The Bowes Museum > Exhibitions > 2016 > Image and Substance: St Luke Drawing the Virgin and Child

Image and Substance: St Luke Drawing The Virgin And Child


12 November 2016 – 8 January 2017

This in-focus display celebrates the acquisition of a rare and outstanding painting.  

The display, acts as both a welcome and an introduction to St Luke Drawing the Virgin and Child, an exceptional 15th century painting attributed to the workshop of Dieric Bouts the Elder. This follows a scientific investigation project led by the Conservation department at the National Gallery in London.

The painting is of major importance due to its connection with the artist, deemed one of the leading and most influential Netherlandish painters of his time. Dieric Bouts the Elder is in fact considered, together with Hans Memling, the most important follower of Rogier van der Weyden. 

Bouts’ works are rare in general and especially in the UK. In addition, there are no other paintings of this date and origin depicting this important subject in British public collections by Bouts or any other northern European artist of this period.  

Following an export bar it was acquired in July 2016 with support from Art Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund and a number of private donors, totalling £2,290,650. The Bowes Museum is embarking on an innovative partnership with York Art Gallery and Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, each with their own excellent Old Master collections, to deliver a diverse and exciting activity programme surrounding the painting which is included in the above sum.  

‘Image and Substance’ focuses on the iconographic and visual relevance of the painting, offering an insight into the Netherlands’ artistic, historical, and devotional context. At the same time, it will also examine the painting’s technique and style, and will be complemented by video footage of the National Gallery’s investigations. 

Related Events


Latest Acquisition Talk
3 December, 10.00 - 12.00 (talk at 11.15), free and open to all ages. Refreshments available
Join Assistant Curator of Fine Art Bernadette Petti at St Mary’s Parish Church in Barnard Castle for a short talk about the Museum’s latest acquisition. Followed by an opportunity for all who wish to make an artistic response to the picture, helped by the Museums’ outreach team. No competition or pressure, just the chance for some fun!

Gallery Talk
8 December, 2.15

Join Assistant Curator of Fine Art, Bernadette Petti, to learn more about this rare and fascinating painting, which has been saved for the nation, and other associated artworks in this special display.

The Bowes Museum grounds are open!


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. However, the grounds remain open to visitors from 10.00 - 4.00 daily, and we are currently hosting a woodland fairy trail, two spring trails and outdoor guided tours are available from 29 March 2021.

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 Café 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.

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.