The main entrance to the Fitzwilliam Museum, facing Trumpington Street.
|Established||1816, by will of Richard FitzWilliam, 7th Viscount FitzWilliam|
|Location||Cambridge, United Kingdom|
|Type||University Museum of fine art and antiquities|
|Collection size||approx. 550,000|
|Visitors||397,169 (2017) |
|Director||Professor Geoff Ward (acting)|
The museum is the lead museum for the University of Cambridge Museums consortium, one of 16 Major Partner Museum services funded by Arts Council England to lead the development of the museums sector.
The museum was founded in 1816 with the legacy of the library and art collection of the 7th Viscount FitzWilliam. The bequest also included £100,000 "to cause to be erected a good substantial museum repository". The collection was initially placed in the old Perse School building in Free School Lane. It was moved in 1842 to the Old Schools (at that time the University Library). The "Founder's Building" itself was designed by George Basevi, completed by C. R. Cockerell and opened in 1848; the entrance hall is by Edward Middleton Barry and was completed in 1875. The first stone of the new building was laid by Gilbert Ainslie in 1837. A further large bequest was made to the University in 1912 by Charles Brinsley Marlay, including a sum of £80,000 and a collection of 84 pictures. A two-storey extension, paid for partly by the Courtauld family, was added in 1931.
The museum has five departments: Antiquities; Applied Arts; Coins and Medals; Manuscripts and Printed Books; and Paintings, Drawings and Prints. Together these cover antiquities from ancient Egypt, Nubia, Greece and Rome, Romano-Egyptian art, Western Asiatic displays, and a new gallery of Cypriot art; applied arts, including English and European pottery and glass, furniture, clocks, fans, armour, Chinese, Japanese and Korean art, rugs and samplers; coins and medals; illuminated, literary and music manuscripts and rare printed books; paintings, including masterpieces by Simone Martini, Domenico Veneziano, Titian, Veronese, Rubens, Van Dyck, van Goyen, Frans Hals, Canaletto, Hogarth, Gainsborough, Constable, Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne and Picasso and a fine collection of 20th-century art; miniatures, drawings, watercolours and prints. Among the notable works in the antiquities collection is a bas-relief from Persepolis.
There is also the largest collection of 16th-century Elizabethan virginal manuscript music written by some of the most notable composers of the time, such as William Byrd, Doctor John Bull, Orlando Gibbons and Thomas Tallis.
The museum has a particularly extensive collection of Turner, which has its origins in a set of 25 watercolour drawings donated to the university by John Ruskin in 1861.Sir Sydney Cockerell, who was serving as director of the museum at the time, went on to acquire a further eight Turner watercolours and some of his writings.
Many items in the museum are on loan from colleges of the University, for example an important group of impressionist paintings owned by King's College, which includes Cézanne's The Abduction and a study for Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Seurat.
The museum's collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings includes a version of Ford Madox Brown's The Last of England, voted eighth-greatest painting in Britain in 2005's Radio 4 poll, the Greatest Painting in Britain Vote.
In 2015, the museum displayed two bronze statues (the Rothschild Bronzes) that it believed to be the work of Italian Renaissance artist Michaelangelo. If true, they would be the only known surviving bronze sculptures by the artist. The pair of statues depict naked, apparently drunk, men riding panthers. Art historian Paul Joannides connected the statues to a drawing in the Musée Fabre by an apprentice of Michelangelo depicting the same subject in the same pose.
On the 26th January 2006 a visitor, Nick Flynn, who had tripped on his shoelaces and fallen down a stairway, severely damaged three Qing Dynasty vases which had been displayed there since 1948.  In April 2006, Mr Flynn was arrested on charges of causing criminal damage.  Charges against him were later dropped. The first of the vases was restored by experts and put back on display in August 2006.