Federico-Zuccaro's Head and shoulders of a bearded man wearing a cap

Exhibition of Chatsworth’s World-Class Collection

Millennium Gallery, Sheffield 14 February – 25 May 2020

A major new exhibition featuring more than 50 Old Master Drawings from Chatsworth’s extraordinary collection, second only to the Queen’s in its remarkable scope and quality, will open in Sheffield in February 2020.

Featuring works by Carpaccio, Poussin, Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Dyck and more, Lines of Beauty: Master Drawings from Chatsworth is the largest exhibition of these rare wonders for more than twenty years.

Set to go on display at Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery from 14 February 2020 as part of a new exhibition partnership between Chatsworth, Museums Sheffield and The Lightbox, Woking, the free exhibition is a rare opportunity to experience the vibrancy and emotional power of the works up close.

Alessandro Bonvicino, called Moretto da Brescia, A woman’s head with braided hair, 16th century
Alessandro Bonvicino, called Moretto da Brescia, A woman’s head with braided hair, 16th century

Curated by Museums Sheffield in partnership with Chatsworth, this new exhibition at the Millennium Gallery brings together 59 drawings from the collection. Lines of Beauty marks the first time the drawings, which represent some of the highlights of The Devonshire Collections, have been seen in Sheffield since 1966.

Amassed by the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Dukes of Devonshire, the Chatsworth collection of old master drawings comprises around 1,800 works by some of the most important artists of the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries.

When the collection was originally established over 300 years ago, viewing of these works would have been reserved for the social elites of the time. Today, a small selection of drawings are display on rotation in the purpose-built Old Master Drawings Cabinet created in 2012 at Chatsworth.

Reviewing the first display in 2012, the Guardian’s art critic Jonathan Jones said the drawings ‘reveal the emotional power of great art. Drawings are more intimate than paintings and…more authentic survivals of these great artists’ imaginations.’

A special collection

Opportunities to see them en masse remain limited due to the need to safeguard these delicate works on paper from light damage. As such, only a small selection of works is usually available to view at any one time.

For Lines of Beauty, special interactive consoles have been made that will allow viewers to get up close with the drawings and learn more about them. The exhibition will also encourage people to draw, and special events will take place alongside the display.

Among the drawings on display at the Millennium Gallery are:

Works by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669), including his pen and ink drawing, An actor, William Ruyter, in his studio (circa 1638). Rembrandt is widely considered one of the most important artists in the history of western art and the most critically acclaimed painter of the Dutch Golden Age.

Drawings in pen and ink with chalk and watercolour by Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641), one of the most prominent Flemish painters of the 17th century, who painted for King Charles I.

Nicolas Poussin’s (1594–1665) The Rape of the Sabines (circa 1633), one of a number of preparatory drawings depicting the story from Roman mythology. Poussin’s two paintings of the subject are held in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Louvre, Paris.

Works by Renaissance Master Vittore Carpaccio (about 1460–1526). John Ruskin was a great admirer of the Italian artist and his version of Carpaccio’s St George and the Dragon is one of the highlights of the Guild of St George’s Ruskin Collection, housed at the Millennium Gallery.

Kirstie Hamilton, Director of Programmes at Museums Sheffield said:

“Drawing remains as vital and universal a skill today as it was when these works were created. The Devonshire Collection of Old Master Drawings is truly world-class and we are thrilled to be working with Chatsworth to bring so many of these remarkable highlights together at the Millennium Gallery.”

Kate Brindley, Director of Collections & Exhibitions at Chatsworth said:

“Our collaboration with Museums Sheffield has enabled us to look afresh at our collection of drawings, and together share the fascinating stories behind their creation. This is a rare opportunity and we hope that many people will take the opportunity to enjoy these incredible drawings for the first time”

Lines of Beauty: Master Drawings from Chatsworth opens at the Millennium Gallery on Friday 14 February 2020 and continues until 25 May 2020. Entry to the exhibition is free.

Photo credit: Frederico Zuccaro, Head and shoulders of a bearded man wearing a cap, possibly a self-portrait, 16th–17th Century

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