The Bowes Museum acquires unique 15th-century painting

Art Fund has supported the purchase of St Luke Drawing the Virgin and Child, attributed to the workshop of Dieric Bouts the Elder and considered to be of huge artistic importance.

In November 2015, a temporary export bar was placed on the painting to avoid it being sold to a foreign buyer and leaving the UK. Dieric Bouts is considered one of the leading Early Netherlandish painters and the artwork depicts a rare subject, making it a unique piece unlike any other in the UK.

The face of St.Luke, portrays both age and character, which is idiosyncratic of Bouts' work and the detailed landscape beyond the colonnade, depicting a walled town and mountains, demonstrates the artist's talent for landscape painting.

Funding the work

Thanks to the support of Art Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund and a number of private donors, the partnership between The Bowes Museum in County Durham, York Art Gallery and Bristol Museum & Art Gallery has raised £2,390,650 to keep the work in the UK.

Culture and Digital Minister Matt Hancock said: 'It's fantastic news that this stunning painting will remain in the UK for the public to see. I'm delighted that the export deferral has allowed this outstanding work of art to find a new home at The Bowes Museum.'

Art Fund offered further support for the acquisition by purchasing the painting and then gifting it to The Bowes Museum, meaning it could be purchased without additional tax and at a much lower cost.

‘The assistance of Art Fund in supporting the Bowes in this practical way demonstrates how their support for UK galleries and museums goes beyond straightforward financial support.’

  • Adrian Jenkins
  • Director of The Bowes Museum

Stephen Deuchar, Art Fund director, said: 'The art historical significance of this unusual subject is considerable; indeed there is nothing like it in any other UK collection. It's a great coup for The Bowes Museum, and we were happy to help. We are particularly supportive of their plan to show the work at other UK museums, as well as at the Bowes, in the years to come.'

Programme of activity

The Bowes Museum is leading on the acquisition and an innovative partnership with the other two galleries to realise a programme of activity delivered across all three locations. Each partner will focus on a different aspect of the project and take it in turns to exhibit the painting, allowing them to highlight their own Old Master collections and Netherlandish paintings.

Adrian Jenkins, Director of The Bowes Museum, said: 'During the 15th century, Netherlandish paintings were admired all over Europe for their visual sophistication, imagination and invention, and those by Bouts and his workshop were no exception. This work exhibits all of those characteristics and we are extremely pleased to have secured its long term future in the UK with the help of Art Fund and HLF.'

Futhermore, the painting will becoming part of a conservation and scientific investigation project, led by the National Gallery, where it will also later be displayed. At the end of this, the painting will be housed permanently at The Bowes Museum.

Back to top