, which was purchased for T.W. Coke by his friend the historian and abolitionist William Roscoe in 1818. The manuscript includes illuminations depicting agricultural activities throughout the year, one of which will be on display as part of the exhibition, though due to the conservation needs of the work, it will only be displayed for three months (26 November 2019 – 24 February 2020 only).
The second volume is a late-fifteenth century cookery book entitled A Noble Book of Cookery for a Prince’s Household. This English manuscript provides details of menus and recipes offered at banquets in the households of the King, Archbishops, and members of the nobility. The volume has undergone restoration ahead of the exhibition to repair damage to the pages. It has also been digitised in full, to allow its entire contents to be shown interactively as part of the exhibition.