Sunday, August 21, 2011

AUCKLAND CASTLE AND THE ZURBARÁNS


From Wikipedia:
Auckland Castle (also known as Auckland Palace or locally as the Bishop's Castle or Bishop's Palace) is a castle in the town of Bishop Auckland in County Durham, England.



The castle has been the official residence of the Bishop of Durham since 1832. However, it has been owned by the diocese for more than 800 years, being established as a hunting lodge for the Prince Bishops of Durham. It is more like a Gothic country house than a true castle with a military function.
Photos were permitted in the public rooms throughout the castle, with one exception. Below, in the center over the fireplace, is Michael Ramsey, who was Bishop of Durham before he was appointed Archbishop of York and then Archbishop of Canterbury. A larger view of the portrait is here.


The one exception to photos was the room I wanted to photograph most, the long dining room with Francisco de Zurbarán's paintings of Jacob and his sons. I was prepared to go from painting to painting and photograph them all, but it was not to be.
The castle's long dining room is home to 12 of the 13 17th century portraits of Jacob and his 12 sons painted by Francisco de Zurbarán. The room, in which they have hung for 250 years, was specifically designed and built for them. In 2001 the Church Commissioners voted to sell the paintings which have a £20m valuation, but relented until a review in 2010.

On 31 March 2011 Church Commissioners announced that plans to sell off the paintings were shelved following a donation of £15 million from investment manager Jonathan Ruffer.
Ever since I heard of their possible sale and removal from their home setting, I've wanted to see the paintings, and my wish was realized. I was able to view the paintings in their proper setting, which was a memorable experience. The paintings and the dining room are indeed impressive. I was thrilled when I heard the news that Ruffer had stepped forward to make it possible for the paintings to remain in place in the dining room at the castle, where they had been since 1756.


Exterior of the chapel at Auckland Castle from Wikipedia.


Interior of the chapel.

The castle is surrounded by 800 acres (3.2 km2) of parkland, which was originally used by the Bishops for hunting and is today open to the public.

Good-bye Auckland Castle, and good-bye to England. My visit to the castle was my final tourist activity before I left and a fitting end to my wonderful travels throughout the Green and Pleasant Land.

Of course, since I don't write of my travels in chronological order, but rather according to the whim of the moment, I have more stories and pictures to come.