Fitzwilliam Museum

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Fitzwilliam Museum
The main entrance to the Fitzwilliam Museum, facing Trumpington Street.
Fitzwilliam Museum is located in Central Cambridge
Fitzwilliam Museum
Location in Cambridge
Established1816, by will of Richard FitzWilliam, 7th Viscount FitzWilliam
LocationCambridge, United Kingdom
Coordinates52°12′01″N 0°07′10″E / 52.200278°N 0.119444°E / 52.200278; 0.119444Coordinates: 52°12′01″N 0°07′10″E / 52.200278°N 0.119444°E / 52.200278; 0.119444
TypeUniversity Museum of fine art and antiquities
Collection sizeapprox. 550,000
Visitors397,169 (2017)[1]
DirectorProfessor Geoff Ward (acting)
Saint Geminianus, from a pentaptych by Simone Martini (c.1284–1344).

The Fitzwilliam Museum is the art and antiquities museum of the University of Cambridge, located on Trumpington Street opposite Fitzwilliam Street in central Cambridge, England. Admission is free.

The museum is the lead museum for the University of Cambridge Museums consortium, one of 16 Major Partner Museum services funded by Arts Council England to lead the development of the museums sector.[2]

Foundation and buildings[edit]

View of one of the museum's entrance halls

The museum was founded in 1816 with the legacy of the library and art collection of Richard FitzWilliam, 7th Viscount FitzWilliam. The bequest also included £100,000 "to cause to be erected a good substantial museum repository". The collection was initially placed in the old Perse School building in Free School Lane. It was moved in 1842 to the Old Schools (at that time the University Library). The "Founder's Building" itself was designed by George Basevi, completed by C. R. Cockerell and opened in 1848; the entrance hall is by Edward Middleton Barry and was completed in 1875. The first stone of the new building was laid by Gilbert Ainslie in 1837. A further large bequest was made to the University in 1912 by Charles Brinsley Marlay, including a sum of £80,000 and a collection of 84 pictures. A two-storey extension, paid for partly by the Courtauld family, was added in 1931.[3]


Marble bust of Antinous

The museum has five departments: Antiquities; Applied Arts; Coins and Medals; Manuscripts and Printed Books; and Paintings, Drawings and Prints. Together these cover antiquities from ancient Egypt, Nubia, Greece and Rome, Romano-Egyptian art, Western Asiatic displays, and a new gallery of Cypriot art; applied arts, including English and European pottery and glass, furniture, clocks, fans, armour, Chinese, Japanese and Korean art, rugs and samplers; coins and medals; illuminated, literary and music manuscripts and rare printed books; paintings, including masterpieces by Simone Martini, Domenico Veneziano, Titian, Veronese, Rubens, Van Dyck, van Goyen, Frans Hals, Canaletto, Hogarth, Gainsborough, Constable, Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne and Picasso and a fine collection of 20th-century art; miniatures, drawings, watercolours and prints. Among the notable works in the antiquities collection is a bas-relief from Persepolis.[4]

Music manuscripts[edit]

There is also the largest collection of 16th-century Elizabethan virginal manuscript music written by some of the most notable composers of the time, such as William Byrd, Doctor John Bull, Orlando Gibbons and Thomas Tallis.

Egyptian collection[edit]

The Egyptian Galleries at the Fitzwilliam Museum reopened in 2006 after a two-year, £1.5 million programme of refurbishment, conservation and research.[citation needed]


The museum has a particularly extensive collection of J. M. W. Turner, which has its origins in a set of 25 watercolour drawings donated to the university by John Ruskin in 1861.[5] Sir Sydney Cockerell, who was serving as director of the museum at the time, went on to acquire a further eight Turner watercolours and some of his writings.

Many items in the museum are on loan from colleges of the University of Cambridge, for example an important group of impressionist paintings owned by King's College, which includes Cézanne's The Abduction and a study for Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Seurat.

The museum's collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings includes a version of Ford Madox Brown's The Last of England, voted eighth-greatest painting in Britain in 2005's Radio 4 poll, the Greatest Painting in Britain Vote.

Dutch School
English School
Life mask of William Blake; plaster cast by James De Ville (September 1823)
Flemish School
French School
German School
Italian School

Michelangelo bronzes[edit]

In 2015, the museum displayed two bronze statues (the Rothschild Bronzes) that it believed to be the work of Italian Renaissance artist Michaelangelo. If true, they would be the only known surviving bronze sculptures by the artist. The pair of statues depict naked, apparently drunk, men riding panthers. Art historian Paul Joannides connected the statues to a drawing in the Musée Fabre by an apprentice of Michelangelo depicting the same subject in the same pose.[6][7][8][9][10]


On 25 January 2006, a visitor tripped which resulted in three huge oriental porcelain vases being shattered and requiring painstaking reconstruction.[11] The damaged Qing Dynasty vases had been displayed since 1948.[12] In April 2006, the man was arrested on charges of causing criminal damage. but charges were dropped.[1] The vases ware restored and put back on display.

At around 19:30 BST on 13 April 2012, 18 valuable and culturally significant Chinese works of art were stolen.[13] The burglars were sentenced to a combined 18 years in jail.[14]

Friends of Fitzwilliam[edit]

External video
AmCyc Cambridge, University of - Fitzwilllam Museum.jpg
Celebrating 200 years of the Fitzwilliam Museum, 1:18, Fitzwilliam Museum[15]

The Friends of the Fitzwilliam, founded in 1909, is a society supporting the museum, and the oldest such society in Britain.[citation needed]


Henry Moore, Large Reclining Figure, 1984 (based on a smaller model of 1938), outside the museum in 2004

See also[edit]

  • Primavera Gallery – commercial gallery on King's Parade that has been the subject of an exhibition at the Fitzwilliam


  1. ^ "ALVA - Association of Leading Visitor Attractions". Retrieved 21 April 2018.
  2. ^ "The Fitzwilliam Museum". Retrieved 21 April 2018.
  3. ^ The University of Cambridge — The Fitzwilliam Museum, British History Online, UK.
  4. ^ A Persepolis Relief in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge Richard Nicholls and Michael Roaf Iran, Vol. 15, (1977), pp. 146–152 Published by: British Institute of Persian Studies
  5. ^ "Fitzwilliam Museum collections". University of Cambridge. 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-04.
  6. ^ "The Fitzwilliam Museum : Home". Archived from the original on 5 September 2015. Retrieved 29 August 2015.
  7. ^ Mark Brown (2015-01-30). "Michelangelo's bronze panther-riders revealed after 'Renaissance whodunnit' | Art and design". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-08-29.
  8. ^ "Michelangelo: The story of the bronze riders". The Economist. 2015-02-02. Retrieved 2015-08-29.
  9. ^ "Nude, drunk and riding on panthers: Michelangelo's lost masterpiece discovered | Public Radio International". 2015-02-03. Retrieved 2015-08-29.
  10. ^ "Bronze sculptures 'may be by Michelangelo' - BBC News". Retrieved 2015-08-29.
  11. ^ "The Fitzwilliam Museum : Chinese Vases Home". 2006-01-25. Retrieved 2014-07-15.
  12. ^ "Kangxi Chinese vases conservation". Fitzwilliam Museum.
  13. ^ "Fitzwilliam Museum theft: Chinese jade art 'worth millions'". BBC News. 18 April 2012.
  14. ^ "Fitz Robbers get 18 years | The Tab Cambridge". Archived from the original on 3 October 2012. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  15. ^ "The Fitzwilliam Museum is 200 today". University of Cambridge, Research. February 2016. Retrieved March 1, 2016.
  16. ^ New Director Appointed for Cambridge University's Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, UK, 1 June 2007.
  17. ^ Mr Tim Knox will succeed Timothy Potts as Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum when he takes up the post in April., University of Cambridge, UK, Retrieved July 2013.

External links[edit]