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.
Following the confusion caused by the coronavirus pandemic, many exhibitions were forced to postpone. However, for the Autumn of 2020, running into January 2021, one exhibition will be displaying works from Holkham.
Claude Lorrain, Erminia and the Shepherds and Argus Guarding Io
On loan from 17 September 2020 - 17 January 2021, ‘Arcadia: a Paradise Lost’, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, Sweden.
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.
Erminia and the Shepherds was painted in 1666 for Claude’s patron Prince Paolo Francesco Falconieri, and was acquired by Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester before 1760. The work depicts a scene from Tasso’s epic poem Jerusalem Delivered (1581), which is a romantic re-imagining of the Crusades. In this picture, the Muslim princess Erminia, having fled the crusaders’ camp in search of her lover Tancredi, appeals to a shepherd and his family for help. As she is dressed in armour, they shrink away in fear, though ultimately, they would help her when they realised she was not a solider, but a princess.
Argus Guarding Io was also acquired by Thomas Coke, in 1755 from the widow of Mr Humphry Edwin. This work takes a story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses as its subject matter, and shows the giant Argus guarding Io on behalf of the goddess Hera. Io was a lover of Zeus, and he transformed her into a cow to hide her from his wife. The rouse was unsuccessful, as Hera discovered Io, and entrusted her to Argus in order to part her husband and his lover.
This exhibition – one of the first to be organised after the start of the pandemic – intends to celebrate the tradition of Classical landscape painting that emerged during the 17th and 18th Centuries, particularly in Italy and France. In these types of work, an ideal Italian landscape would be used as the setting for a small narrative scene, normally derived from Classical Mythology. Claude Lorrain, who spent most of his active career in Rome, initiated a new method of landscape painting, sketching outdoors and integrating ideas from these drawings into oil paintings finished in the studio, blending classical idealism with naturalistic detail to produce work almost more beautiful than nature itself. Claude, who became the most celebrated of all exponents of the ideal landscape, exerted considerable influence on landscape artists of the 18th and 19th centuries, including most notably, the English painter Turner.
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 11th - 31st August 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.