The iconic Silver Swan musical automaton has returned to The Bowes Museum and will be on show at the weekend, when a portrait of its inventor, John Joseph Merlin, will also be unveiled.

The Swan has been in London since February, wowing visitors to the Science Museum’s blockbuster Robots exhibition, but will be back on show in Barnard Castle from Saturday (7th April), as The Bowes Museum gears up to celebrate its 125th anniversary.

Bowes Museum Silver Swan

The Swan, which plays to onlookers at the Museum at 2pm every day, will be accompanied by a portrait of its inventor, John Joseph Merlin - a fine addition to the Museum's increasingly important group of English works of art.

The newly-discovered painting by Thomas Gainsborough – one of the leading artists of 18th century England - is a version of a more finished portrait of the inventor - whose best known work is the Silver Swan, for which he provided the internal clockwork mechanisms that power the automaton and its musical accompaniment – now at Kenwood House in London   

Museum Director Adiran Jenkins, said: "The painting celebrates and is a direct connection to the Museum’s most iconic object, the Silver Swan, and being able to show a portrait of its maker, by one of England’s most revered artists, creates a further dimension to our ability to pass on the secrets of the Swan’s inner workings to our audiences and to explore a mind of the late 18th century Enlightenment.”

The Silver Swan's journey home...

Follow Matthew Read on Twitter to see the story of how the Swan was carefully dismantled, shipped north and put back together again, or take a look at some of the highlights below:


125 Years of The Bowes Museum
The Bowes Museum

This year is the 125th Anniversary of The Bowes Museum opening and we are gearing up to celebrate. Come and join in a variety of fun drop in activities for all the family! Children must be accompanied by an adult, for whom normal admission applies.

The Bowes Museum
The Bowes Museum

An iconic building and Museum set in the vibrant market town of Barnard Castle in the midst of Teesdale, housing outstanding collections of European fine and decorative art.



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