The Bute Collection



Friday 15 September – Monday 18 September 2017

One of Europe’s finest privately owned collections, from Old Master paintings to exquisite pieces of porcelain, glass and silver to a collection of archives, letters and books, the Bute Collection is a testament to the taste and vision of succeeding generations of the Bute Family. The passion of John Stuart, Third Earl of Bute, the Bute Collection was later housed at Mount Stuart, their ancestral home on the Inner Hebridean island of Bute. Controversial First Lord of the Treasury to George III, Stuart became the target of xenophobic abuse and withdrew to Luton Hoo, his country estate outside London, where he dedicated himself to building a true connoisseur’s collection of paintings, prints and books and to being a literary and artistic patron to leading intellectuals of the day. Today academics come from the universities of Oxford and Yale to work on the collections in Mount Stuart’s libraries.

This year in celebration of the tercentenary of the building of the original Mount Stuart, the Seventh Marquess of Bute has kindly permitted highlights of the Collection to be displayed in two exhibitions: one to be displayed at Mount Stuart and other in the Hunterian in Glasgow. The paintings alone deserve international recognition. To stand before them is to engage with rumbunctious scenes of domestic life in Dutch sitting-rooms by Jan Steen, inquisitive cows up to their ankles in a bog by Aelbert Cuyp, misty dawns by Claude Lorraine, hoary cottages in a forest by Meindert Hobbema, a powerful portrait of George III by Ramsay, a magnificent Reynolds of Lord Bute himself, a querulous portrait of Viscount Stafford by Van Dyck, and gloriously rendered silks by Zoffany. The exhibitions will include not just masterpiece paintings, but also intricate silver and jewellery, some extraordinary letters, botanical drawings and devastating political engravings. The Mount Stuart furniture collection is impressive with pieces of distinction by or attributed to names such as Robert Adam, Thomas Chippendale and the great English clock maker Thomas Tompion.