Making way for art

[Portrait of Duke Henry the Devout (The Pious) of Saxony (1473-1553), small bust-length, wearing a fur coat. Lucas Cranach the Elder © Schroder collection]

What do to if you’ve just acquired a new display of Northern Renaissance paintings and you’ve run out of gallery space in which to hang them?

The Director of the Holburne Museum, Dr Chris Stephens.

Well, at Bath’s Holbune Museum, director Chris Stephens has made a personal sacrifice and given up his office ! It has been cleared to hang the new acquisitions which are on loan for twenty years from the Estate of Bruno Schroder, who died in 2019.  

Though small, this collection consists of paintings of international standing, including major works by artists such as Lucas Cranach the Elder, Hans Holbein the Elder and Ulrich Apt. Perhaps the most important painting of the group is Hans Burgkmeier’s 1498 portrait of Jakob Fugger and his bride Sybilla Artzt .

Known as Fugger the Rich, Jakob Fugger was an Augsburg merchant and banker who was the major financial force behind the Habsburg dynasty. 

Marriage Portrait of Jakob Fugger and Sybilla Artzt. Thoman or Hans Burgkmeier, 1498 © Schroder collection

As well as the nine important paintings, the display includes a rare complete set of Albrecht Dürer’s sixteen engravings illustrating Christ’s Passion. 

The works are all on loan from the Estate of late British banker Bruno Schroder. The collection was assembled by Mr Schroder’s forebears in the 1910s and 1920s. The loan to the Holburne has been agreed for twenty years, adding an important new dimension to the collection of one of the most respected regional art museums in the country. 

Though small, the collection is recognised as being of international importance and of the highest quality. For example, the collection includes one of three versions of Ulrich Apt’s 1521 portrait of Lorenz Kraffter (the son of an emigré Scotsman in Augsburg) and his wife Honesta Merz. The other versions reside in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Royal Collection and, when the three were brought together a few years ago, the Schroder version was widely considered the finest. 

Holburne Director Chris Stephens says: ‘For a long time the Holburne has been recognised as one of the finest collections of European fine and decorative art in the UK outside London. I am proud and delighted to be able to enhance our offer to our visitors by extending the range of art on display with the addition of these extraordinary paintings. It is hard to say how beautiful and of what high quality these pictures are. We are deeply grateful to the Schroder family for this opportunity.”

Meanwhile, l hope Chris doesn’t end up working from a broom cupboard!