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Fitzwilliam Museum
The primary entrance to the Fitzwilliam Museum
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Established 1816, by Richard FitzWilliam, 7th Viscount FitzWilliam
Location Cambridge, England
Type University Museum of fine art and antiquities
Collection size approx. 600,000
Visitors 349,484 (2019)
University of Cambridge Museums
Saint Geminianus
Saint Geminianus, from a pentaptych by Simone Martini (c.1284–1344)

The Fitzwilliam Museum is the art and antiquities museum of the University of Cambridge. It is located on Trumpington Street opposite Fitzwilliam Street in central Cambridge. It was founded in 1816 under the will of Richard FitzWilliam, 7th Viscount FitzWilliam (1745–1816), and comprises one of the best collections of antiquities and modern art in western Europe. With over half a million objects and artworks in its collections, the displays in the Museum explore world history and art from antiquity to the present. The treasures of the museum include artworks by Monet, Picasso, Rubens, Vincent van Gogh, Rembrandt, Cézanne, Van Dyck, and Canaletto, as well as a winged bas-relief from Nimrud. Admission to the public is always free.

The museum is a partner in 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.

Foundation & buildings

Fitzwilliam Museum interior
View of one of the museum's entrance halls

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.


Fitzwilliam Museum - Marble bust of Antinous
Marble bust of Antinous

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 most notable works in the collection are the bas-reliefs from Persepolis.

Brown last of england
The Last of England, by Ford Madox Brown.

Music manuscripts

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.

Egyptian collection

The Egyptian Galleries at the Fitzwilliam Museum reopened in 2006 after a two-year, £1.5 million programme of refurbishment, conservation and research.


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 8 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 8th greatest painting in Britain in 2005's Radio 4 poll, the Greatest Painting in Britain Vote.

Dutch School
  • Aelbert Cuyp – 1 painting;
  • Gerrit Dou – 3 paintings;
  • Frans Hals – 1 painting;
  • Meyndert Hobbema – 2 paintings;
  • Adriaen van Ostade – 2 paintings;
  • Rembrandt – 1 painting;
  • Jacob van Ruisdael – 5 paintings;
  • Salomon van Ruysdael – 1 painting;
  • Jan Steen – 3 paintings;
  • Adriaen van de Velde – 1 painting;
  • Willem van de Velde the Younger – 1 painting;
  • Jan Weenix – 1 painting;
  • Philip Wouwerman – 2 paintings;
English School
James S De Ville 1776-1846 Head of William Blake - Plaster cast - Sept 1823 Fitzwilliam Museum1
Head of William Blake. Plaster cast by James De Ville Sept 1823 Fitzwilliam Museum
Flemish School
French School
German School
Italian School

Michelangelo bronzes

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 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 25 January 2006, a member of the public tripped which resulted in three huge oriental porcelain vases being shattered and requiring painstaking reconstruction. At around 19:30 BST on 13 April 2012, 18 valuable and culturally significant Chinese works of art were stolen. The burglars were sentenced to a combined 18 years in jail.

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Museo Fitzwilliam para niños

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