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Robes, Jewels and Gems at Cardinal Newman exhibition

Robes, Jewels and Gems at Cardinal Newman exhibition

12th August 2010

Rarely seen items from the life of Cardinal John Henry Newman go on display at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery from the 10th September until 6th January 2011.

Items such as the Cardinal’s robes, hat and shoes, not seen the by general public since his death in 1890, will form part of a celebration of his life and his imminent beatification by Pope Benedict XVI.

The exhibition will include personal items of the Cardinal, kindly loaned by the Birmingham Oratory. The exhibition will also draw on the museum’s own collections including a specially conserved painting by Birmingham born William Thomas Roden, ‘Portrait of His Eminence Cardinal Newman’ (1879). The painting was commissioned in commemoration of Newman being made a Cardinal and was acclaimed by many as a truly lifelike portrait of the man.

Another major feature of the display in the museum’s Gallery 25 is a bust of Cardinal Newman by Richard Westmacott the younger, a sculptor and friend of the Cardinal.

The Cardinal’s jewelled mitre with silk and gold thread inset with semi-precious stones can be seen alongside his robes, hat and shoes, his gold pectoral cross inset with gems, and the stunning Victorian gothic-style crozier used by His Eminence. Personal possessions range from the spectacular to the mundane and include a shell engraved with a scene of the Immaculate Conception, a statuette bust of St Phillip Neri, founder of the Oratorian Order whom Newman studied, a reliquary mount in ornate metal from Newman’s desk as well as his pot with used and sharpened quill pens. 

Councillor Alan Rudge, Leader for the Papal visit, said:

“This display of Cardinal Newman’s personal items viewed against the backdrop of the City’s renowned religious art collections is an extraordinary opportunity for people to visit and appreciate these rarely seen items.

“This unique display will draw visitors from far and wide to see the significant contribution that Cardinal Newman made to our city and the Catholic community around the world. The beatification by Pope Benedict XVI of Cardinal Newman is a huge honour for our city and will bring the world’s attention to our doorstep and be remembered by people for many years to come.”

Visitors will also get a chance to see the redecorated and redisplayed Old Masters Picture Galleries. On view will be the city’s most important religious works by world-renowned Old Masters, including 16th and 17th century paintings by the likes of Bellini, Botticelli, Carlo Dolci, Gentileschi and Gennari.

Image: The image used for this news story is a detail from ‘Portrait of Cardinal John Henry Newman, 1879’ by William Thomas Roden.

View 'behind the scenes' images of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery staff preparing for the exhibition on the BBC Birmingham website.

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