The thirteen paintings by Spanish master Francisco de Zurbarán, are the reason why the Auckland Castle Trust is here. The Trust will ensure that the paintings stay in their rightful place.
They have hung in Auckland Castle for over 250 years so it is only right that they stay here.
Painted between 1640 and 1644, Bishop Richard Trevor bought twelve of the paintings with his own money in 1756. He was outbid at auction for the thirteenth, but employed prominent artist Arthur Pond to make an exact copy.
The Castle’s Long Dining Room was redesigned to house the larger-than-life paintings of Jacob and his Twelve Sons which depict chapter 49 of the Book of Genesis and represent the moment of Jacob’s death-bed ‘blessings’ to his sons. Each son would go on to be a founder of the Twelve Tribes of Israel which, essentially, represents the start of the Jewish faith. The story also has significance to Christians and Muslims.
The purchase and display of the paintings by Bishop Trevor was a very meaningful and deliberate act. Religious tolerance, especially towards Jewish people living in England, was in short supply in the 18th century. The Bishop’s actions were a public appeal for social, political and religious consideration, which still resonates today.
The Long Dining Room is one of Europe’s first purpose-built galleries to house a single series of paintings.
The room and the paintings were designed to impress visitors to Auckland Castle in the 18th century. Now, in the 21st century, they continue to fascinate and amaze.