New look for a gallery at the heart of the Fitzwilliam Museum

New look for a gallery at the heart of the Fitzwilliam Museum

  • Decorative
    Photo © Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
  • Decorative
    © Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

The Fitzwilliam’s grandest gallery, at the centre of the historic Founder’s Building, has undergone extensive refurbishment, lasting two years.

Sometimes these gifts come to us as glorious surprises, like manna from heaven.

Luke Syson, Director and Marlay Curator, Fitzwilliam Museum

Behind the doors of the main Gallery, the Grade I listed ceiling — with its ornate plasterwork and casts of the Parthenon Frieze at the lower level — has been cleaned, restored and repainted, revealing crisp decorative detail. In the gallery, immense grandeur and intimacy of scale come together remarkably.

At eye level, the transformation is no less impressive. Gallery walls, clad in red fabric since the 1970s, have been stripped and re-covered with a sumptuous new wall covering. This combination allows visitors to enjoy the Fitzwilliam’s extraordinary collection as never before.

The Gallery has been rehung under the directorship of Luke Syson, formerly of the National Gallery in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. A highlight of the new hang is a magnificent group of floor-to-ceiling portraits by Anthony Van Dyck, and Daniel Mytens — the dominant painters at the English court in the first decades of the 17th century. These portraits have been generously lent by the Trustees of the Rt. Hon. Olive, Countess Fitzwilliam’s Chattels Settlement, by permission of Lady Juliet Tadgell. “Seeing these at the Fitz is truly thrilling,” says Syson.

The restoration was made possible with a generous bequest from Patricia Playfair-Woodward to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Kettle’s Yard and the University Library. It is not only an enhancement for the eyes, but an improvement to the integrity of the building structure and its functions. Patricia Playfair-Woodward’s gift allowed the gallery to switch to environmentally friendly LED lighting. The project would not have been possible without the full practical and financial support of the University of Cambridge, especially its Estates Management department, which is responsible for the development and maintenance of the University estate.

The Gallery space provides a new venue in Cambridge for large groups of people and has already served as the backdrop for multiple high-profile events to recognise donors and supporters. Earlier this year, the gallery hosted the Yidan Prize for Education Research award ceremony, honouring Cambridge’s first Yidan Laureate, Professor Usha Goswami.

“Sometimes these gifts come to us as glorious surprises, like manna from heaven,” comments Luke Syson, “but we know they’re inspired by love of these great institutions and what they contain.”

To find out more about supporting the Fitzwilliam Museum, please contact:

Amanda Lightstone

Head of Development, The Fitzwilliam Museum

ajl87@cam.ac.uk

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