About the Museum
Auckland Castle, also known as Auckland Palace and locally as the Bishop's Castle or Bishop's Palace, is located in Bishop Auckland, its neighbouring town in County Durham, England. Owned by the Church of England for the prince-bishopric of Durham for more than 800 years, Auckland Castle was originally established as a hunting lodge. The principal seat of the Bishops of Durham from 1832, it was transferred in July 2012 to the Auckland Castle Trust, a charitable foundation to restore both the castle and grounds and also establish permanent exhibitions on the history of Christianity in Britain and the North East.
In appearance more like a Gothic stately home than a medieval fortification, Auckland Castle remains a working episcopal palace being the residence and official headquarters of the Bishop of Durham and its Scotland Wing. It currently serves as the administrative offices of the Durham Diocesan Board of Finance. Its Long Dining Room houses 12 of the 13 celebrated 17th-century paintings in the series Jacob and his twelve sons, by Spanish Master Francisco de Zurbarán, depicting Jacob and his 12 sons. These paintings have hung for 250 years in this room specifically designed and constructed for them.
In 2001 the Church Commissioners voted to sell the works of art, then estimated at £20m in value, but relented after a review in 2010. Before even purchasing the Auckland Castle, financier Jonathan Ruffer acquired the Bishop's much loved Zurbarán cycle around 2010 after learning that the Church of England was contemplating selling the pictures to raise funds.
In recent months Ruffer has worked closely with James Macdonals, head of Sotheby's private sales for Old Masters and a leading expert on the Spanish school, to assemble a collection of museum-quality paintings to adorn the walls of the Spanish Gallery opening in Bishop Auckland Market Place in 2019. A selection of the works will be part of an exhibition at Sotheby's New York from 26 January to 11 February, and will include a lyrical depiction of The Penitent Magdalene by the rare Spanish Caravaggesque master Juan Bautista Maino.
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons: Pit-yacker)