Portland Collection opens to public for first time with rarely seen Michelangelo drawing. Harley Gallery in Nottinghamshire will house one of the finest aristocratic collections in England.
Entrance to the gallery
Over a span of 400 years, dukes and duchesses of the UK’s aristocratic Cavendish-Bentinck family acquired a private body of art known as the Portland Collection. On March 20, pieces from the family’s 5,000-work-strong archive will finally be shown to the public with the opening of the collection’s official gallery. The collection is managed by the Harley Foundation, a charitable trust formed by the Duchess of Portland in 1977 to support the visual arts. The new 2920-square-meter gallery, housed in a new facility that was once used to train racehorses, is an addition to the Harley Gallery, which is located on the Welbeck Estate‘s rolling, 15,000-acre plot along the borders of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.
The Long Gallery by Hugh Broughton Architects
A Michelangelo drawing which was last exhibited in 1960 will be the centrepiece of the Harley Gallery in Nottinghamshire, which opens on 20 March to display the art of the Dukes of Portland. The £7m gallery is the most ambitious privately-funded building to showcase an English aristocratic collection since the Second World War.
Michelangelo, Madonna del Silenzio (c. 1538)
Last exhibited in 1960. Photo: © The Harley Gallery
The Portland Michelangelo depicts the Madonna of Silence (around 1538), with Mary, the Christ Child and Joseph. John the Baptist holds a finger to his lips, calling for quiet.
Van Dyck’s portrait of Thomas Wentworth
Other masterpieces in the Harley Gallery include Van Dyck’s portrait of Thomas Wentworth (around 1636) and George Stubbs’ A Nobleman on Horseback (1767), depicting the third Duke outside the stables at Welbeck. There is also a temporary display of one hundred miniatures, selected by the artist Peter Blake (until 18 September). These include a tiny self-portrait by Nicholas Hilliard, painted at the age of 13 (around 1560).
The Portland Tiara, around 1902, Cartier
Worn by Winifred, Duchess of Portland to the Coronation of Edward VII © The Harley Gallery
Most of the Portland collection is owned by a family trust, whose trustees include William Parente, the grandson of the seventh duke. He says the family is funding the new gallery because it wants to “give greater public access to the Portland treasures”. Parente also inherited Welbeck Abbey, which lies just over a mile fr om the Harley Gallery. Although it remains a private home, the abbey’s state rooms are open to visitors on pre-booked tours in August.