The legacy of two families’ dedication to art makes for a unique exhibition of Spanish paintings in London.
The Wallace Collection can already boast of an outstanding body of Spanish work with paintings by Diego Velázquez and Bartolomé Murillo on permanent display. Now, partnering with the Bowes Museum in County Durham for the first time, it unites this work with one of the largest collections of Spanish art in Britain.
John and Joséphine Bowes were avid collectors of the fine and decorative arts and acquired most of their Spanish paintings from the Countess de Quinto in Paris between 1862 and 1863. The collection had largely been brought together by the Conde de Quinto after the Desamortización – the expropriation of ecclesiastical lands and property by the Spanish government in the 1830s. Suddenly up for sale was a wealth of paintings that the Catholic church had been gradually acquiring over centuries.
The exhibition covers a turbulent 300-year period of Spanish history. Highlights include El Greco’s The Tears of Saint Peter (c1580-1589) and Goya’s Portrait of Juan Antonio Meléndez Valdés (1797) and Interior of a Prison (1793-94). It also offers the opportunity to discover remarkable lesser-known works such as Antonio de Pereda’s Tobias Restoring his Father’s Sight (1652).