The first rehanging of paintings in 40 years has taken place at a country house in Dorset.

Kingston Lacy is rehanging some of its finest works of art and there is also a return for a piece which was loaned out.

The portrait of Maria Serra Pallavicino, painted by Peter Paul Rubens in 1606 has returned to Kingston Lacy, near Wimborne after being loaned to Dulwich Picture Gallery for their recent exhibition ‘Rubens and Women.’  

One of the first, and most beautiful, of the epoch-making portraits painted by Rubens, this, and Rubens’ portrait of a Maria Grimaldi were acquired by William John Bankes in Genoa in 1840. 

Maria Serra was the wife of Niccolo Pallavicino, a banker and host to Rubens’s employer, Duke Vincenzo I Gonzaga of Mantua, whose hospitality in 1606 included a banquet and ball, at which she probably wore the lavish dress in which she is portrayed in the painting.

The return of the painting coincides with a rehang in the Saloon, the first in 40 years, and includes works of art by Titian, Lely and Jan Brueghel the Younger.

The rehang was prompted by recent conservation work in the Saloon, which required all the paintings to be removed from the walls.

This provided the opportunity to lower the Rubens portraits so that visitors can view the paintings more directly, at eye-level. 

Elena Greer, Property Curator for Kingston Lacy said: ‘When Kingston Lacy was gifted to the National Trust in 1982 the paintings in the Saloon were rearranged.

"Among the changes made was the rehanging of the two portraits by Rubens much higher on the wall.

"This new hang, the first since that date, lowers the portraits - reflecting the pre-1982 arrangement, as well as historic hangs in this room - offering visitors a closer encounter with these two imposing images and the opportunity to examine Rubens’ technique in more detail.’  

The surrounding pictures and those on the opposite wall have been rehung with the intention to reveal the connections between the paintings and to tell the story of the Bankes family’s collecting of art from across the centuries.   

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