The gallery has a substantial collection of Italian art from the 14th to 18th centuries founded on the original collection of 16th and 17th-century works bequeathed by John Guise, and 14th and 15th-century paintings donated by W. T. H. Fox-Strangways and Walter Savage Landor.


Annibale Carracci: The Butcher's Shop

Annibale Carracci: The Butcher's Shop

This painting is perhaps the most spectacular in the collection at Christ Church, and is of great historical significance: this was the first time that an artist treated a modest genre-subject, in this case the interior of a Butcher’s Shop, on a monumental scale (190 x 272 cm).

Its idiosyncrasy still presents art historians with a number of riddles regarding its meaning. One possible explanation is that the figures of the butchers depicted in the paintings are portraits of the artist and of his brother Agostino (Carracci) and cousin Ludovico (Carracci), also painters.

The Carracci family were reformers of Italian art at the end of the sixteenth century, advocating a return to classicism while rejecting the still prevalent Mannerist style. It is possible that this work is an allegory of these aims, which involved drawing from the live model, or viva carne, which means both "living flesh" and "red meat" in Italian. However, some have detected religious implications in the scene – so the figure of the butcher weighing the flesh is reminiscent of the figure of St Michael weighing the souls in depictions of the Last Judgment and the slaughter of a lamb, so prominently placed in the foreground of the painting, might allude to Christ, as the lamb of God. Quite apart from the interest of the subject matter, the way Annibale Carracci uses the paint, his bold paint-strokes, especially in the carcass, shows the change in painting and paves the way for the Impressionists more than 250 years later.

Filippino Lippi: The Wounded Centaur

The Wounded Centaur

Filipino Lippi, a close friend and collaborator of Botticelli, belonged to a generation of Florentine painters who established a new way of painting.

The subject matter of this painting seems to derive from the Roman writer Ovid (Fasti, Book V) in which he tells the story of the centaur Chiron, who fatally wounded himself while inspecting the arrows of Hercules tainted by the poison of the Hydra.

This painting offers a variant of that story in that the centaur is presumably examining the quiver of Cupid, seen reclining beneath the rocks behind, and Lippi may have intended to depict an allegory on the dangers of playing with love. The classical subject matter and anatomically correct torso of the centaur are consistent with the Renaissance ideals of late fifteenth-century Florence. Another important feature is the landscape in which the scene is set. It still plays a narrative role, depicting the ‘home’ of centaurs, but the capacity to become an independent genre in art is already implied. The geological formation of the cave and the reflections in the water reveal the growing interest of the artists of the time in nature.

Jacopo Robusti Tintoretto: The Martyrdom of St. Lawrence

 Jacopo Robusti Tintoretto: Martyrdom of St. Lawrence

Probably painted in the late 1570s, this dramatic canvas may have been inspired by Titian's paintings of the same subject in the Jesuit Church of Venice and the Escorial, Madrid.

St Lawrence was a third-century Christian martyr who was condemned to be roasted on a gridiron for refusing to hand over the riches of the Church to the Roman authorities. The painting is a good example of Tintoretto's masterful use of chiaroscuro and oblique diagonals to create a dynamic composition. This painting, as well as The Butcher’s Shop, demonstrate the somewhat ‘macabre’ taste of its former owner, the military man and collector who left his collection to Christ Church, General Guise.


Works on paper

The Picture Gallery’s collection of works on paper contains around 2000 Old Master drawings and 3000 prints. Most of them are by Italian masters of the Renaissance and the Baroque, including Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Tintoretto and Carracci. There are also exceptional examples by Northern artists such as Dürer, Rubens and Van Dyck.

Works on paper can be irreversibly damaged by light and therefore cannot be on permanent display. However, we make our collection available by rotating exhibitions and displays. For current and forthcoming exhibitions, please see our Exhibitions and Events page.

Here are some examples from our collection:

Albrecht Dürer: Design of a tomb for Jakob and Isabella Fugger

Albrecht Dürer: Knight and Lady

This is the finest of three versions of this subject and probably dates from Dürer's mature period after returning to Nuremberg from his second visit to Italy in 1507.

The drawing was used by the celebrated Vischer foundry in Nuremberg to cast bronze epitaphs for two different tombs, that of Count Hermann VIII von Henneberg in Römhild and Count Friedrich II von Hohenzollern in Hechingen.

The varied use of drawings and the importance of this sheet to Dürer can be understood in the fact that the female figure was also used as a model for Salomé's maidservant in Dürer's woodcut The Beheading of St John the Baptist of 1510.


Leonardo da Vinci: Grotesque Head

Leonardo da Vinci: Grotesque Head

Leonardo was fascinated by human physiognomy and began making studies of grotesque heads with various expressions during his first stay in Milan, between 1482 and 1499.

Although this drawing is thought to date from somewhat later, it seems to be the culmination of this series of studies. Some scholars have suggested this sheet might be "Scaramuccia, king of the gypsies"; others think it was a cartoon used for the head of an onlooker in a now-lost painting of the Mocking of Christ.

Regardless of the interpretation, the drawing demonstrates Leonardo's dedication to the scientific study of nature in all its forms, even its most unattractive.


Andrea del Verrocchio: Young Woman

Andrea del Verrocchio: Young Woman

This drawing is one of the most beautiful drawings to survive from fifteenth-century Florence. It may be a study for the head of the Virgin in a now lost painting similar to Verrocchio's Virgin and Child, now in Berlin.

The outlines of the depicted face are pricked for transfer, but the surface of the drawing is so finely worked and the hatching so precisely placed, that it may have been kept as a sort of "master cartoon" for future use by assistants rather than a cartoon (a one-to-one model drawing) that could be destroyed after its use.

Verrocchio was a painter, sculptor and draughtsman who ran one of the largest and busiest workshops in Florence, in which many important artists were trained; by far the most famous among them was Leonardo da Vinci.





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