Collection Spotlight: Fitzwilliam Museum

In honour of the Fitzwilliam Museum's 200th anniversary, explore their collection of priceless antiquities and art from around the globe


Joan of Arc, 1882 (oil on panel), Dante Gabriel Charles Rossetti (1828-82)
/ Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, UK / Bridgeman Images


The Fitzwilliam Museum is the lead art and antiquities museum for the University of Cambridge's Museums consortium and one of 16 Major Partner Museum services funded by the Arts Council England to drive the development of the arts and galleries sector. 

2016 marks the bicentenary of the museum and to celebrate they are hosting numerous festivities throughout the year, beginning with the opening of an exhibition in the Octagon Gallery that will show a timeline of the Fitzwilliam Museum's first 200 years. The two major exhibitions of the year were Death on the Nile: Uncovering the afterlife of ancient Egypt (23 February - 22 May 2016) and the upcoming COLOUR: The art and science of illuminated manuscripts (30 July - 30 December 2016).




Founding of the Fitzwilliam Museum

The museum was founded in February 1816 at the bequest of Richard, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion, who died in that month.

During the course of his life he collected almost 150 valuable paintings, including the likes of Titian and Palma Vecchio, as well as an outstanding library of illuminated manuscripts, Old Master prints and musical autographs by the best composers of Europe.

The whole collection, along with £100,000 for ‘a good substantial Museum’, was passed on to the University of Cambridge in his will.

 Marly Cutting It.17 Cutting from a Franciscan Choir Book, Lombardy Historiated Initial B, Vellum / Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, UK / Bridgeman Images
Model sailing boat from Tomb 366, Beni Hasan, Middle Kingdom (painted wood and linen), Egyptian 12th Dynasty (1991-1786 BC) / Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, UK / Bridgeman Images




About the Museum

The Fitzwilliam Museum is divided into five departments: Applied Arts; Antiquities, Manuscripts and Printed Books, Coins and Medals; and Paintings, Drawings and Prints.

These departments hold treasured antiquities from Ancient Egypt, Sudan, Greece, Rome, Western Asia as well as a new gallery featuring Cypriot Art.





European pottery, furniture and armour are showcased alongside Chinese, Japanese and Korean artworks and rugs; coins and medals; literary and music manuscripts and rare painted books.

In addition there are some lovely 20th century drawings, watercolours, miniatures and prints on display.

Copy of the Great Gold Medal of Justinian I (527-65 AD) obverse, c.534 AD (electrotype) (see 257495), Roman, (6th century AD) (after) / Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, UK / Bridgeman Images
Insects (oil on copper), Jan van Kessel, the Elder (1626-79) / Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, UK / Bridgeman Images




The collection contains masterpieces by some of the greatest painters in art history, including Titian, Rubens, Van Dyck, Canaletto, Hogarth, Kessel, Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Constable and Picasso. 

Turner is particularly prominent in the collection, following a donation of 25 watercolours from John Ruskin in 1861. The Fitzwilliam Museum's bas-reliefs from Persepolis are also among the most highly prized.


View all images from the Fitzwilliam Museum collection.

Visit the Fitzwilliam Museum's website.

To find out more about these images or the Fitzwilliam Museum collection, get in touch with our sales team.



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