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Inside one of Britain’s greatest art collections: ‘Treasures from Chatsworth’

Sotheby’s 13-part film series about Chatsworth’s legendary collections is a must-watch for art fans

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Treasures from Chatsworth has recently won a Webby Award for the Best Branded Series as part of this year’s prestigious 22nd Annual Webby Awards ceremony. For over 16 generations, the Cavendish family at Chatsworth has commissioned and collected contemporary art, resulting in one of the world’s most interesting collections. The Sotheby’s 13-part film series ‘Treasures from Chatsworth’ is presented by Huntsman, and we had the chance to delve inside the collection and find out some of the personal stories behind the most prized pieces.

Listen to our Grand Tour Podcast with Linder Sterling here

The first episode focuses on Lucian Freud’s Woman in a White Shirt. The short film explores the story behind the controversial and much-beloved painting of Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire (mother of the current Duke of Devonshire), which caused a sensation in British society when it was unveiled.

At the season premiere at Sotheby’s, the Duke introduced the series entitled ‘Treasures from Chatsworth’, and explained that one aim of the collaboration was to show that Chatsworth wasn’t just “some fusty, dusty old house”, but a home at the forefront of contemporary art collection. The Duke also shared some of his art collecting tips, stating that above all else you should follow your heart when it comes to buying.

“If you like something enough, you should buy it, acquire it and disregard all others’ opinions.” – The Duke of Devonshire

Watch episode 1:

Watch episode 2:

Watch episode 3:

Watch episode 4:

Watch episode 5:

Visit the Sotheby’s YouTube page to watch the rest of the series.

We sat down with the Duke to find out more about the series (and get some advice on starting our own art collection)…

Why did you want to make this series and did you have any reservations?

Not really. A number of people don’t know that there are contemporary things happening at Chatsworth and we want to change that. I think people will be surprised and pleased, I hope. We’re more and more involved in pushing the collection to the forefront and we have a new head of collections, Kate Brindley, starting in January.

Do you have a favourite piece?

It so depends on where I am and what’s going on. I love the picture of my mother [Woman in a White Shirt, by Lucian Freud, 1956-57]. That’s an amazing object. I love the digital portrait of Laura [Digital portrait of Laura Burlington by Michael Craig-Martin, 2010]. There’s also some furniture which is not yet on display made by Joseph Walsh in Ireland, which I think is beautiful.

Do you ever have a piece you don’t want to display?

Yes. Sometimes. Like everybody we make mistakes and we buy things that when we get home we’re not quite so sure…

What advice would you give to somebody looking to start their own art collection?

Buy what you like and just completely forget about it ever getting more valuable. It’s hopeless to do that. Prints are a great way to start, or drawings, be that old master drawings or contemporary drawings. And ceramics are unbelievably good value and such fun.

What’s the best time of year to visit Chatsworth?

For me, the time of year I never go away is May. It’s quiet and the gardens are beautiful, and you have the whole summer to look forward to. Then in September there’s the sculptures with Sotheby’s [the annual Beyond Limits Exhibition].

Duke and Duchess of Devonshire - Chatsworth House

Behind the scenes of ‘Treasures of Chatsworth’

The episodes will be released weekly between now and 10 January 2017, on As the Duke says, you can wait and watch them all at once, or watch them unfold, week by week. “It will be more exciting than Strictly Come Dancing!” he promises. And if the first four episodes are anything to go by, we quite agree.

READ MORE: Q&A with Sheron Reynolds, Curator of Art Out Loud at Chatsworth The December Arts Diary / How to decorate a Christmas wreath / London’s best Jazz bars / How to buy art