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British School, Sir Reginald Scott (1512-1554), 1542, oil on canvas, 84 x 48 in. (213.4 x 121.9 cm), Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James MacLamroc© 1999–2016 North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.

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British School, Portrait of Lady Emmeline Scott, 16th century, oil on canvas, 79 7/8 x 47 3/8 in. (202.9 x 120.3 cm), Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James MacLamroc© 1999–2016 North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.

RALEIGH, NC.- Beginning August 6, 2016, the North Carolina Museum of Art presents History and Mystery: Discoveries in the NCMA British Collection, which showcases the best of the NCMA’s permanent collection of Old Master British paintings and sculpture from 1580 to 1850. It marks the first time in 40 years that the NCMA has organized an exhibition focused on British art from its collection. 

Anchoring the exhibition is an extraordinary group of nine Elizabethan and Jacobean aristocratic portraits from about 1580 to 1620. These works have been the focus of an ongoing research project involving the NCMA Conservation and Curatorial departments and students and faculty from University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill and Duke University. The portraits were given to the Museum in 1967 by North Carolinian Col. James MacLamroc, and, because of their condition, have rarely been exhibited since. Now, after six years of research on all of the paintings and conservation treatment to four of the nine, they go on view to the public. 

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British School, Portrait of a Gentleman, probably Sir John Scott (circa 1564–1616) of Nettlestead, Kent, circa 1600–05, oil on canvas, 77 3/4 x 38 1/4 in. (213.4 x 111.7 cm), Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James MacLamroc© 1999–2016 North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.

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British School, Lady Catherine Smythe Scott1610, oil on canvas, 81 5/16 x 50 in. (206.5 x 127.0 cm), Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James MacLamroc© 1999–2016 North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.

Several teams are conducting the collaborative research: from the NCMA, the project is led by associate conservator Perry Hurt and curator of European art Dr. David Steel; from UNC–Chapel Hill, art history research is pursued by associate professor Dr. Tatiana String and her graduate students; from Duke University, analytic research is directed by adjunct associate professor Dr. Adele de Cruz and others. More than 30 scientists, art historians, and conservators from the US and UK have contributed to the research project. 

We see these portraits as glimpses into a particular moment in time−cultural time capsules, in other words,” says Hurt. “We’ve made exciting discoveries by changing how we look at the paintings and by asking new questions.” In the six years since the project began, researchers have expanded their study, looking for clues to answer questions including: 

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Paul van Somer, William, Lord Cavendish, Later Second Earl of Devonshire (1591–1628), and His Son, 1619, oil on canvas, 51 1/2 x 41 1/2 in. (130.8 x 105.4 cm)Gift of John Motley Morehead. © 1999–2016 North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.

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Paul van SomerChristian, Lady Cavendish, Later Countess of Devonshire (1598–1675), and Her Daughter, 1619, oil on canvas, 51 1/2 x 41 1/2 in. (130.8 x 105.4 cm), Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Luther Hartwell Hodges. © 1999–2016 North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.

 Who: 

• Who are the people, or “sitters,” portrayed in these works? While many of the paintings bear inscriptions identifying the sitters, research has indicated that many of the sitters cannot be those previously identified. 

• Who were the artists who painted them? Research has shown that, although most portraits from this period have been attributed to only a few known British artists, there were actually hundreds more portrait painters active in Britain at the time than previously thought. 

• Who were the original and subsequent owners? Researchers looked at a variety of clues to reconstruct the provenance, or ownership history, of the portrait group—such as typewritten letters, 19th-century references to the portrait group, and more. 

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Anthony van Dyck, Lady Mary Villiers, Later Duchess of Richmond and Lennox (1622–1685), with Charles Hamilton, Lord Arrancirca 1637, oil on canvas, 83 1/4 x 52 1/2 in. (211.5 x 133.4 cm), Gift of Mrs. Theodore Webb© 1999–2016 North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.

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Sir Peter Lely and Studio, Charles Stuart, Third Duke of Richmond and Sixth Duke of Lennox, circa 1661, oil on canvas, 86 9/16 x 52 1/2 in. (219.9 x 133.3 cm)Gift of Mrs. Edward Shearson. © 1999–2016 North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.

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Sir Peter Lely and Studio, Barbara Villiers (1640–1709), later Duchess of Cleveland, circa 1662–1665, oil on canvas, 50 x 40 in. (127.0 x 101.6 cm)Gift of the Van Diemen - Lilienfeld Galleries and the Dalzell Hatfield Galleries in memory of William R. Valentiner. © 1999–2016 North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.

When: 

• When were these works painted? Researchers looked for several clues to help them accurately date each painting. The most significant evidence included the fashionable garments and accessories worn by the subjects in the paintings, which enable costume historians to accurately date the clothes—and therefore the paintings. 

The exhibition also provides the opportunity to reexamine familiar favorites in the collection from new perspectives and to display a few “hidden treasures” that have rarely—or never before—been on public view. Complementing the nine early portraits are works by their artistic descendants, which illustrate the subsequent development of portraiture in Britain. These Old Master British works from the NCMA’s collection include paintings by Anthony van Dyck, Sir Peter Lely, Paul van Somer, Thomas Gainsborough, Sir William Beechey, Sir Henry Raeburn, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and Sir Thomas Lawrence. 

We hope this exhibition not only triggers further discoveries and international research into these portraits and other British works of art, but also invites questioning and close looking from exhibition visitors,” says Dr. String

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Thomas Gainsborough, Clement Tudway (1734–1815)1773, oil on canvas, 30 3/16 x 25 1/4 in. (76.7 x 64.1 cm)Gift of Mrs. Lillian Boscowitz in memory of her mother Mrs. Franklin Terry. © 1999–2016 North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.

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Thomas Gainsborough, Ralph Bell (1720–1801)1772-1774, oil on canvas, 92 1/4 x 61 1/8 in. (234.3 x 155.3 cm)Purchased with funds from the North Carolina State Art Society (Robert F. Phifer Bequest) and the State of North Carolina. © 1999–2016 North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc. 

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Sir William Beechey, The Oddie Children1789, oil on canvas, 72 x 71 7/8 in. (182.9 x 182.6 cm)Purchased with funds from the State of North Carolina. © 1999–2016 North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.

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Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir Walter Blackett, Baronet, 18th century, oil on canvas, 50 x 40 in. (127.0 x 101.6 cm), Gift of Newhouse Galleries. © 1999–2016 North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.

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Sir Thomas Lawrence, Head of a Girllate 18th–early 19th century, oil on canvas, Diam. 18 in. (45.7 cm)Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Hanes. © 1999–2016 North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.

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Sir Henry Raeburn, Sir Brooke Boothby (1744–1824)circa 1790–1800, oil on canvas, 29 1/2 x 24 1/2 in. (74.9 x 62.2 cm)Gift of Jennette Hartshorn Campbell in memory of her father, Crawford Jennings Campbell. © 1999–2016 North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.

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Sir Henry Raeburn, Thomas Robert Hay, Eleventh Earl of Kinnoull (1785–1866)1815, oil on canvas, 93 1/2 x 59 in. (237.5 x 149.9 cm)Purchased with funds from the State of North Carolina. © 1999–2016 North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.