The Douglas-Pennant Art Collection

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Catrina Hooghsaet Sacra Conversazione Two Figures  St Luke Drawing 

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In April 2016, it was announced that Rembrandt’s ‘Catrina Hooghsaet’ which has been at the centre of a storm over UK export rules, is going on loan to National Museum Cardiff for three years. The painting will go on public display later today, 5 April, in the Welsh museum’s Dutch gallery.

The work had hung at Penrhyn Castle, in north Wales, since 1860. Last summer, it was sold privately through Sotheby’s to an unidentified foreign buyer for £35m.

The anonymous owner of the Rembrandt now says that they are “very happy to be able to share the enjoyment of this great painting with the public by lending it to the National Museum of Wales”. According to a spokeswoman for the museum, the previous owner of the Rembrandt, Penrhyn Settled Estate, is donating £10,000 to fund an educational programme for the display of the portrait.

The paintings at Penrhyn Castle were almost entirely bought by Colonel Edward Gordon Douglas-Pennant, 1st Baron Penrhyn of Llandegai (1800–1886), notably Dieric Bouts’s ‘St Luke drawing the Virgin’.

At the advice of Belgian dealer C. J. Nieuwenhuys (1799–1833), he acquired seventeenth-century Dutch paintings including Rembrandt’s ‘Catrina Hooghsaet’, Venetian sixteenth-century religious paintings, like the ‘Sacra Conversazione with Saint Jerome, Saint Justina, Saint Ursula and Saint Bernardino of Siena’, now attributed to Bonifazio de' Pitati (Verona 1487–Venice 1553) and Spanish seventeenth-century works, including a ‘Two Figures at a Table with Kitchen Utensils’, recently revealed to be by Antonio Pereda y Salgado.

In the nineteenth century the family wealth came from the Welsh estates, mainly the slate quarries, the major one of which is depicted in Henry Hawkins’s ‘The Penrhyn Slate Quarry’.

In 1899 the 2nd Lord Penrhyn had the pictures cleaned and rehung by Sir Walter Armstrong, Director of the National Gallery of Ireland and they were catalogued by his daughter, Alice Douglas-Pennant.

It is a rare example in Britain of a nineteenth-century collection that has survived virtually intact, in situ, and in family ownership.  The art collection is the property of the Penrhyn Settled Estates Trust. This operates on behalf of the Douglas Pennant family – the Rembrandt’s ultimate owners.

The family are the original owners of the castle and poet Richard Douglas Pennant, one of the trustees, continues to live in its grounds with his wife Georgia, although the 19th-century folly itself is now owned by the National Trust.

In 2004 the Douglas Pennant family sold The Burgomaster of Delft, by Jan Steen, which is two years older than the Rembrandt, to the Rijksmuseum for £8.1m.

And when Lady Janet Pennant Douglas, the head of the Penrhyn family died in 1997, the family parted with Canaletto’s View of the Thames near Westminster and View in Venice by Bernard Bellotto in lieu of inheritance tax.


Also in Penrhyn Castle, a 15th-century devotional painting by the influential Netherlandish artist Dieric Bouts was made subject to an export bar in order to prevent it leaving the UK in November 2015.

St Luke Drawing the Virgin and Child by Dieric Bouts's distinctive painting is the only example of St Luke drawing the Virgin Mary and Christ by a northern European artist on display in this country.

See also:

  • Penrhyn Castle
  • The Douglas-Pennant Family





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    Last modified: Saturday, 18 March 2017