The Power and the Virtue: Guido Reni's The Death of Lucretia
The Power and the Virtue: Guido Reni's The Death of Lucretia

The Power and the Virtue: Guido Reni's The Death of Lucretia

26 October 2019 - 20 January 2020

The Bowes Museum’s The Power and the Virtue: Guido Reni’s The Death Of Lucretia is dedicated to the Italian Baroque master Guido Reni, his female heroines and his representations of female beauty.

Reni (1575 - 1642), was a leading 17th-century classical artist who created paintings renowned for their sublime beauty and refinement. This exhibition presents works from prestigious public and private collections, including The National Gallery and The Royal Collection.  Visitors will be able to experience the mastery and the aesthetic quality of this outstanding artist and his works. 

The exhibition will feature The Death of Lucretia a painting in The Bowes Museum’s collection since the 1840s that is the focus of a multidisciplinary investigation in collaboration with Northumbria University and the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow to determine its attribution to Reni. The exhibition will shed new light on 17th century painting and present the Bowes’ art work  ‘in conversation’ with outstanding paintings by Reni.

Reni’s devotional and legendary heroines offer an exploration of female beauty. His lyrical depictions of prominent female characters is a significant theme; one for which he is renowned. It is believed that no other artist in Western art has painted as many “femmes fortes” of the literary and sacred tradition as Reni: his work includes Cleopatra and Porzia, to Europa, Judith, Mary Magdalene, Deianira and Lucretia.

Bernadette Petti, exhibition curator, said “Guido Reni was considered the most talented of the pupils in the school of the Carracci and he was the painter who successfully managed to revise Raphael’s manner by using a graceful and delicate brushwork that revealed a technical mastery both in fresco and painting, and the profound study of the pictorial tradition and imagery to achieve a formal perfection. Reni’s fame and his popularity was recognised well beyond Italy and it is not surprising that Henrietta Maria of France (1609 – 1669), Queen Consort of King Charles I of England, demonstrated an avid admiration for him.”


A catalogue with a collection of essays accompanies the exhibition exploring themes including: Guido Reni “Il Divino”; Britain’s Discovery of the Master; The Power and the Virtue; Lucretia Romana: a series and its reception.

In celebration of this great master, gallery talks, lectures, a film screening, dance workshops, concerts and a special display of costumes inspired by the exhibition created by the Northern School of Art, will accompany the exhibition, including debates and ‘in conversation’ events with associations of women and the art-based education and training company ‘Changing Relations’, based in County Durham.  These events will offer a unique opportunity to engage with the themes explored in the exhibition and stimulate a wider response to Guido Reni’s work from specialists, university students and the public alike.

Notes to editors:




·         The Bowes Museum was created over 100 years ago by an extraordinary couple, John and Joséphine Bowes.  Together they built up the greatest private collection of fine and decorative arts in the North of England and constructed a magnificent building to house them in.  The collection contains thousands of objects including furniture, paintings, sculpture, ceramics, textiles and many other items covering an extensive range of European styles and periods. 

·         The Bowes Museum receives a core funding grant from Durham County Council and as a Major Portfolio Museum receives support from Arts Council England.

·         The Bowes Museum has undergone major redevelopment, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, One NorthEast through the County Durham Economic Partnership, English Heritage, Northern Rock Foundation, The Monument Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Foyle Foundation, The European Regional Development Fund, DCMS/Wolfson Museum and Galleries Improvement Fund, Designation Challenge Fund, The Shears Foundation, The Richard and Suzanna Tonks Family Fund at County Durham Foundation, Durham County Council, The Friends of The Bowes Museum, The Headley Trust, Sir James Knott Trust, Catherine Cookson Charitable Trust, Fenwick Ltd, Mercers Charitable Foundation, Welton Foundation.

·         The Bowes Museum is a member of the Discover Durham partnership of attractions. Our commitment is to promote Durham as an exciting and vibrant group travel destination and to provide the travel trade with a professional and knowledgeable service: hotline number 0191 301 8531,



The Bowes Museum is closed!

Due to the government announcement on Thursday 17 December, that County Durham is to remain in COVID tier 3 restrictions, The Bowes Museum unfortunately will remain closed to all visitors.

As we have already been shut for a number of weeks and there is much uncertainty around possible further restrictions, we have decided to use this period to undertake some work in Caf� Bowes, alongside performing some much-needed structural repairs to the building, notably to the windows. January and February are usually quieter times for the Museum, often due to severe weather, so we believe that this is the best time to carry out such works with the least amount of disruption to our visitors.

We have therefore decided to remain closed for a period of four weeks following any near-future tier 2 announcement from the government, as this will allow us time to deep clean the Museum prior to reopening our doors once again. We will, of course, keep you updated as the guidelines change.

Your ongoing support during these unprecedented times is hugely appreciated and we very much look forward to welcoming you back into the building as early as possible in 2021.

Do please remember, however, that the Museum�s park and grounds remain open to visitors from 10.00 � 4.00 daily, and that we are currently hosting a woodland fairy trail, clues can be found here.

We hope to be able to offer a few COVID-safe outdoor events over the coming months, about which we shall make further announcements as soon as possible.