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17th and 18th Century Gallery

Highlights of paintings in our collection from the 17th and 18th century include:

Lucas van Uden (1595-1672) Ulysses and Nausicaä, 1635, oil on panel

The panel is marked on the back with the stamp of the Antwerp Guild of panel makers (two hands and the citadel of Antwerp). It represents an episode from Homer's 'Odyssey'. Ulysses hides behind a bush after being shipwrecked on the Phaecian shore. He asks Nausicaä, daughter of King Alcinous, for help while she washes her clothes. This is a reduced copy of Rubens's 'Odysseus in the land of the Phaecians' (Pitti Palace, Florence). It might have been painted in Rubens's studio by van Uden, who produced and etched copies of his landscapes in the 1630s. The grid that was drawn for this purpose is still visible.


Cornelius Saftleven (1606-1681) The Temptation of St Anthony, 17th century, oil on panel

John Bowes earliest known acquisition of a painting was bought in 1830 for £20 whilst on a tour of the continent. It was then attributed to Teniers the Elder but is now catalogued as by Cornelis Saftleven.

Illustrating St Anthony’s triumph over temptation, St Anthony is not only tempted by the pleasures of the flesh, he is also terrorised by demons with an image of hell seen in the background. Hieronymus Bosch’s spectacular triptych of around 1500 (now in the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon) describing the ordeals of St Anthony may have influenced Saftleven’s work.


Francesco Trevisani (1656-1746),  Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni (1667-1740),  c.1689, oil on canvas

Pietro Ottoboni was appointed Vice-Chancellor of the Church and became a Cardinal following his great-uncle’s election as Pope Alexander VIII in 1689. The offices and rich benefices bestowed upon Ottoboni provided him with a generous income that he spent on lavish banquets and celebrations of religious holidays. He collected paintings, tapestries and sculpture and became the most important patrons of the arts in Rome supporting writers, painters and musicians including Handel.

Ottoboni wears a scarlet, watered-silk mozetta over his fringed rochet. The deep flounce of Venetian needlepoint lace would have been incredibly expensive and indicates Ottoboni’s power and wealth. Francesco Trevisani subtly captures the difference in the textures and hues of the fabrics.


Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770),  The Harnessing of the Horses of the Sun, c.1731, oil on canvas

Illustrating the story of Phaethon from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Tiepolo depicts Helios who drives the chariot of the sun across the heavens every day, trying to dissuade his son Phaethon from taking over the task. Phaethon cannot control the horses and they go too close to earth, scorching it.

The bats and darkness in the lower right corner remind the viewer that the sunrise has not occurred but also perhaps symbolises the Phaeton’s foolhardiness and resulting destruction.


Giovanni Antonio Canal called Canaletto (1697-1768), Regatta on the Grand Canal, c.1730 oil on canvas

Acquired in 1982 following a nationwide fundraising appeal to purchase a pair of exceptional Canalettos.

The oarsman of two 'bissone' in the right and left foreground wear the white and blue colours of the Pisani family. Perhaps the picture was painted during his period of office 1735-1741. The scene depicts the annual Regatta and the canal is seen lined with boats, including elaborately carved and gilded ‘bissone’ belonging to prominent Venetian families. Some of the figures are wearing the ‘bauta’ or black cape and white mask which were only worn during carnival time. The winning post, a floating island specially constructed each year to a different design is on the extreme left. The design of this unknown year is a ruined temple with the prize-winners flags lined up below. The regatta was held each year on the 2nd February.


Francisco José de Goya (1746-1828),  Prison Scene, c. 1793, Oil on tin

Like many of the other paintings collected by the Bowes from this period this image involves political undertones,. However it is chiefly remembered for the carefully orchestrated lighting and its mood of resigned melancholy.

Under a gloomy archway with daylight beyond, seven prisoners with hands and feet bound by heavy chains. The scene is dominated by an atmosphere of utter despair.