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The National Gallery Masterpiece Tour 2018

Issued December 2017

Hans Holbein the Younger’s A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling, a much-loved work from the National Gallery Collection, is travelling the UK in 201819 as part of the Masterpiece Tour.

The three venues for 2018 are the New Art Gallery Walsall, Shetland Museum & Archives, and Brighton Museum & Art Gallery.

The Masterpiece Tour is part of the National Gallery’s commitment to promote the understanding, knowledge, and appreciation of Old Master paintings to as wide an audience as possible. This opportunity to bring hugely popular works to the public’s doorstep is being made possible by the generous support of Christie’s.

The New Art Gallery Walsall
12 January – 22 April 2018

Located in the West Midlands, the New Art Gallery Walsall was opened by the Queen in 2000 as one of a number of cultural projects inaugurated for the millennium. A focus for civic pride and community identity for the people of Walsall and the region, the Gallery has a permanent collection of over 3,000 works and aims to explore ways in which art galleries can contribute to people’s lives; connecting visitors with the work of the best contemporary and historic artists.
Stephen Snoddy, Director said:

"The New Art Gallery Walsall is truly honoured to have been chosen by the National Gallery to be the first host venue to exhibit Hans Holbein’s 'A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling' as part of the 2018 Masterpiece Tour. We’re delighted that the people of Walsall and our region will be able to come and enjoy this masterpiece. It will be the centrepiece display in our Family Gallery in the New Year and be shown alongside complementary works from our collection."

Shetland Museum & Archives
4 May – 15 July 2018

The next stop on the tour is one of the most far-flung locations in the UK – Lerwick in the Shetland Islands of Scotland. Shetland Museum & Archives is an award-winning tourist attraction, welcoming on average 86,000 visitors per year to its island community of approximately 21,000 residents. The museum’s ever-changing exhibitions, displays, and events provide an interactive and enjoyable journey through the history of Shetland Islands from their geological beginnings through contemporary social changes.

Dr Ian Tait, Curator of the Shetland Museum & Archives said:

"Our service gives a comprehensive picture of Shetland’s culture and history, but it is difficult for islanders to experience first-hand national and international cultural treasures because the islands are off the metropolitan map. We are delighted to host Holbein’s 'A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling'. This prestigious loan will give islanders the unique opportunity to see, and enjoy, a masterpiece by a world-class artist, thanks to the kindness of a world-class gallery."

Brighton Museum & Art Gallery
13 October 2018 – 6 January 2019

The final venue in the 2018 Masterpiece Tour is Brighton Museum & Art Gallery. Brighton Museum is home to a significant collection of Dutch and Flemish Old Master paintings, many of which were given to the institution more than a century ago by Henry Willett, a local brewer and one of the museum's founders. The collection also features works from the Antwerp, Flemish, and Netherlandish schools as well as a large offering of Old Master drawings and prints, including works on paper by Dürer and his contemporaries.

Janita Bagshawe, Director of the Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove said:

"We are very proud of our partnership with the National Gallery, enabling us to bring Holbein's beautiful portrait to the city next year, It will be the centrepiece of our main winter exhibition in 2018, complemented by rarely seen Old Master paintings and drawings from our collection. We are delighted to have been chosen and excited to be presenting such a treasured painting in Brighton & Hove.”

Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, said:

“The National Gallery was created for the benefit of the British public, however we appreciate that some people may find it difficult to make the journey to London. We hope that the tour of this great Holbein masterpiece will reach people who have never visited their national collection or haven’t done so for a long time, and that many of those whom we do reach will then feel inspired to visit or revisit the collection. We are pleased to include these three venues in the Masterpiece Tour for 2018 and look forward to seeing the different ways in which this much-loved portrait will be exhibited in each setting.”

Orlando Rock, Christie’s UK Chairman said:

“One of Holbein’s most intimate and compelling portraits, painted during his first trip to London in 1526–8; the National Gallery acquisition of 'A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling' was negotiated by Christie's in 1994.

We are delighted therefore to be supporting the National Gallery’s 2018 Masterpiece Tour as we have done in previous years. Christie’s has long championed regional museums and it is rewarding to know that we are enabling those outside London to view our national treasures, and that this sublime and enigmatic Tudor portrait can now be enjoyed by the people of Walsall, Shetland, and Brighton.

Christie's strongly believes in the role that art and collecting play in the world today and in accessibility to art for everyone, and the Masterpiece Tour fulfils this ambition."


Hans Holbein the Younger
'A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling', 1526–8

Likely painted during Holbein's first brief visit to England in 15268, 'A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling' is most closely comparable to the portraits of those years, and the sitter's dress appears to be English in style. The sitter has not been identified with complete certainty, but the starling in the background and the pet squirrel on a chain are visual clues suggesting the sitter may have been Anne Lovell. Squirrels featured in the Lovell family coat of arms and were common pets in 16th-century England.

The sitter in the National Gallery painting is unlikely to have posed with either the squirrel or the starling: Holbein probably made separate studies of them in drawings.

The National Gallery is one of the greatest art galleries in the world. Founded by Parliament in 1824, the Gallery houses the nation’s collection of Western European paintings from the late 13th to the early 20th century. The collection includes works by Bellini, Cézanne, Degas, Leonardo, Monet, Raphael, Rembrandt, Renoir, Rubens, Titian, Turner, Van Dyck, Van Gogh, and Velázquez. The Gallery’s key objectives are to enhance the collection, care for the collection, and provide the best possible access to visitors. More at

Christie’s, the world's leading art business, is a name and place that speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and expertise, as well as international glamour. Founded in 1766 by James Christie, Christie's has since conducted the greatest and most celebrated auctions through the centuries providing a popular showcase for the unique and the beautiful. Christie’s has worked closely with museums and public art institutions throughout its history and continues to support initiatives which increase public access to works of art. More at

The New Art Gallery Walsall
The New Art Gallery Walsall presents, collects, and interprets historic, modern, and contemporary art in innovative and challenging ways, welcoming visitors from all over the world as well as its immediate locality. It aims to increase the understanding and enjoyment of arts and culture through our dynamic exhibition, education, and events programme. The Garman Ryan Collection was gifted to the borough of Walsall in 1973 by Lady Kathleen Garman, widow of the great 20th century sculptor, Jacob Epstein. The Collection includes over 300 important works by celebrated artists including Epstein, Van Gogh, Monet, Constable, Picasso, Degas, Matisse, and Lucian Freud, alongside a wide range of artworks from across the world. Our Permanent Collection, formed in 1892, has over 3,000 works from Victorian genre paintings to contemporary installations.

Shetland Museum & Archives
Built on the historic 19th-century site of Hay’s Dock, Shetland Museum & Archives offers a rich insight into the development of Shetland from its geological beginnings to the present day, and across all topics. It is an inspirational starting point for visitors exploring many other key sites, visitor centres, and collections on the islands. Its gallery displays bring to life Shetland’s history, people, and ecology over many centuries of change, through imaginative interpretation, a rich feast of artefacts, photography, interactives, and reconstructions. Visitors will discover a unique island culture that has hugely changed over the years, yet still remains unlike anywhere else.

Brighton Museum & Art Gallery
Brighton Museum & Art Gallery is one of Britain’s oldest public museums. Located in the Royal Pavilion Estate at the heart of the city’s cultural quarter, its collections showcase arts and crafts from across the world and history from Ancient Egypt to modern Brighton. Alongside permanent galleries there is a constantly changing programme of displays, exhibitions, and events, with hands-on activities
for all ages, gallery trails, and more.

For further press information, please contact the National Gallery Press Office at and 020 7747 5930.