A unique landscape by artist Diego Velázquez, painted for King Philip IV of Spain, is on loan from the National Gallery in London for the first time, and is exhibited at the National Trust’s Kingston Lacy in Dorset.
La Tela Real takes pride of place in the dining room, while Kingston Lacy’s The Judgement of Solomon by Sebastiano del Piombo is on loan to the National Gallery, where it has joined a major exhibition charting Sebastiano’s extraordinary friendship with Michelangelo, master of the Italian High Renaissance.
La Tela Real is a landscape scene depicting a type of boar hunt, staged by the Spanish kings on feast days and to honour special guests. The quarry was hunted within a canvas (tela) enclosure (so giving the name La Tela Real, i.e. ‘The Royal Enclosure’). Owing to the tremendous expense and labour involved, only the king could afford such a spectacle.
Identifiable figures include Philip IV, in the right mid-ground, meeting the charge of the boar. Immediately to his left is the powerful Count-Duke of Olivares (first minister to the king) and beyond him most likely the Infante Don Carlos, Philip’s brother. The king’s first wife, Isabella of Bourbon, watches the events from the comfort and safety of one of the carriages inside the enclosure.
An exciting programme of activities at Kingston Lacy over the summer includes specialist lectures which will reveal the story of La Tela Real and the fascinating associations with the mansion’s own outstanding collections.
On 7 July, Josephine Oxley will talk about the Spanish Royal Collection in the Wellington Collection, Aspley House, and will reveal the exciting story of their arrival from Spain, their reception in London and the importance of the collection today.
On 21 July, Director of the National Gallery, Dr Gabriele Finaldi, who is a renowned expert on Spanish Art will be giving a lecture looking at Velázquez as an artist and the history surrounding Philip IV of Spain and the art of boar hunting.
Tickets for each lecture are £12 per person, with a welcome drink from 6.30pm, with time to explore the state rooms at Kingston Lacy, before the lectures start at 7pm. Tickets should be booked in advance on 0344 249 1895 or online at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kingston-lacy.
Dr Gabriele Finaldi, says: ‘We are delighted to be lending Velázquez’s ‘Tela Real’, an exceptional work in the artist’s oeuvre, to join the exceptional collection of Spanish paintings housed at Kingston Lacy, where it can be seen throughout the spring and summer of this year.’
Kingston Lacy has a remarkable collection of Spanish paintings, assembled by William John Bankes and proudly displayed in his opulent ‘Spanish Room’. The finest works include Velázquez’s portrait of Cardinal Camillo Massimi, and a near-contemporary copy of the artist’s Las Meninas, one of the most enigmatic and famous images in the history of Western art.
The original painting of Las Meninas has been in the Prado Museum in Madrid since 1819 and is too valuable, important and large to ever be loaned. William John bought the small-scale copy at Kingston Lacy in 1811, probably believing it to be the sketch for the original. A colourful adventurer and collector, William John travelled across Spain in his twenties amassing one of the earliest collections of Spanish paintings in Britain. He regarded his version of Las Meninas as ‘the glory of my collection … which I flatter myself will be the finest in England, tho’ not a finished picture’. National Trust experts today attribute the work to Juan Bautista Martinez del Mazo, Velázquez’s son-in-law and successor as Painter to the Spanish Crown. However, debate over the painting’s authorship continues and in recent years some scholars have made the tantalising suggestion that William John may have been right all along and this could just be by the master himself.
General Manager at Kingston Lacy, Tim Turner, comments: ‘We are delighted to have this one-off opportunity to display Velázquez’s La Tela Real, an important piece of art which enhances the collection we already have at Kingston Lacy and which gives our visitors a chance to see the painting outside of a large gallery environment, in a historic house context.’
Katrina Thomson, senior manager for the collections in the National Trust’s South West region, says: ‘Kingston Lacy boasts one of the finest picture collections in the National Trust and regularly lends paintings to major exhibitions across the world. But this is the first time that we’ve hosted a loan exchange of this significance. La Tela Real is exceptional amongst Velázquez’s body of work – an extremely rare and individual landscape, designed around 1636-8 for The Torre de la Parada, Philip IV’s hunting lodge near Madrid. Encountering a familiar piece of art in a different surrounding can be like seeing it for the first time. So we are thrilled to be able to show off this National Gallery star in a different light, by offering visitors a more intimate experience, which we might imagine to be closer to that enjoyed by the king and his court, in its original private, royal setting.’
Visitors can see La Tela Real on display until September. The house at Kingston Lacy opens via timed tickets, bookable in advance on their website www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kingston-lacy.