The Bowes Museum
OS grid reference:- NZ 049 164
The fascinating Bowes Museum holds internationally important collections and is is housed in a French chateau style building in the historic market town of Barnard Castle.
The museum was constructed as a public art gallery by John Bowes and his wife Joséphine Chevalier, Countess of Montalbo. Bowes, a wealthy coal magnate and horse breeder with a passion for the arts, was the illegitimate son of John Bowes the 10th Earl of Strathmore, and Kinghorne. The Bowes Museum covers European fine and decorative arts from the medieval period to the twentieth century.
The museum holds paintings by such famous names as El Greco, Francisco Goya, Canaletto, Jean-Honoré Fragonard and François Boucher, it also boasts a large collection of decorative art, ceramics, textiles, tapestries, clocks and costumes, as well as older items from local history. The early works of French glassmaker Émile Gallé were commissioned by Joséphine, wife of the founder John Bowes.
The eighteenth century Silver Swan automaton, (pictured above) was made in 1773 by John Joseph Merlin. It was purchased by Bowes in 1872 and is a popular exhibit, it periodically preens itself, looks round and appears to catch a fish.
The Fashion and Textile gallery houses clothes belonging to Empress Eugénie, consort of Emperor Napoleon III, as well as quilts and contemporary textiles.
The popular museum gift shop offers a wide range of products with something to suit all ages and pockets.